Menu Close

Dual Diagnosis

dual diagnosis treatment programSubstance use disorder is not a modern-day disease. Although it has gone by many names over the centuries, addiction has plagued human society. The so-called opioid crisis of today has its roots in the opium epidemic that swept across China in the 1700s. Alcoholism has been documented in ancient Egyptian writings as far back as 3000 BC. Despite the problems that addiction has caused for humankind and thousands of studies and research initiatives, no cure has yet been discovered for substance use disorder (SUD).

However, within the past few decades, a definitive link between mental illness and addictive behaviors has been discovered and studied extensively, making new inroads and progress into the treatment of both conditions.

The term dual diagnosis was first coined for co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders in the 1980s. Since then, many different approaches have explored the best way to treat co-occurring disorders. After years of trying and failing to make true progress with dual diagnosis care, comprehensive research has revealed that integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders is by far the most effective in helping to free comorbid patients from the numerous symptoms that make their conditions so difficult to treat.

What Is Dual Diagnosis?

The most widely accepted dual diagnosis definition is the occurrence of both a mental health disorder and substance use disorder within the same individual. For centuries, this common occurrence was misdiagnosed because the symptoms of mental illness and severe addiction are often very similar. Only recently, clinicians realized just how prevalent co-occurring disorders are, although it is still not understood exactly why the two conditions are so interconnected.

Due to centuries of misunderstanding and the misdiagnosis of co-occurring disorders, it has only recently come to light just how prevalent comorbid substance use disorder and mental illness are. The proportion of individuals struggling with addiction and mental health issues is very high, and it is staggering when you put it into terms of population. Millions of people in the United States suffer from co-occurring mental health and substance abuse, with the number growing with each passing year.

The Dangers of Self-Medicating

Self-medication describes any practice in which someone seeks to treat their illness by self-prescribing medication, alcohol, or other substances. Concerning co-occurring disorders, this would include anyone who tries to reduce the symptoms of their psychological disorders by taking drugs or alcohol.

Whether through the use of drugs or alcohol or simply someone who takes antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription, self-diagnosing and self-medicating can have long-lasting health implications. Here are some of the risks of self-medication:

  • Forming dangerous addictions
  • Potentially compounding symptoms of mental disorders
  • Concealing symptoms of serious mental health conditions
  • Dangerous interactions and side effects with psychiatric drugs
  • Legal, social, or otherwise negative consequences of abusing illicit substances
  • Possibility of developing suicidal tendencies
  • Overdose
One conspicuous example of this type of behavior is someone with social anxiety who drinks alcohol or uses substances to feel more comfortable or secure around other people. Those who engage in this type of behavior often don’t even realize that they’re self-medicating.

How to Identify the Symptoms of Mood Disorders and Mental Illness

There are hundreds of different types of mental illness, personality disorders, and mood disorders. We can “t cover them all in this article, but we can go over some of the mental disorders that most commonly interact with substance addiction:

Bipolar Disorder

Interchanging spells of euphoric, energetic mania and sudden shifts to major depression and discouragement

Anxiety Disorder

Turbulent stress and physical anxiety in response to inconsistent stimuli

Depression or Depressive Disorder

Long intervals of despair, fatigue, or hopelessness for periods longer than two weeks


Major depression that lasts for two years or more

Seasonal Affective Disorder

depression that emerges during the seasons when the days are shorter, and the weather is gloomy


A period of hyperactivity, vigorous energy, intensity, and sometimes euphoria or irritability


Altered awareness or distorted thinking, such as hallucinations or imagined voices


Periods of psychosis, as well as extreme paranoia and complex delusions

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Unusual or unmanageable obsessions and ritual

Paranoid Personality Disorder

Odd or eccentric thinking patterns, such as paranoia and distrust of others

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Develops after a disturbing event; usually involves terrifying memories and flashbacks

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Being markedly uncompassionate and lacking respect or regard for other people or their rights and feelings

Dissociative Disorder

Disconnection between memory, thoughts, reality, and consciousness

Find the Dual Diagnosis Treatment Necessary at Northpoint Washington

If you or a loved one is showing symptoms of a co-occurring mental health and substance use disorder, help is available. Although the symptoms will vary widely from one person to another and between different types of mood disorders, there are some general warning signs to look for if you suspect a co-occurring disorder:

  • Disregarding hygiene and healthy habits
  • Deteriorating performance at school or work
  • Extreme changes in behavior and moods
  • Alarming or erratic behavior
  • An inability to keep up with daily responsibilities and everyday tasks
  • Difficulty managing money and finances
  • An inability to comply with drug treatment, counseling, or other therapeutic programs
  • Suicidal thoughts or tendencies
  • Apparent cognitive changes or deficits
  • A sudden or unexpected aversion to social situations and planned activities
Comorbid mental illness and drug addiction is troubling dual diagnosis. If you or someone you know is suffering from comorbid disorders, you will need professional help to balance out the symptoms and establish a stable, healthy lifestyle. This type of condition will usually deteriorate with time, so don “t wait any longer. Reach out to Northpoint Washington at 888.450.2153 to learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment program.