What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is when someone is diagnosed with both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder.

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What Is Dual Diagnosis?

In most cases, mental disorders such as depression and anxiety are often associated with a substance use disorder as well. When an individual is found to have mental health issues as well as a substance abuse issue, the individual is considered to have a dual diagnosis. People diagnosed with dual diagnosis need to seek integrated dual diagnosis treatment from a certified treatment center that treats both conditions as interconnected issues.

Typically, a dual diagnosis definition can be put as a situation where a single person has one or two mental health and addiction disorders simultaneously. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUG), nearly 45% of American adults suffering from substance addiction have a co-occurring mental health condition.1

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Scope of Dual Diagnosis

The interaction of the two conditions can lead to worse effects for both. Of the over twenty million American adults with substance abuse disorders, 37.9% had a mental health disorder as well. Also, of the forty-two million adults with mental health issues, 18.2% also had a substance use disorder.2

Understanding Dual Diagnosis

Although mental health illness and substance use disorder frequently occur together, it doesn’t mean that one condition caused the other, even if one preceded the other. It is a challenge for researchers to link or determine which condition came first. However, common risk factors such as genetics and environment are among the reasons why dual diagnosis occurs.

Common Mental Health Issues Associated with Addiction

Those with certain mental health conditions pose a significant risk of becoming dependent on either legal or illegal drugs. Studies show a high rate of dual diagnosis among people struggling with anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and panic disorder.3

Substance abuse is also prevalent among other mental health disorders like psychotic disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and others. If most mental illnesses go untreated, an individual is at a higher risk of substance abuse which can worsen the mental condition, making it challenging to manage both conditions.

Conditions Commonly Associated With Substance Misuse

While not everyone will develop a mental health condition resulting from substance misuse, there are some conditions that more commonly develop from addiction. Here are some common health issues that are associated with substance use addiction:

Signs and Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis

Identifying dual diagnosis proves challenging since it produces signs and symptoms of two different conditions that vary further depending on the type of mental disorder, the substance being abused, and the individual.

Since experts can’t find a link between mental health conditions and substance use disorders, it’s important to understand some common symptoms associated with mental health and substance use disorders to identify signs and symptoms of dual diagnosis as well. 

Indications of Dual Diagnosis

Here are some of the common signs and symptoms associated with dual diagnosis:

Why Co-Occurring Disorders Are Treated Differently

The approach of most centers for addiction and mental health for co-occurring disorders is slightly different from managing other conditions, as it involves treating two conditions. Dual diagnosis treatment centers will also vary from individual to individual due to the following overlapping factors:

In the past, co-occurring disorders were treated individually, but scientists discovered that such disorders are intimately linked behaviorally and biologically. Integrated treatment allows doctors to treat the two conditions simultaneously for a holistic recovery that focuses on the condition and the well-being of the individual.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Options

As challenging as treating co-occurring disorders is, several dual diagnosis treatment options are available for people who need help. Self-medication is highly discouraged due to the high possibility of consuming the wrong medication, which will only worsen the condition. 

If you notice any signs and symptoms of dual diagnosis, the best action is to visit a licensed doctor for professional diagnosis and effective treatment.

Standard Treatment Opportunities

Here are some of the standard options available during dual-diagnosis treatment:4

These medications can include those for mental health, like aripiprazole (Abilify), clozapine (Clozaril), and asenapine (Saphris). It also consists of medication for addiction treatment, like benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and clonidine.

Whether you go to a public or private dual diagnosis treatment center, getting the proper diagnosis for substance use and mental health disorders is vital to your treatment’s success. In most cases, one of the conditions will go undiagnosed and untreated, meaning dual diagnosis has a higher chance of recurring.

Opportunities for Wellness at Ripple Ranch Recovery

At Ripple Ranch Recovery, we utilize an evidence-based integrated mental health and substance abuse treatment to ensure our patients get the highest quality of care. Our highly qualified and caring team of experts understands the challenges associated with dual diagnosis, which is why we tend to focus on diagnosis to develop an effective treatment plan. Contact us today to get help for your dual diagnosis.

Frequently Asked Questions Get Help for A Dual Diagnosis At Ripple Ranch Recovery

Some frequently asked questions about dual diagnosis will be answered below.

What is Dual Diagnosis in Disability?

Dual diagnosis in disability, also known as dual disability, is a situation where an individual has a mental health condition and a developmental disability. People with a developmental disability are less likely to develop the needed coping mechanisms for several stressors.

What is Meant by Co-Existing Needs?

Co-existing needs typically mean that an individual simultaneously has more than one condition or disease. The term is similar to dual diagnosis, but it’s mainly used during recovery. 

What is the Difference Between Dual Diagnosis and Comorbidity?

Comorbidity is the medical term used to refer to a situation where a single individual is diagnosed with mental health and substance use disorders. On the other hand, dual diagnosis is a general term used to define the occurrence of two or more conditions.

What does a Dual Diagnosis Professional Do?

A dual diagnosis professional provides dual diagnosis expertise and facilitates a coordinated service delivery for individuals diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder.


  1. https://samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt29393/2019NSDUHFFRPDFWHTML/2019NSDUHFFR090120.htm
  2. https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/comorbidity-substance-use-other-mental-disorders#:~:text=
  3. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-1-connection-between-substance-use-disorders-mental-illness
  4. https://library.neura.edu.au/schizophrenia/treatments/physical/pharmaceutical/treatments-for-specific-symptoms-and-populations/treatments-for-dual-diagnosis-2/#:~:text=What%20is%20the%20evidence%20for,people%20with%20a%20dual%20diagnosis