According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness ( a dual diagnosis, also sometimes known as a comorbidity or a co-occurring disorder are incredibly common in people who struggle with an addiction to a drug or alcohol. A co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis is confirmed when someone struggling with addiction also suffers, concurrently, from a mental health disorder. The patient diagnosed with a dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorder will be afflicted from both disorders at the same time which means that they experience side effects or symptoms from both disorder simultaneously.

Often the two disorders will share symptoms. They can sometimes both cause a user to present with high energy, low energy, altered appetites, sleep disruptions, among others. Because of the way the two disorders play off of one another the two frustrate each other’s symptoms causing it to be that much more difficult to effectively treat either one of the two disorders. Because of this it is vital that both of the two disorders be focused on in treatment at the same time. If someone tries to separate the two disorders to treat them separately they will be sorely disappointed to find that the two disorders bolster one another. When one starts to go into remission the other takes over and builds the other up again. The only way to be successful in treatment is to focus on both disorders at once.

Regardless of if one disorder or the other, the addiction or the mental health, came first and sparked the development of the other, or whether the two came along as a pair, spurring along each other with similar triggers and bearing down on the addict at the same time, sometimes compromising the stores of courage and hope the addict feels. But there is always hope in comprehensive treatment. The dual diagnosis is not a death sentence and does not have to cause a lifetime of despair. Effective and thoughtful dual diagnosis treatment is available at clinics such as 1st Step Behavioral Therapy..

Dual Diagnosis or a co-occurring mental health comorbidity can come in all kinds. Just like addicts become addicted to any number of different intoxicating substances, there are all kinds of mental health disorders that can afflict a person who is suffering from an addiction. Because of the great variety of possibilities and the seemingly endless number of possible variables the only answer is to create treatment plans that are explicitly altered per patient to fit their own personal needs. This is an important aspect of treatment for anyone, but is especially important for those whose treatment will be complicated by a dual diagnosis.

Understanding the kinds of mental health disorders that an addict is likely to be suffering with as well can help those who work with addicts to better understand how to treat the dual diagnosis, and it can help those who suffer from the mental illness to feel less fear and more hope.

Common Mental Health Disorders That Can Act As a Dual Diagnosis or Co-Occurring Disorder to Alcohol or Drug Addiction:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Sometimes Also Called PTSD Post traumatic stress disorder is a mental health disorder that generally develops in a person who has gone through some kind of devastating trauma. There are a lot of different types of trauma all of which can lead to a person developing post traumatic stress disorder and among them are events such as a natural disaster like that of Hurricane Harvey, a forest fire, losing a home, anytime someone experiences a violent crime, or witnesses some form of tragic violence, when a person experiences childhood abuse or suffers through neglect, these and other traumatic experiences can cause someone to develop PTSD. War veterans are often tragically afflicted with post traumatic stress disorder upon returning from tours of duty. PTSD can be known by the following symptoms: someone suffering from PTSD may experience vivid and retraumatizing flashbacks of their past traumas, they may get nightmares and insomnia, and they may suffer from a haunting and stifling fear, so much so that the patient may feel like they are being made to relive the very trauma that brought them to this point constantly as they suffer from this disorder.   
  • Major Depressive Disorder – Major Depressive Disorder is a common mental health issue during which a patient presents with low stores of energy, a substantial loss of interest in hobbies or personal projects, sudden and substantial weight loss or high weight gain, persistent insomnia, and suicidal thoughts.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD – Generalized anxiety disorder puts patients in a nearly continuous state of fear paired with a crippling anxiety about any number of different topics affecting their lives, and sometimes it is even possible to feel that anxiety and not be able to point to a reason they are feeling it. That idle sort of anxiety that cannot be named, that seems to appear out of nowhere can be the most difficult kind for the patient to deal with. Some common anxieties that patients present with are vocational related, financial stability, family complications, or other anxieties. Victims of generalized anxiety disorder are sometimes very aware of the lack of logic that lies in some of their worries, but because of an intense need to be in control of every aspect of their lives, the patient who is suffering with this disorder will work to try and control each moment and sometimes act recklessly in the process.
  • Bipolar DisorderBipolar disorder is a mood disorder that can sometimes be mistaken as severe depression or it could look like severe generalized anxiety disorder. It is extremely common for people to be undiagnosed until later in life. Bipolar disorder symptoms cause patients to go through cycling moods. These moods can file through a whole spectrum of different demeanors sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly. For some patients they have days of feeling energized and others can be in a state of mania or hypomania or depression for weeks or months at a time sometimes.
  • Eating Disorders – Eating disorders are a whole mental health disorder category unto themselves just as mood disorders are. Although our society has historically labeled eating disorders of any kind as a personal failure on the part of the person who is victimized by them. However, the truth of the disorder is that anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating are all chronic illnesses that no person can chose or walk away from. No one wants to suffer from a deadly eating disorder. The awful and heart rending thing is that this age old stigma of judgement and shame from our society only reinforces the difficulties of the disorder for the person suffering by striking a debilitating amount of fear in the heart of the person with the disorder, and it then becomes nearly impossible to speak up about their disorder. Some eating disorders include people who over eat regularly, practically never eat, binge eat and then purge the food by vomiting, taking laxatives, among other methods, eat clay, or their own hair, etc.  
  • Depersonalization Derealization Disorder – According to the Mayo Clinic, depersonalization derealization disorder is characterized by when a patient feels like they are observing their own lives from outside of themselves, similar to an out of body experience. Many patients say that they feel like they are living in a dream like they are not real at all.
  • Personality Disorder – Personality disorder is a sort of disorder that sees its victims relationships suffer substantially. This disorder so often can result in issues in a person’s vocation, in their personal lives, and in all of their different interpersonal exchanges.
  • Panic Disorder – Panic disorder is a mental health disorder that shares some aspects of anxiety disorder side effects. This disorder is characterized by overwhelming panic attacks. These attacks often come on suddenly and take over the patient’s ability to function making decisions or interacting socially. They cause the person to feel stark anxiety and trepidation, as well as a terrifying loss of control. At times a person’s anxiety can even cause biological symptoms such as a pounding of heart, a heavy pressure on the chest, or the feeling that one’s throat is closing up, etc. This all results in a patient feeling scared and sometimes confused, especially they experience their first panic attack.  
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – Obsessive compulsive disorder is commonly known as OCD. OCD is characterized by a patient’s need to fight off their own obsessive thoughts, whether their thoughts are based in reality or not, it doesn’t matter. They fight them by creating habits or small rituals that do not always rationally make sense, but in an obsessive effort to control the situation the person with OCD cannot stop until the ritual or habit has been done. These compulsions are the effort to calm their anxieties, to quell the deep fear within them that haunts them at every turn. People who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, like those who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction do not choose their disorder. No one says yes to OCD.

Treatment For Dual Diagnosis at 1st Step Behavioral Health Residential Detox

At 1st Step Behavioral Health a patient who is suffering from a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis can be sure in their trust that they will be cared for and valued as a part of a tight knit and supportive community when they are in residential detox. 1st Step employs a staff of dedicated medical professionals and a qualified licenced therapy staff. Contact us today to learn more about our inpatient and outpatient addiction rehab in South Florida and start working toward the life of sobriety you and your family deserve. 

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