The Dangerous Dual Diagnosis

Last Updated: Apr 2nd 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

A dual diagnosis is nothing to ignore. Depression, Bipolar Disorder, etc can all be dangerous catalysts for a chemical dependency and substance abuse can also drive mental health disorders.


Mental Health Disorders Commonly Co-Occurring with Substance Abuse

  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Personality Disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD

What is a Dual Diagnosis?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a dual diagnosis, which is also called a co-occuring disorder, is defined as someone struggling with both a drug or alcohol addiction and a mental illness of some kind at the same time. It doesn’t matter which one comes first. It could be that someone’s depression or anxiety drove them to drink heavily or start using opioids, it could be that a person’s persistent use of drugs caused them to develop and foster a deep depression. Either way, one disorder may drive the other and vise versa.


Once someone suffers from both chemical dependency and a mental health disorder at once, it is virtually impossible to recover from either disorder without treating both simultaneously. This is why most quality addiction treatment centers offer various kinds of therapy for people with co-occurring disorders, and why it is so vital that the treatment center taylors each patient’s drug and alcohol rehab to the unique set of circumstances each person comes from. Without this attention to patient detail, success rates are low.


Integrated Intervention, The Best Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

National Alliance on Mental Health recommends a treatment of Integrated Intervention for an effective means of recovery for those suffering with dual diagnosis. Integrated Intervention simply means addressing both disorders at once, within the same treatment. For some time the attitude behind treatment for co-occurring disorders, was that you couldn’t treat mental health issues while someone continued using. Doctors would refuse to treat one due to the other. But as science learns more about mental health and about substance abuse, the trends are changing and people are beginning to realize dual diagnosis requires an integrated method of treatment.

The progression of treatment is vital to successful sober living. When a South Florida patient with dual diagnosis seeks treatment they should start with detox in Broward county and then move forward to a Broward county drug rehab, and then they should end their formal recovery treatment with aftercare, focusing on relapse prevention. You cannot progress through treatment in any other trajectory. If you don’t start with detox, move through the therapies of rehab to the programs of aftercare, you won’t have the foundation necessary to start your new way of living.

Someone who is suffering from dual diagnosis and seeking out integrated intervention through substance abuse treatment in Florida should consider 1st Step Behavioral Help. We know how vital your mental health is in the fight for sobriety. Call us now to learn more about our programs and how we can help support both sides of a dual diagnosis.


Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.