What are Dual Diagnosis Treatment Programs?

What are Dual Diagnosis Treatment Programs?

People with substance use disorder often struggle to get the help they need. However, when seeking out professional help for…

What are Dual Diagnosis Treatment Programs?

People with substance use disorder often struggle to get the help they need. However, when seeking out professional help for their addiction, many people may learn that they have a co-occurring mental health issue. This can make it more difficult and complex to address the underlying causes of drug abuse and develop a comprehensive and effective dual diagnosis treatment.

But if you’re unfamiliar with dual diagnoses, you probably have a lot of questions. For example, what does dual diagnosis mean? How does treatment for dual diagnosis work? What are the signs and symptoms of dual diagnosis? Finally, where can you get treatment for dual diagnosis at an inpatient residential rehab?

In today’s guide, we will answer all of these questions and more, but first, let’s look at the definition of “dual diagnosis.”

What Is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis, sometimes known as “co-occurring disorders,” refers to a mental health disorder that is also accompanied by a substance use disorder.

For instance, a person suffering from anxiety may develop an addiction to Valium, while a person struggling with an addiction to heroin may develop depression as a direct result of the substance abuse.

Since both disorders can influence and exacerbate one another, dual diagnosis can be harder to identify and treat than a substance use disorder or mental health disorder on its own.

Read: Understanding Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual Diagnoses & Substance Abuse

If you or a loved one is struggling with a dual diagnosis, it is vital that you don’t prioritize one disorder over the other.

Instead, you should seek out treatment for both disorders simultaneously. Comprehensive dual-diagnosis treatment may involve a wide range of therapies and approaches, including medication, behavioral therapy, support groups, and rehabilitation.

Treating both conditions at the same time makes it far more likely that you’ll see positive results for your mental health and overcome your addiction.

Dual diagnosis is far more common than many people realize, primarily because people with existing mental health disorders often use drugs or alcohol to try to cope with the condition or alleviate symptoms.

As previously mentioned, the reverse may be true, as people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol may develop mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia as well.

Read about: Substance Use, Abuse, and Chemical Dependency: The Differences

Most Common Dual Diagnosis

While there are nearly 300 unique mental disorders listed in the DSM-5, not all of them are commonly linked with substance abuse. Here are some of the most common dual diagnoses we encounter:

Depression and Substance Abuse

Depression is a prevalent mental health disorder that manifests in various symptoms, including:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Low energy
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating

While not all individuals who abuse drugs will develop depression and not all individuals with depression will develop a substance use disorder, the two conditions can impact each other significantly.

Individuals with major depressive disorder often turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms. Although substance abuse may offer temporary relief from certain symptoms of depression, it can worsen one's symptoms over time.

Anxiety Disorder & Substance Abuse

Anxiety disorder encompasses a wide range of conditions that are generally characterized by worrying, restlessness, and fear. Here are some of the most common anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Any of these conditions can be the cause or the result of substance abuse. As previously mentioned, it is easy for someone with an anxiety disorder to become addicted to prescription medications like Valium, Xanax, or Ativan. However, someone with an anxiety disorder may also turn to alcohol or even street drugs as a way to self-medicate. Not only does substance abuse create a cycle of dependency, but it often worsens anxiety.

Bipolar Disorder & Substance Abuse

Bipolar disorder is most often characterized by extreme mood swings or periods of emotional highs (known as mania or hypomania) and lows (depression), sometimes interspersed with mixed mood states that involve symptoms of both. There are various types of bipolar disorder, which can fall somewhere on a spectrum between the following primary diagnoses:

  • Bipolar I – Individuals with Bipolar I have had at least one manic episode, with or without the presence of a depressive episode.
  • Bipolar II – Individuals with Bipolar II have had at least one depressive episode and at least one manic or hypomanic episode.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia) – Cyclothymia is a milder form of bipolar disorder that is characterized by multiple periods of hypomanic and depressive episodes.

Substance abuse is frequently linked with bipolar disorder, as it can be a way to cope with both manic and depressive episodes. Unfortunately, substance abuse often has a destabilizing effect on mood and mood disorders, which only hinders the recovery process.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) & Substance Abuse

As the name implies, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition brought on by a traumatic event in a person’s life. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Avoidance of triggering situations
  • Feelings of fear, shame, guilt, or anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Disruptions in sleep

PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist act, war/combat, sexual assault, or any life-threatening or extremely distressing situation.

PTSD can cause significant distress and impact an individual’s daily functioning, relationships, and overall well-being. People experiencing PTSD often turn to drugs or alcohol to try to escape their traumatic past or subdue intense emotions.

But just like other mental disorders, substance abuse only makes the symptoms of the underlying condition worse. Unlike other mental health disorders, PTSD is almost always the underlying cause of substance abuse.

However, if a person experiences a traumatic event while abusing drugs, like violence or an overdose, they could develop PTSD as a direct result of their substance use disorder.

Schizophrenia & Substance Abuse

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health disorder that distorts thoughts, behaviors, and perceptions of reality. It may cause a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Blunted emotions
  • Difficulty concentrating

There are drugs, like amphetamines or cocaine, that can increase the risk of schizophrenia. However, substance abuse often develops as a way to cope with the condition, even though it can complicate proper treatment.

How Common Is a Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is a common occurrence in people with substance abuse and mental health disorders.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 10 million Americans experienced both a mental illness and a substance use disorder in 2019, which represents about 3.7% of the U.S. adult population.

Moreover, studies have shown that individuals with mental illness are more likely to develop substance abuse problems than those without mental health issues.

In fact, research suggests that people with mood or anxiety disorders are about twice as likely to struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol than the general population.

It's worth noting that dual diagnosis may be underdiagnosed due to various factors such as stigma surrounding mental illness, lack of access to healthcare, and limited awareness among healthcare providers.

What is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

Dual diagnosis treatment is a specialized approach to addiction recovery that addresses the underlying mental health issues that contribute to substance abuse.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly 9 million adults in the United States have co-occurring disorders, but only about 7% receive treatment for both conditions simultaneously.

Effective dual diagnosis treatment requires a comprehensive and personalized approach that involves a combination of therapies, medications, counseling, and support groups.

Common Therapies

Some of the most common therapies used in dual diagnosis treatment include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

Alternative or Complementary Therapies

In addition to traditional therapy approaches, many dual diagnosis treatment programs also incorporate alternative or complementary therapies like:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Equine therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy

These holistic approaches can help individuals develop healthy coping mechanisms and reduce stress while promoting overall wellness.

It's important to note that not all rehab centers offer dual diagnosis treatment programs. Therefore it's vital to seek out specialized facilities with trained professionals who are equipped to handle both substance abuse and mental health disorders.

Read about: Person-Centered Substance-Use Treatment: Benefits and Guide

Signs That A Loved One Needs a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center

The only way to know for sure if someone you love needs dual diagnosis treatment is to seek out professional help. However, there may be signs that can indicate the presence of substance abuse and a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as:

  • Drastic mood swings
  • Social isolation or withdrawal
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Secretive behavior
  • Unexplained financial problems
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Poor performance at school or work
  • Frequent signs of intoxication
  • A history of substance abuse

The Challenges Faced by Individuals with Co-occurring Disorders in Accessing Treatment

While dual diagnosis treatment has become more prevalent in recent years, individuals with co-occurring disorders still face many challenges when accessing care. Some of the most common obstacles include:

Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

Despite progress towards reducing stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction, many people still feel ashamed or embarrassed to seek help. This can be especially true for those with co-occurring disorders, who may feel like they are dealing with two separate stigmatized conditions.

Limited Resources and Access to Care

Even when someone is ready to seek help, finding affordable and accessible treatment options can be difficult. Many insurance plans do not cover mental health services or have high out-of-pocket costs.

Additionally, there may be a shortage of healthcare providers who specialize in treating co-occurring disorders, particularly in rural areas or low-income communities.

Lack of Coordination Between Mental Health and Addiction Services

Another challenge faced by those seeking dual diagnosis treatment is a lack of coordination between mental health and addiction services. It's not uncommon for these two types of services to operate separately from one another, which can lead to gaps in care and difficulty navigating the healthcare system.

Complexity of Treatment

Dual diagnosis treatment is complex and often requires a combination of therapies, medications, counseling, and support groups. This can make it challenging for individuals to find a program that meets their unique needs.

Furthermore, some people may require more intensive treatment than others depending on the severity of their condition. For example, someone with severe depression and alcoholism may require an extended stay in a residential treatment program rather than outpatient therapy alone.

How To Get Proper Dual Diagnosis Treatment: Finding the Help You Need

If you suspect that dual diagnosis is a concern, it is essential to seek help from professionals who are experienced in dealing with co-occurring disorders.

It can be difficult to navigate the complex world of mental health and substance abuse, but the right treatment program can make all the difference.

Finding the right treatment program

When looking for a dual diagnosis treatment program, it's important to find one that specializes in both mental health and substance abuse disorders. This will ensure that you receive the comprehensive care that you need to address all aspects of your condition.

That's where Wellbrook Recovery comes in. Located in Brookfield, Wisconsin, Wellbrook is an inpatient residential rehab clinic that can provide individualized care for your dual diagnosis.

Personalized care

Their team of experienced professionals can help you navigate the challenges of co-occurring disorders, from withdrawal management to group therapy and beyond. At Wellbrook, they understand that every patient is unique. That's why they take a personalized approach to treatment, creating a plan that is tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.

With their help, you can achieve lasting sobriety and treat your underlying conditions.

Reach out for help

If you or a loved one is suffering from substance abuse and a co-occurring condition, reach out to Wellbrook Recovery today. Their compassionate team is ready to help you take the first step towards a healthier, happier future.

Steps to Finding the Right Dual Diagnosis Treatment Program

Finding the right dual diagnosis treatment program is crucial to achieving lasting recovery. Here are some steps you can take to find the right program for you:

  1. Look for a facility that specializes in dual diagnosis treatment: Not all rehab centers offer specialized dual diagnosis treatment programs, so it's essential to find one that does.
  2. Check if they have licensed professionals on staff: The best dual diagnosis treatment programs will have licensed therapists and medical professionals on staff who specialize in treating co-occurring disorders.
  3. Research the types of therapies offered: Effective dual diagnosis treatment should involve a combination of therapies, including individual counseling, group therapy, and medication management.
  4. Consider the length of the program: Depending on your specific needs, you may require a longer or shorter stay in a residential treatment program.
  5. Ask about aftercare support: Recovery doesn't end when you leave rehab. Look for a dual diagnosis treatment program that offers aftercare support to help you maintain sobriety and manage your mental health condition.

By following these steps, you can find a dual diagnosis treatment program that meets your unique needs and helps you achieve lasting recovery.

Conclusion: Overcoming Barriers to Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Despite the challenges facing individuals with co-occurring disorders seeking treatment, there is hope. With increased awareness about dual diagnosis and continued efforts to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction, more people are seeking help than ever before.

Moreover, advancements in telehealth and online therapy have made treatment more accessible to those who live in remote areas or struggle with transportation.

If you or someone you love is struggling with co-occurring disorders, the most important thing is to seek help. With the right treatment program and support system, it's possible to achieve lasting recovery and improve your overall quality of life.


  • National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

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At Wellbrook Recovery we’re committed to helping you reclaim your life from drug and alcohol addiction with comfort and dignity. We dedicate all of our resources and expertise to help every individual in our care find peace and lasting recovery by providing them a tailored program with all levels of treatment. Our complete care encompasses all aspects of the addiction, rehabilitating their physical, mental, and emotional health.