Dual Diagnosis Treatment Explained


Dual DiagnosisDual diagnosis refers to individuals who in addition to being addicted to drugs or alcohol, also suffer from another psychiatric illness. It is common for individuals in treatment for substance dependence also to have co-morbid psychiatric disorders. Some of these include major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, anti-social personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, phobias, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).[1]

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that dual diagnosis, substance abuse, and mental health disorders affect over 8 million people per year within the United States. However, from those individuals, only 7.4 percent receive the appropriate treatment, leaving the rest to self-medicate or possibly fall further into addiction, due to their diseases not being acknowledged or addressed.[2] Unfortunately, the amount of individuals that go untreated is high because many facilities cannot identify or understand dual diagnosis conditions, and are unknowledgeable about treatments.


NIDA explains that alcohol and substance abuse problems often coincide with a variety of mental health disorders. Some of the most common include depression, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders. The concurrent existence of a mental disorder and addiction in an individual often leads to the exacerbation of both conditions.a mental disorder and addiction in an individual often leads to the exacerbation of both conditions.

It can prove difficult for physicians to identify dual diagnosis in a patient. NIDA research also conveys that due to the many combinations of mental disorders that can occur with substance abuse; there are varieties of symptoms that can present themselves, making it hard to pinpoint accurately which mental disorder has intermingled with which addiction.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) explained that due to the complexity of dual diagnosis, an integrated intervention is the most successful and suggested method of treatment.[3] This process involves treating both the mental illness and substance abuse disorder.


Understanding Dual Diagnosis PTSDFor centuries, dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, there have been documented accounts of problems or disorders as a result of traumatic events.[4] These psychological accounts were then formally acknowledged and addressed by the physicians of that time. These were the first cases of what is now referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The United States Department of Veterans Affairs states that PTSD was first classified as “shell shock” after the Civil War. After World War II, it became known as combat stress reaction (CSR).

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) published and released the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-I) in 1952, classifying a variation of PTSD within it.[5] However, according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD was not officially classified in the APA until 1980.

The revised and updated version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) acknowledged and correlated post-military civilian life and traumatic war experiences. However, those that have served are not the only group of individuals who can suffer from PTSD. Anyone who has experienced a traumatic event is susceptible to PTSD, including survivors of the terror attacks on 9/11, rape victims, physically abused children, those verbally abused, first-responders and natural disaster survivors. The article highlights that four percent of men and 10 percent of women in the United States are diagnosed with PTSD every year.


PTSD Symptoms and Treating Dual DiagnosisAny life-threatening event or series of events where an individual is made to feel hopeless or helpless can be a trigger for PTSD.[6] There are a variety of experiences that can cause the disorder. However, the more unpredictable and the more uncontrollable an event is the higher the risk of it leading to PTSD.

There is a multitude of signs that a friend or family member may be struggling with this increasingly common mental disorder. In order to combat it, many times an individual will turn to alcohol or substance abuse as a means of escape. Different symptoms surface differently in each patient. An article from Helpguide describes that for some, PTSD may begin hours after the event, for others it could take weeks.[7] The article also lists a variety of symptoms of the disease. Some of these include:

· Hypervigilance
· Easily startled
· Restlessness
· Irritability and outbursts of anger
· Trouble functioning at work
· Chronic pain
· Panic attacks
· Depression


Although the dual diagnosis is extremely overwhelming and draining for the patient; friends and family members can also face problems as a side-effect of the co-morbid conditions. Treatment is an important resource for all parties to better understand the disorder and how to cope with it. The Friends and Family Members can also Face Problems article by Mental Health America explains that a partner or spouse can become depressed, angry or resentful about the changes in his or her other half. They may constantly be on edge and living in fear if their partner experiences bouts of rage and aggressiveness.[8] Partners may also experience emotional distance specifically towards the individual with the mental disorder. People can also feel isolated if their afflicted partner no longer wants to socialize with them or with others outside of the home. Although there is no formulaic cure for PTSD, therapy along with medication can alleviate its side-effects.


Dual diagnosis can be a daunting medical condition to treat. The combination of substance abuse and a mental health disorder can involve complex treatments. Addiction worsens an individual’s mental disorder, so it is imperative concurrently treat both.

Addiction worsens an individual’s mental disorder, so it is imperative to concurrently treat both. Seaside Palm Beach is a resort-like, state-of-the-art facility with all the amenities and programs to ensure a comfortable, successful rehabilitation. Seaside Palm Beach is one of the few luxury facilities that specializes in dual diagnosis. Our comprehensive, holistic approach to treatment has boasted high, long-term success rates for over two decades. Our psychiatric and clinical experts will aid in creating and implementing the best treatment program for each individual patient. Our staff aids individuals in identifying and understanding triggers that may lead to relapse so that they can be avoided and sobriety can be maintained. For more information, please call (888) 997-3274.