Dual Diagnosis is Common in Addiction Treatment

Dual diagnosis is a term that many patients seeking to recover from addiction run across in their initial research for addiction treatment programs. Many have never heard this term before and are unsure of what it means and what "co-occurring disorders" are, as well.


In short, dual diagnosis is the term used to describe patients who have an underlying or accompanying mental illness in combination with their drug dependency. The two conditions tend to exacerbate and play off of each other, making addiction difficult to overcome, just as substance abuse makes overcoming the mental illness nearly impossible. For both conditions to be fully healed and properly dealt with throughout the patient's lifetime, a doctor must provide a dual diagnosis and appropriate treatment planning.

While having a mental illness may seem a heavy burden to patients of addiction recovery initially, knowing where addictive traits and substance abuse behaviors may be rooted is a significant portion of the battle toward successful long-term recovery. Discovering a co-occurring disorder provides renewed hope for many who can then gain treatment for this part of their collective problem.

How common is a dual diagnosis for patients seeking addiction recovery?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has stated that about four million Americans deal with addiction. Only about half of these patients receive treatment for their substance abuse. Many are stuck in a cycle of co-occurring disorders, with one issue feeding the other. While there is much debate as to whether addiction causes the co-occurring disorder or mental illness existed before addiction, the reality is that co-occurring disorders require treatment of both problems for a solid chance of recovery.

Complicating the issue of "which came first," mental illness and addiction share several risk factors. The major risk factors these co-occurring condition share include:

  • Environmental triggers such as trauma or stress that lead to either a mental illness like PTSD or substance abuse as a coping mechanism
  • Commonly appear during adolescence, when the brain is still developing and forms expectations that drive later impulses
  • Brain abnormalities caused by each condition, with mental illness enabling addiction and addiction facilitating mental illness

Connection Between Dual Diagnosis Conditions

Understanding that dual diagnosis is a complex and individualized issue, the symbiotic relationship between mental illness and addiction can be defined in several ways:

  • As self-medication, using drugs or alcohol to help a mental illness feel less extreme while causing the mental illness to grow in the process of this self-medication
  • Exacerbating mental health conditions through drug or alcohol use, such as during withdrawal from addiction, in acute intoxication or at other times of substance abuse
  • Addiction leading to mental illness symptom onset, with symptoms of an underlying mental condition such as psychosis first appearing through drug-induced paranoia or other symptoms

There are tens of thousands of American adults provided with a co-occurring condition diagnosis each year. Regardless of root causes or which problem first took hold, there’s an overlap between mental health issues and addiction. Because of this overlap, treatment planning has to address dual diagnosis and provide options for overcoming both conditions at the same time. Otherwise, relapse is inevitable, and subsequent exacerbation of the mental health problems will continue.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Healing Springs Ranch in Tioga, TX

Healing Springs Ranch is a residential treatment program for adults addicted to drugs or alcohol. Co-occurring disorders are commonly recognized in patients at Healing Springs Ranch, as they are in rehabilitation programs coast-to-coast. To address these co-occurring disorders and provide patients with complete healing toward lasting recovery, a clear diagnosis is provided by treatment providers with individualized treatment planning.

If you or someone you love is ready to overcome addiction to drugs or alcohol and believe a co-occurring condition may exist, a clear diagnosis at Healing Springs Ranch can provide renewed hope for freedom from the cycle of substance abuse. Contact Healing Springs Ranch now for more information about residential treatment programs and getting started on the road to a healthy, whole-person recovery.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Some of the co-occurring mental health diagnoses most often seen in conjunction with various addictive patterns are:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)
  • Eating Disorders
  • Personality Disorders