Dual Diagnosis

SCAC treats people with one or more simultaneous diagnoses. This is known as dual diagnosis treatment.

What Does Dual Diagnosis Mean?

It is not uncommon for people to have a mood disorder or mental disorder that coincides with addiction. This is known as dual diagnosis. The mood or mental disorder, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, and anxiety disorder, among others, need to be treated along with the addiction. Although both (the mood/mental disorder and the addictive disorder) are two very different diagnoses, both must be addressed at the same time, as they may feed into one another.

How does this dual diagnosis situation happen? In some cases, the mood and mental disorder is what brings on the addictive behavior, although in others, this is reversed and the addiction is what leads to the mental disorder. No matter what, the treatments for dual diagnosis patients can vary, and depend on each individual diagnosis. It is impossible to determine the best course of action until the patient has arrived at SCAC and is fully diagnosed. Only then can both disorders be treated at the same time.


This combination of dual disorders can go on for a very long time before it is correctly diagnosed by a professional. The person with both disorders may have received some sort of treatment for one or the other, such as medication for the mood disorder or rehabilitation for the addiction. However, since neither of these approaches was complete, as they left out one disorder, the treatment was less successful. In the case of these co-occurring disorders, both must be confronted in a well-thought-out, fully integrated approach. Otherwise, the chance of reoccurrence is very high.

Dual Diagnosis Symptoms

A person who receives the diagnosis of dual disorders has the symptoms of several conditions at once. This makes the diagnosing process slightly more difficult, as the professional must determine which symptoms stem from which disorder. As a result, the list of potential symptoms is long. Some of the ones to look for include the main signs of drug and alcohol addiction:

  • Behavior that swings from one extreme to another
  • Other symptoms of alcohol or drug withdrawal
  • Risky behavior that is done to keep their addictive habit going
  • Unusual and dangerous behaviors when under the influence of drugs and alcohol
  • Very high drug and alcohol tolerances
  • Shutting out family, friends, and loved ones
  • The inability to stop abusing drugs and alcohol
  • Being unable to function without the addictive substance

Potential Dual Disorders

Although those with a dual diagnosis can have any combination of mood or mental disorder along with an addiction, there are some common disorders that appear. These include:

  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Personality Disorder
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia

Self-Medicating Habits

Someone with an undiagnosed mood or mental disorder may fall into self-medicating habits. In some cases, they do not even realize that they are doing this. For example, if someone has bipolar disorder, they may take one drug to help them rest while manic, and another to help them function and have energy while depressed. When they are taking these medications or drugs without a proper prescription or instructions from a doctor, then this is called self-medicating.

The issue with self-medicating is that the medications or drugs are being used in an uncontrolled format, which can lead to addiction. In addition to this, the drugs only provide relief from the mood or mental disorder symptoms for a short period of time. The person taking them will begin to need more and more of the drugs in order to get this relief, setting up a situation in which overdose is possible. Plus, the main issues that led to the addiction are never confronted or even properly treated.

If someone with a dual diagnosis goes to a standard facility for addiction, the additional disorder may never be properly treated, because it was masked by the self-medication. This leads to a loop in which the patient goes through the cycles of self-medication and addiction again and again with few proper treatments or solutions in sight.

Treating Someone with a Dual Diagnosis

It is clear that someone who has a dual diagnosis must be treated for both at the same time. Otherwise, progress will not be made and the person ends up in a constant loop. Here at SCAC, we do not take a standard approach to treating dual diagnoses, because there is no “one size fits all” option. Each person is different and so are their disorders.

With that said, there are some commonalities to these treatment programs. Each will include some combination of the following treatments:

  • A complete assessment
  • Some time in our detox facility
  • Inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, or some combination of the two
  • Various types of therapies
  • Post-inpatient care to ensure that the person stays on track

In addition to this, other comprehensive treatments may be included as needed.

Dual Diagnosis FAQs

We are often asked some of the same questions about dual diagnoses. Here are the most common ones.

Are dual diagnoses very common?

Yes, they are very common. It is not unusual for people with an addiction to have a mental or mood disorder as well.

Does a co-occurring disorder differ from a dual diagnosis?

Actually, no. The two terms are one and the same. The only difference is that “co-occurring” is the more modern and professional way of referring to dual diagnosis. In fact, dual diagnosis was the original term. It wasn’t until recently that co-occurrence became the most popular way of referring to someone with more than one diagnosis that must be treated.

Is it always best to treat both disorders at the same time?

Yes. It is. Studies have shown that the rate of re-occurrence is much lower if both diagnoses are treated at once. This has been a standard of practice since the 1980s.


Are You Ready to Take the Next Step?

If so, please reach out to us today. The professionals at SCAC are able to help you successfully treat your dual diagnoses.

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