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Dual Diagnosis: Treatment Takes a Team

Dual Diagnosis: Treatment Takes a Team

Dual diagnoses are prevalent in our society. An individual with a dual diagnosis has both a mental health disorder and substance use disorder (SUD). According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 9.2 million adults in the United States struggle with substance abuse and mental health disorders.  

Mental health and substance abuse regularly coexist. The two disorders’ interactions may make both worse. It is important for anyone with a dual diagnosis to get the proper treatment through a team of professionals along with support from family and friends.

What Is a Dual Diagnosis?

A dual diagnosis is defined as a mental health disorder and SUD. It’s treatable, but a team of professionals is needed for the best possible outcomes. 

Dual diagnosis is often a result of individuals trying to self-medicate mental health symptoms. A prime example would be someone with an anxiety disorder who drinks to calm down. Eventually, because that person is not being treated for the anxiety disorder and using alcohol to medicate, they may develop SUD. The problem in this scenario is the person is not seeking the proper treatment for the underlying disorder and is instead creating another one to try and cope with it.

What Are Some Signs of a Dual Diagnosis?

There are many signs someone may be struggling with both a mental health disorder and SUD. However, some of the most common signs include:

  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Social isolation
  • Using drugs or alcohol in dangerous conditions
  • Risky behavior
  • Loss of control over alcohol or drug use
  • Increased drug or alcohol tolerance

Common Dual Diagnoses

Common mental health disorders that may co-occur with SUD include:

  • Depression: Fluctuating low periods in mental health 
  • Bipolar disorder: Periods of mania or hypomania and episodes of depression
  • Anxiety disorders: Experiences of panic attacks that cause significant impairment in a person’s ability to function during the day-to-day activities of life, such as work, school, or family responsibilities
  • Schizophrenia: Often involve hallucinations and delusions, which are accompanied by significant distress and functional impairment

Any of these mental health disorders coupled with SUD would qualify as a dual diagnosis.

Where Can You Go For Help?

If you have a dual diagnosis, it is important to seek help from mental health professionals who are knowledgeable about both addiction and mental health issues. Some of the people you can talk to include:


A therapist is a professional trained to understand the complexities of human behavior. They can help you identify patterns that may be driving your addiction. They can also help you find healthy coping mechanisms to deal with the symptoms associated with your mental health disorder.


Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating mental health disorders with medication. They often work hand-in-hand with other mental health professionals who can help meet the emotional needs of an individual.


Psychologists provide evaluations and psychotherapy to individuals struggling with mental health disorders or SUD. 

Who Should Be On My Team?

To treat your dual diagnosis, you will need a team. Mental health professionals can help you sort out the complicated symptoms and feelings that come with separate diagnoses. Your family and friends can be there to support you through tricky times or hard decisions. You can also find support through your church or other faith community, school, or employer, who can provide vital emotional and practical support. 

If your dual diagnosis gets worse at any time in your treatment process, don’t hesitate to call 911 as soon as possible. It is important for people in crisis situations to get help from emergency services as soon as possible so they do not endanger themselves or others around them.

Importance of Having a Good Team

You need a good team to help you successfully recover. Because of this, you will have to learn how to communicate with people and get what you need from them. A good therapist can help with this; they are trained to listen and ask questions about what you say so that they understand what is going on in your life. 

Medication can also help with mental health, but it does not solve everything. It is important that your treatment team knows if there are any side effects from medications or if there are any other options available for treating your symptoms, such as therapy or lifestyle changes. 

Having a good support system also helps keep someone in recovery. Having a team of professionals and family or friends who care about you makes it easier when times get tough. These people can encourage you not to give up.

Being told you have a dual diagnosis can be scary and intimidating. Struggling with just a mental health disorder or just an addiction can be challenging, but being diagnosed with both can feel impossible. However, recovery is possible. Taking the time to find the right team to help you tackle both of these struggles together can be life-changing. It’s important to remember that recovery is a long process. It takes time, dedication, and hard work. However, if you have the right team behind you, including a team of professionals who will help guide you through this journey, you can find the healing you deserve. At Acera Health, we want to see you become successful. Our evidence-based program helps adults struggling with mental health challenges find the help they need. If you or someone you love is struggling with a dual diagnosis, call Acera Health at (949) 647-4090.


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