Common Dual Diagnosis Examples

Edited by Keerthy Sunder

Last updated September 4, 2020

Before diving in, it’s important to answer the question: what is dual diagnosis? When a person has a dual diagnosis, they’re diagnosed with drug or alcohol addiction as well as a mental health condition. Sometimes referred to as “co-occurring disorders” or “comorbidity,” psychological distress and substance abuse often go hand in hand. 

As such, treating one condition without addressing the other can be ineffective, potentially increasing the chances of relapse. That’s why it’s vital for rehab facilities to identify co-occurring mental illnesses and provide appropriate dual diagnosis treatment[1]. 

With many types and levels of addiction and a wide range of diagnosable mental health disorders, there are almost endless variations of dual diagnoses. To provide you with a better understanding of what co-occurring disorders and substance abuse looks like and how they’re treated, we’ve outlined some of the most common dual diagnosis examples below.

7 Dual Diagnosis Examples

The rehab programs from Northbound Treatment are equipped to help individuals recover from substance addiction to alcohol, prescription opiates and opioids, heroin, stimulants, marijuana, benzodiazepines, and designer drugs. In addition to drug addiction and alcohol treatment, we provide support and guidance for those suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, trauma, bipolar disorder, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), schizophrenia, codependency, ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), borderline personality disorder, and eating disorders. 

Our knowledgeable staff of addiction coaches, doctors, psychotherapists, and mental health counselors can help you or your loved one overcome substance abuse and any mental setbacks getting in your way. Read on for a breakdown of seven common dual diagnosis examples.

Stress and Drug Abuse or Alcohol Addiction

Stress is a common mood disorder, and virtually everyone will experience it at various points throughout their lives. It can arise from relationship problems, money issues, long work hours, a heavy course load at school, or in the face of a major decision. Even good change, like getting a promotion or moving into a new home, can cause stress.

Addiction to drugs and alcohol often coincides with stress. While a substance abuse problem can ultimately make mental turmoil worse by adding to and creating more issues, many people use drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with stress

Without proper coping mechanisms, an individual can become more and more reliant on their drug of choice just to deal with day-to-day life. Eventually, self-medicating can become almost impossible to control and lead to a serious addiction.

Codependency and Alcoholism

In a codependent relationship, one person is excessively reliant on the other for various needs. This might include financial support, a place to live, social approval, a sense of identity, or happiness. When the other person continues to meet their needs, it can lead to codependency, a potentially damaging behavioral disorder, especially when drugs or alcohol are involved.

Codependency can occur in romantic relationships, in friendships, between roommates, and among family members. For someone struggling with alcoholism, the individual being relied upon often ends up enabling their loved one’s destructive drinking, whether inadvertently or consciously. Codependency can also stunt a person’s maturity, lead to under-achievement, contribute to poor mental health, and encourage other reckless behaviors.

At the same time, the enabler can end up letting their own needs fall by the wayside. By focusing on keeping their loved one happy—despite their actions being against both parties’ best interests—things can quickly go south. The enabler might begin struggling financially, performing poorly at work or school, suffer from anxiety or depression, or start abusing substances themselves.

Bipolar Disorder and Alcoholism

Bipolar disorder is another mental illness that often concurs with alcoholism. The condition is characterized by extreme mood swings, ranging from stimulating manic highs to deep depressive lows. Manic episodes can make a person feel energized, wakeful, and even optimistic. In a depressive episode, motivation drops, energy dips, and interest in daily activities wane. A low can also lead to suicidal thoughts.

Though alcohol abuse can make the effects of bipolar disorder worse by intensifying the extremities, many people turn to liquor to numb their distress or sedate themselves during a manic episode. Bipolar disorder can be difficult to treat as is and even more challenging with the presence of alcoholism. Having said that, treating one without addressing the other can be unproductive. That’s why an integrated dual diagnosis program is so crucial.

Anxiety and Benzodiazepine Addiction

Similar to stress, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, nervous, and anxious from time to time. However, chronic anxiety is a mental health disorder that can impact almost every aspect of a person’s life. It can make it hard to keep up with relationships, work, and day-to-day activities, sometimes leading to depression or other mental health conditions.

Benzodiazepines (also known as “benzos”) are a class of psychoactive sedative drugs with a high occurrence of substance addiction among people with anxiety disorder. Some of the most common benzos include Xanax, diazepam (Valium), oxazepam, and clonazepam (Klonopin). These medications are prescribed to treat depression, insomnia, epilepsy, panic attacks, and ironically, anxiety.

By calming the central nervous system, benzodiazepines can help a person relax and provide relief from feelings of anxiousness and distress. While medication can be beneficial for many people with anxiety disorder, benzos are habit-forming, often leading to a reliance. Some individuals become addicted to prescription sedatives in as little as a few weeks of regular use.

Depression and Alcohol Abuse

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders. Sadly, a substantial portion of people diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) abuse alcohol to numb feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Whether it begins with binge drinking on weekends or drinking throughout the day to escape the lows of depression, alcohol abuse far too often leads to dependence and addiction.

With co-occurring depression and alcohol abuse, every facet of a person’s life can begin to spiral out of control. People often experience financial troubles, relationship rifts, a decline in physical health, and problems at work or school. Without an appropriate co-occurring disorders treatment program that acknowledges both depression and substance abuse, it can be immensely challenging to straighten out your life.

In many cases, people drink excessively because they’re depressed, but sometimes, addiction can lead to depression. Dual diagnosis treatment helps dual diagnosis patients get to the root cause of their depression and alcohol abuse, get sober, learn healthy coping strategies, and live free from addiction.

PTSD and Opioids

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after experiencing a traumatic event, such as physical or sexual abuse, witnessing violence, a car accident, combat, a natural disaster, or the sudden loss of a loved one. It affects millions of people throughout the world, including both children and adults.

Though alcohol and other drugs are heavily used by people with PTSD, opioid abuse is among the most common dual diagnoses. Opioids are extremely addictive and potentially dangerous with short- and long-term effects on the mind and body. Abusing this type of narcotic can have fatal consequences as well. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports nearly 47,000 opioid-related deaths in the United States in 2018 alone[2].

Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

According to research published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, eating disorders are about five times more common among people with SUD (substance abuse disorder) than the general population. An estimated 50% of women struggling with eating disorders also abuse drugs or alcohol. The highest rate of reported co-occurring conditions is alcohol use disorder (AUD) and bulimia nervosa[3].

A co-occurring eating disorder with substance abuse can increase a person’s risk of stomach and throat cancer. It can also lead to malnutrition, dehydration, depressed organ function, and a number of other serious health problems—not to mention a higher chance of overdosing.

Both eating disorders and substance abuse are urgent matters that should be addressed simultaneously, and Northbound’s rehabilitation center is equipped to treat women and men struggling with both. Our dual diagnosis treatment program has a high success rate of helping individuals identify their mental hurdles, get healthy, and overcome addiction.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Orange County from Northbound

Addiction and mental illness don’t have to control your life or hurt those closest to you. With integrated dual diagnosis services at Northbound’s rehab centers in Orange County, full recovery is possible. Our dedicated team of physicians, nurses, addiction counselors, therapists, and case managers will be there to guide you every step of the way.

Are you ready to begin the road to recovery? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Northbound Treatment. Call (888) 978-8649 to start today.

External sources:

  1. https://www.dartmouth.edu/eap/library/dualdiagnosis1.pdf
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/analysis.html
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4689437/

Article Reviewed by Keerthy Sunder

Keerthy SunderDr. Keerthy Sunder previously served as the Chief Medical Officer for Tune My Brain, an Integrative Brain Optimization Center in California. Doctor Sunder has devoted his life to helping others build peace, joy, fulfillment, and peak performance on the foundation of physical and mental health. Through 20 years of medical experience, he has realized that the best way to optimize the mind and body is a multi-pronged approach. This led to the creation of the Brain Tune Sunder Method, which combines cutting-edge science with ancient Eastern wellness techniques for brain optimization, such as Nutraceutical Supplementation, Meditations and Neurofeedback. Inspired by his beloved mother who suffered from Depression, who embraced integrative approaches from the East and the West, Dr Sunder, an accomplished Physician has devoted his life to optimize wellness across the life span.

Dr. Sunder holds Diplomates from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Board of Addiction Medicine. He is also a Diplomate of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in London, England and certified as a Credentialed Menopause Practitioner by the North American Menopause Society. He served his Ob/Gyn residency at James Cook University Hospital in England. He served his Psychiatry residency at the University of Bristol, England as well as Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania.

He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a Visionary Board Member of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine. He is an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Riverside School of Medicine and an Adjunct Professor at Southern California University of Health Sciences.

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