What is a Dual Diagnosis Or Co-Occurring Disorder?

What is a Dual Diagnosis Or Co-Occurring Disorder?

In Alcohol Addiction March 6th, 2020 No Comments
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What is a Dual Diagnosis Or Co-Occurring Disorder?

While doing your research into treatment centers and treatment options, you may be finding two unfamiliar terms repeating themselves: dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Addiction treatment makes all the difference when these two are identified, making it even more important for you and your family to know what they mean. It will help you better understand your addiction, how to break your addiction cycle, and how to live a long, happy, healthy life in recovery.

Understanding Co-Occurring Disorders

According to Psychology Today, the term co-occurring disorder refers to the condition in which an individual has a co-existing mental illness and substance use disorder. While commonly used to refer to the combination of substance use and mental disorders, the term also refers to other combinations of disorders, such a mental disorder, and intellectual disability.

Addiction isn’t just a standalone occurrence. It is always a symptom of a larger issue, such as a co-occurring disorder, untreated trauma, family history, chronic pain, or a multitude of other factors. If the root cause of your addiction is due to a co-occurring disorder, whether treated or untreated, it is essential to identify it in order to also successfully treat your addiction.

Examples of Co-Occurring Disorders

Often times, individuals may form addictions in an effort to self-medicate the symptoms of their co-occurring disorder, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed. However, all this does is exacerbate the symptoms more.

Examples of co-occurring disorders include:

  • ADD and ADHD
  • Anger issues
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • OCD
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Shame
  • Social anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts

Understanding Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis refers to the treatment of co-occurring disorders. If an individual enters treatment for addiction and treats the addiction alone, long-term results will be very poor. This is because, as mentioned, addiction is a symptom of a larger issue and never stands alone. As such, the whole person needs to be treated, including any and all co-occurring disorders.

Many times, individuals who enter treatment do not realize they even have a co-occurring disorder until after they begin the treatment process. This is why opening up to your therapist and choosing the right treatment facility can make all the difference in your long term recovery.

The Cycle of Addiction

In order to understand why dual diagnosis treatment is so important, it is essential to first understand the cycle of addiction.

  • Medicating a symptom. First, an individual may be medicating a symptom. Symptoms can be anything including chronic pain, sad feelings, traumatic thoughts, to be more outgoing in social situations, or other negative thoughts and emotions.
  • Temporary relief. The individual uses drugs or alcohol to medicate their symptom and feels temporary relief. This could be feelings of euphoria or numbness which become addicting to the user.
  • Crash. Once the high is over, the individual will feel a huge crash and their initial symptom will become much worse. Drug and alcohol use exacerbates anxiety and depression, which will trigger more negative symptoms. As such, step 1 repeats again with the temporary relief window becoming smaller and smaller every time.

Without identifying the initial symptom that is being medicated, sobriety will not last long. The symptom will creep up again, and the individual will likely turn to addiction again because no new healthy coping mechanisms have been formed to treat the underlying issue.

Facts About Dual Diagnosis

Important statistics about dual diagnosis, according to SAMHSA, include:

  • 1 in 4 people who suffer from a mental illness also suffer from addiction
  • 17.5 million Americans over the age of 18 (or 8 percent of the adult population) had a serious mental health disorder in the past year
  • More than 50 percent of those living with a co-occurring disorder do not receive any medical treatment in their lifetime
  • More men than women are diagnosed with co-occurring disorders

About Seasons in Malibu

Dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder patients are high-risk. This is because untreated addiction and untreated mental health disorders will put you on the fast-track to overdose and suicide. Breaking the cycle of addiction by receiving dual diagnosis treatment is life-saving, and healthy life in recovery is possible.

Treatment at Seasons in Malibu is systemic, integrative and client-centered. Our philosophy is grounded in the understanding that in order for the client to heal, the entire system needs the opportunity to heal along with them. The pressure to “fix” the client can become overwhelming and unrealistic if we do not examine the underlying issues, dynamics and environmental influences that might be contributing to substance abuse or ongoing mental health issues. Whenever practical, we try to include close loved ones in sessions and in the entire process of recovering from addiction and/or addressing mental health issues.

It is a priority for us that our life-changing drug and alcohol treatment be available to the people who need it. We are fully familiar with how much strength and courage it takes to pick up the phone and ask for help. Our counselors are invested in your well-being and are ready around-the-clock to guide you or a trusted friend or family member through the initial steps of overcoming drug or alcohol addiction.

With our superior team of clinicians, we are able to succinctly pinpoint those areas of focus which will give the client the most advanced opportunity for success. Our approach towards healing is collaborative, comprehensive and committed.

For more information, visit seasonsmalibu.com


Written By
Dr. Boris Vaisman
Family medicine and addiction specialist. What is a Dual Diagnosis Or Co-Occurring Disorder? What is a Dual Diagnosis Or Co-Occurring Disorder? What is a Dual Diagnosis Or Co-Occurring Disorder? What is a Dual Diagnosis Or Co-Occurring Disorder? What is a Dual Diagnosis Or Co-Occurring Disorder?

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