Addiction and Mental Health: Dual Diagnosis

Addiction and Mental Health: Dual Diagnosis

By In Addiction Recovery, First Steps, Tools for Recovery
Posted November 13, 2017

Until the 1990’s, addiction and mental health were treated as completely separate entities. Patients who struggled with both mental illness and substance abuse were often denied treatment until they achieved sobriety. As a result, many people never got the help they needed.

Even as recently as 2002, according to the Office of Applied Studies, only 12% of the 4 million Americans suffering from a dual diagnosis received treatment for both conditions.

Now, when patients receive a dual diagnosis of both a mental illness and a substance abuse disorder, these disorders can be treated simultaneously. Rehab facilities are often trained in the treatment of co-occurring mental health disorders, and they’re able to offer personalized recovery services for dual diagnosis clients.

Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

Addiction and mental health are closely linked. People with diagnosed mental health conditions (such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or ADHD) are about twice as likely as the rest of the population to become addicted to alcohol or drugs. Likewise, extended use of alcohol or drugs can trigger co-occurring mental health disorders.

As a result, integrated treatment is most effective for people with a dual diagnosis. If the addiction is treated, but the underlying causes are not, relapse is extremely likely. Similarly, treating a mental illness without treating the substance abuse that caused it is ineffective.

Not only does integrated treatment lead to more successful addiction recovery, but it can also lower costs for patients.

Why Does This Link Exist?

There are several factors that cause an overlap between mental health and substance abuse disorders.

For instance, people who experiment with substances at a young age may damage their still-developing brains, resulting in a substance abuse and/or mental health disorder later in life.

Additionally, environmental triggers like stress, frequent anxiety, or trauma can jumpstart mental illness or addiction.

Genetics, too, play a significant role in both of these disorders.

mental health and substance abuse disorder

Co-Occurring Disorders

The following are mental health disorders that commonly coexist with substance abuse disorders:

  • Depression: 1 in 10 adults in the United States suffer from depression, and many try to numb their feelings with drugs or alcohol.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Like people with depression, those who suffer from General Anxiety Disorder may self-medicate with alcohol or drugs.
  • Bipolar Disorder: About 50% of people with bipolar disorder abuse drugs and alcohol as a form of temporary relief.
  • ADHD: People with ADHD may also attempt to manage their symptoms with drugs and alcohol. They’re often prescribed stimulants, which can be habit-forming.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder: Over 2/3 of people with Borderline Personality Disorder at some point turn to substance abuse.
  • Eating Disorders: Appetite suppressants are commonly abused by those with eating disorders. People with eating disorders also struggle with insecurity and a sense of inferiority, which can result in drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): When people suffer from PTSD, their brain produces less endorphins, so they’re likely to seek happiness with drugs and alcohol. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reports that nearly 75% of veterans who experience traumatic events abuse alcohol.

In order for someone struggling with substance abuse to experience true addiction recovery, underlying mental health issues such as these must be treated as well. Otherwise, the addict will soon fall into the same emotional, mental, and behavioral patterns that caused the addiction in the first place.

Symptoms of a Dual Diagnosis

There is some variation in the signs of a dual diagnosis, since symptoms will vary depending on the mental illness and on the severity of substance abuse.

However, typical signs include:

  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Impulsive actions
  • Neglecting hygiene and health
  • Avoiding previously enjoyed social activities or events
  • Performing poorly at school, work, or on daily tasks
  • Disillusioned thinking or impaired thought
  • Problems managing finances

the finances for mental health and substance abuse disorder

Of course, the only way to know for sure is to consult an expert. You can find an addiction treatment specialist who also has a background in psychiatric care.


If you or a loved one suffers from a dual diagnosis, it’s important to find a rehab facility that can offer parallel treatment of both disorders.

Find a safe, structured facility that provides individualized care. A center that specializes in you or your loved one’s addiction and co-occurring disorder will be especially effective.

For long-lasting addiction recovery, underlying mental health issues cannot be ignored. Call The Shores Treatment and Recovery today to start on your journey to addiction recovery.

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