The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that 7.9 million Americans suffer from both a mental disorder and a substance use disorder at the same time.

Are you one of them?

Known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder, this condition is far from rare. And, despite how it may feel right now, it doesn’t have to be isolating or debilitating.

In fact, there are plenty of treatment centers equipped to treat patients with a dual diagnosis. If you fit this category, it’s wise to address both issues at once to ensure a successful outcome.

Today, we’re sharing 10 things to expect as you begin your dual diagnosis treatment. The journey is less intimidating if you know what lies ahead and what hurdles you’ll need to clear along the way.

Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.

Symptoms of a Dual Diagnosis

Before you can seek treatment for it, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of co-occurring mental disorder.

If you’re currently engaging in substance abuse, you might find that you also feel angry most of the time, or anxious for no reason.

Or, you might have sudden urges to become violent, withdrawn, or irritable. All of these could be a sign of an underlying mental condition also at work.

Here are some more warning signs to look out for:

  • Difficulty keeping up with professional or educational pursuits
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Excessive guilt
  • Thoughts of suicide or death
  • Extreme fatigue
  • An excessive urge to cry
  • Feelings of hopelessness or desperation

If you or your loved one is experiencing these tendencies on top of a substance use disorder, there’s a chance it could be a co-occurring disorder. It’s important to seek a professional evaluation right away to verify.

1. You’re Not Alone

When you’re in the throes of an addiction or a mental disorder, it can feel as though you’re the only person in the world suffering from the condition. In turn, this sense of isolation and stigma can drive an increase in substance abuse.

Research shows that Americans with a diagnosed mental illness consume 69% of the country’s alcohol and 84% of its cocaine.

Rather than seeking solace in addiction, sufferers can seek treatment instead. Here, they’ll connect with experts trained in helping them manage their condition and can also learn alongside others who are walking the same road.


2. Dual Diagnosis Treatment Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All

Dual diagnosis treatment programs take into account that each person’s case is unique.

After delving deep into your history and current condition, a trained expert will develop a custom plan for your recovery, centered on your specific triggers, special circumstances, home environment and more.

There is a wide range of combinations that could comprise your diagnosis. For instance, you might suffer from an anxiety disorder plus alcohol addiction. Or, you might have depression and be addicted to heroin.

In short, you’re not a number. You’ll be treated as the complex and capable person you are.

3. The Process Isn’t Simple

As there isn’t a universal patient type, nor is there a treatment approach that works the same way every time.

Rather, your treatment staff may need some time to dig into the root of your condition. It can be difficult to discern, for instance, if your depression is stemming from your drug use, or if it’s an underlying mental illness.

From there, you may enter into a range of therapy types, including:

  • Trauma Therapy
  • Individual Therapy
  • Group Therapy

There are also 12-step programs designed to help patients re-adjust to the outside world as they prepare to leave the confines of a treatment facility.

Your treatment plan may center on one of these therapy plans, or it might include components of all of them, depending on your case.

4. You May Be Considered High-Risk

Though there have not been any definitive studies confirming that those with mental illness display more aggressive tendencies, research does show that substance abuse on top of a mental disorder amplifies one’s propensity toward violence.

For instance, one study shows that women diagnosed with alcoholism and antisocial personality disorder are 40% to 50% more likely to commit homicide. A diagnosis of schizophrenia, on the other hand, only increased the risk by 4% to 5%.

Thus, expect to be treated as a high-risk patient, even if you have no plans to harm yourself or engage in violent behavior during your treatment.

5. You’re Susceptible to Addictive Behavior

Especially if you’re entering into an outpatient treatment program, it’s important to remember that if you’re diagnosed with a mental illness, you could be more likely to develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

This is because many people who suffer from a mental health condition will turn to substance abuse to help them cope with their symptoms. While this may offer a short-term distraction, they serve to alter our brain’s chemistry in a way that most often worsens the condition.

Over time, your brain may rewire its rewarding effects, meaning that you become predisposed to continual drug use.

While you’re not engaged in treatment activities, it’s important to remain aware of this inclination and surround yourself with positive influences that can keep you going in the right direction.

6. Not Every Treatment Facility Will Fit

A treatment facility has to be set up to assist patients with a dual diagnosis. That means one that focuses primarily on helping people overcome drug and alcohol addiction may not have trained and licensed medical doctors, psychologists and therapists on staff prepared to treat mental illnesses.

The reverse is also true. Some mental health facilities might not be capable of helping someone through a drug addiction.

This is where it pays to do your research. As you seek treatment options, look for facilities that

advertise an ability to work with dual diagnosis patients. Don’t expect to handle one of the conditions on your own as you tackle the other. A comprehensive approach is best to ensure long-term recovery.

7. Integrated Treatment is Best

At the same time, look for a facility that will take an integrated approach to your dual diagnosis.

Some may prefer to tackle each issue separately, but the intertwined nature of the two conditions makes this difficult at best, and usually impossible.

In an ideal situation, you’ll enter into an inpatient rehab program that allows you to work through your two diagnoses at the same time, under the same roof, with the same therapists.

This consistency is key to helping your treatment plan stick and ensuring you address your issues in their entirety.

8. A Reputable Facility Won’t Rush You

Yes, there is a timeframe in which most patients complete their dual diagnosis treatment. And there may be other factors, such as your insurance terms, work schedule and family life that dictate how long you can spend in a facility.

Still, a quality treatment center won’t speed up your process.

Rather, the staff will understand that it’s critical to work at a pace you are comfortable with. After all, you’re dealing with a condition that includes an extra layer on top of traditional substance abuse or mental health disorders.

As you interview facilities, ask about anticipated treatment timelines and make sure you’re comfortable with the answer before moving forward.

9. Expect a Longer Process

The reason you shouldn’t feel rushed? Due to the mental health component of your condition, it will likely take you longer to successfully complete treatment than someone with an isolated addiction problem.

There are specific terms and conditions to factor in when you’re dealing with mental health. Your therapist might devise a plan that spans months or even years longer than your peer’s.

10. A Licensed Expert Will Evaluate You

Before you enter into a treatment facility, a licensed physician or psychiatric professional will evaluate your individual condition.

This may involve a series of questions that probe deeper into your history of substance abuse and mental illness.

You may need to recall traumatic childhood events or other instances from your past that could attribute to your condition. Moreover, you should explain if there are any environmental triggers, such as chronic stress, that could contribute to your addiction or mental disorder.

After the evaluation is complete, the physician will use this data to create a treatment and recovery plan tailored to your individual case.

Seek Dual Diagnosis Treatment Today

When you’re suffering from an unshakable addiction on top of a crippling mental disorder, the road to recovery can seem an unending one.

The good news? It doesn’t have to be.

When you’re ready to seek dual diagnosis treatment, we’d love to help.

We’re a Scottsdale-based recovery center that specializes in treating dual diagnosis patients as well as alcoholism, heroin addiction, prescription pill addiction, and methamphetamine addiction.

Reach out to us today to discuss your needs. Let’s take this critical first step together.


  • 7580 E Gray Rd Suite 201 Scottsdale, AZ 85260
  • (877) 224-0761
  • Mon-Sun: 24x7
  • Mon-Fri: 8:00AM – 4:00PM

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