Dual Diagnosis: What it is and How it is Treated

JourneyPure Staff

July 26, 2019

The several environmental, biological, and genetic factors that human beings are often faced with can significantly affect the quality of their lives. When someone has factors within his or her life that do not support healthy quality of life (whether it is controllable or not), a number of things can occur, including the development of both a substance use disorder and a mental illness, which is known as a dual diagnosis.

Also referred to as co-occurring disorders, dual diagnoses are extremely common in the American population and even more popular among those with a substance use disorder. According to a survey completed in 2014 by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 7.9 million people in the United States were found to have a dual diagnosis. What is most notable about this figure is that more than half were men.

Determining if a dual diagnosis is occurring can be difficult, especially considering that specific combinations of conditions can produce varying effects. Still, there are a handful of baseline symptoms of a dual diagnosis that are usually noticeable in someone struggling with this condition. Consider the following:

● Withdrawing from friends, family, and loved ones
● Participating in risky or dangerous behaviors
● Abusing drugs or alcohol excessively
● Feeling a deep psychological need to abuse mind-altering substances
● Experiencing sudden changes in behavior and mood

When a dual diagnosis remains untreated, the two conditions grow worse. While each condition grows more severe, they each work against the possible improvement of the other. The good news is that a dual diagnosis is something that can be treated professionally.

How is a Dual Diagnosis Treated?

In past decades, when someone was showing symptoms of both a substance use disorder and a mental illness, one’s provider would not treat any symptoms related to poor mental health until the individual had gotten sober. Today, that is not the case at all, as extensive research and studies have proven that treating both a substance use disorder and a mental illness at the exact same time provides the most effective treatment outcomes for patients. And even though treatment can occur simultaneously, it is still highly recommended that an individual dependent on drugs or alcohol complete detox first prior to getting down to business.


Detox is the first step for those who are dependent on drugs or alcohol. This process will connect an individual with professionals who can help assist him or her through withdrawal symptoms and issues that may develop as they are working to clear his or her system of toxic substances. Depending on the substance that was being abused, detox can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Housing and Therapy

The severity of one’s addiction will determine if he or she will be able to receive professional therapeutic services in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Typically, those who require detox tend to transition into an inpatient setting while those who do not require detox can attend sessions while continuing to reside at home. Once it is determined where the patient will live, he or she can begin therapy.

One of the most common therapeutic approaches to treating a dual diagnosis is cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a type of treatment that helps individuals identify their emotions and behaviors and begin understanding how they are connected.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is highly regarded as one of the top therapies for those with a dual diagnosis because it can help improve the symptoms associated with a mental illness and those linked to addictive tendencies and behaviors. In conjunction with CBT, patients will likely participate in individual and group therapy sessions, both of which can help to unpack the mental and emotional baggage that one has been carrying prior to getting into treatment.

When getting treatment for a dual diagnosis, regardless of the setting, it is almost always recommended that patients participate in a support group to continually develop skills that prevent relapse of both conditions.

Dual Diagnosis therapy

Benefits of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Living with an untreated dual diagnosis can be very painful, challenging, and demoralizing. Often the hardest part about having a dual diagnosis is coming to terms with it, which can take a great deal of time. And within that time, the substance use disorder and mental illness have the opportunity to get worse and worse. However, seeking professional treatment can help in a number of beneficial ways.

When getting dual diagnosis treatment, patients can:

● Get connected to support groups
● Develop skills that improve coping abilities
● Stop any further damage caused by substance abuse
● Receive the appropriate therapy and medication combination for their mental illness
● Become more organized in their thoughts and actions
● Restore their relationships with others
● Increase their own personal connectedness with themselves and their spirituality
● Improve upon their physical and psychological health

The greatest asset of dual diagnosis treatment is that the benefits of it can be endless to those who put in the work and achieve recovery.

Receive Dual Diagnosis Treatment at JourneyPure Clarksville Today

When a dual diagnosis is not treated, it can spell out major trouble for an individual. While it can certainly be difficult to accept help, those who do are often grateful that they did.

If you are done struggling with your dual diagnosis, or think that you have a dual diagnosis that has not been diagnosed, reach out to us at JourneyPure Clarksville right now. We can help.