Dual Diagnosis Types and Its Effect to One’s Mental Health


Being diagnosed with any mental illness is a heavy burden to carry. It influences many aspects of a person’s life, from their work life to their personal life. Suffering from one mental illness is difficult enough, but there are cases where patients suffer from two types of mental illness.

For patients with substance abuse problems, these types of comorbidity were previously called dual diagnosis or what is now called a co-occurring disorder. People suffering from this type of diagnosis often face with serious problems to the point that they lean to substances to ease the stress and forget their problems.

The causes and after-effects could vary depending on the personal circumstances of the patient. If you know someone that is suffering from this condition, read this article.

What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is a condition wherein a person is experiencing a mental disorder and a drug and alcohol problem at the same time. This condition is prevalent, especially to people who are already suffering from a mental illness. A survey showed that 45% of Americans suffers from dual diagnosis. The definition of dual diagnosis is fairly straightforward. Diagnosing people with it is not an easy feat.

This is not limited to a particular age group. Young adults in America also suffer from the same condition as people over the age of 50. People with this condition are difficult to diagnose because they can still function in their day-to-day lives. Most of these people would only be treated with one of their illnesses and not for the two, making it hard to help them recover.

In fact, only a few people with any mental health problem are treated. The rise of this condition may be attributed to several reasons such as financial problems, family problems, and violence.

Can you have two mental health diagnoses?


Just like any other physical condition, a person with an existing mental health problem could still be diagnosed with another mental health problem. As discussed before, comorbidities are common among patients. Mental health patients are often at risk of having two mental health diagnoses after an initial diagnosis was made.

The risk of a second mental health diagnosis is very high, especially in the first six months of the initial diagnosis. Patients with dual diagnosis with one disorder would often attempt to tackle their mental illnesses by turning to alcohol or drugs, which would then lead to another disorder. Another reason for turning to drugs is occurring health issues.

Due to the extreme pain that patients might experience, some patients tend to misuse their prescription drugs. Substance misuse has increased since 2000 and is still increasing up to this day.

Effects of dual diagnosis

      effects of dual diagnosis

The effects of dual diagnosis on its sufferers are vast. It can affect not only the patient’s work life but especially their personal life. Patients tend to lose their jobs due to their continuous negligence on their job or even just attendance. Some young adults suffering from this condition may find themselves unable to land a job due to social withdrawal and even isolation.

These behaviors could then evolve into antisocial behaviors or even self-harming or suicidal tendencies. Other possible effects may be observed on their family life. Family members with dual diagnoses may face family problems due to their behavior, such as violent tendencies due to uncontrollable substance abuse.

The strain that these patients have on their mental health due to dual diagnosis makes it difficult for them to have a stable working environment as well as to maintain a good family dynamic.

Types of Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is a type of condition composed of one mental health problem and a substance problem. Due to this, this condition can’t be tied down to only one kind of type. There are different types of dual diagnosis that the DualDiagnosis.org has recognized; Cocaine addiction and Major Depression, Panic Disorder with Alcohol Addiction, Schizophrenia, and Drug Obsession, followed by Alcoholism and Uncertain Personality Disorder with Incidental Substance Overuse. They are grouped into three to give a better understanding of these types.

Addiction and Mental Health

There are many types of substances- from alcohol addiction to prescription drugs. While it is difficult to pinpoint what came before, it has been proven that undiagnosed mental health problems. This could lead to patients turning to substances. Patients with undiagnosed conditions such as ADHD, OCD, Anxiety, and Depression are most likely to use substances. By doing so, they can cope with their symptoms.

Even if they are diagnosed with one of these conditions, some mental health professionals are not made aware of their patients’ underlying substance abuse, rendering their treatment ineffective.

Addiction and Trauma

Dealing with a complicated past is a burden that many substance abuse patients are afraid of doing. Those that experience some dual diagnosis types, and traumatized adults will turn to different substances to repress painful memories from resurfacing.

They believe that drowning their trauma and emotions in a mix of alcohol and other illegal substances could help them heal the wound of their past. Most of the time, it doesn’t work, leading to more problems in their present life. The cycle continues. They had enough, and they decided to end their life accidentally by overdose or purposefully by suicide.

Mental Health and Trauma

As discussed in the previous group, people with a dual diagnosis have endured or are still enduring a difficult life. These traumas might lead to a person developing a mental health disorder. Post-Traumatic Disorder is one of the most common types of mental illness that stems from trauma.

The trauma they face is too much for them to handle. As a result, they develop symptoms from phobias to difficulty maintaining their relationship with others. If left untreated or even undiagnosed, this type could lead to a person abusing substances. These are substances that they may have enjoyed in the past, such as alcohol. Or this could be about the beginning of illegal drug usage.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

  dual-diagnosis therapy

The most effective way to treat a person with a dual diagnosis is to recognize their two conditions and treat them simultaneously. Behavioral therapy paired with medicines can help patients with their substance abuse and ther mental health conditions. Support groups can give patients a chance to connect with other people suffering from the same condition.

These support groups allow the patients to know more about their condition. Simply listening to other people deal with their symptoms is an important step.

Patients with dual diagnoses have a hard hand to play with. Whether it be a painful past or experiencing an extremely traumatic event, recovering is no easy feat.

The key to making the suffering short is to open up and talk about all the emotions that have been bottled up inside. Alcohol and other substances may give temporary relief. But it does have lasting and permanent effects to their physical health and all aspects of their lives. If you are suffering from addiction, many people are willing to help you. Hence, instead of reaching for another bottle of alcohol, reach for a phone and call a mental health professional near you to rebuild your life.

If you need assistance, please call 562-263-4733 or visit us at 3939 Atlantic Ave, Suite 102 Long Beach, CA 90807. 

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