Dual Diagnosis • ZwavelStream Clinic • Mental Health and Wellness

Dual Diagnosis

Why You Should Seek Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis Treatment | When we talk about Dual Diagnosis, we are talking about the condition where someone with mental illness has an addiction as well. For example, when someone suffering from depression is also an alcoholic. What complicates matters is that all too often people aren’t even aware that the two issues are related. This means that treatment usually involves focusing on only one of the issues, without considering how much the conditions actually impact each other. People with Dual Diagnosis are more likely to relapse, become homeless, or end up in hospital in comparison to those with mental illness or addiction problems alone. This high risk is what makes seeking treatment absolutely imperative.

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Dual Diagnosis Treatment

What is Dual Diagnosis?

Despite the name, Dual Diagnosis can involve more than one disorder. For instance, someone can be struggling with drug addiction, depression, as well as anxiety at the same time. However, the Dual Diagnosis label is still used to describe this condition. Ultimately it comes down to the fact that a person is suffering from mental illness while also abusing substances. And because it’s possible for drug abuse to actually induce mental illness, it’s critical to determine whether this is the case, or if the mental illness was a pre-existing condition. This needs to happen before proper treatment can begin.

Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis

Since this condition has to do with psychological issues as well as behavioural, there is a wide range of various symptoms. Physically, you may have trouble sleeping, fluctuating weight, and fatigue. With regard to behavioural changes, someone with Dual Diagnosis will present with erratic moods, changes in personality, using substances to cope with negative emotions, and sometimes becoming quite aggressive. Finally, emotional and psychological symptoms include disorientation, blackouts, decreased concentration, panic, paranoia, anger, self-hatred, long periods of deep sadness, and suicidal thoughts. These symptoms can occur in any variety of ways, but will always involve all aspects of an individual’s personality, behaviour, and mental state.

Causes of Dual Diagnosis

The unique nature of Dual Diagnosis is exactly what makes it hard to determine the cause of it. This is because the occurrence of mental illness and addiction varies so greatly between individuals. However, there are some theories that suggest possible causes:

  • Genetics – The same genes that predispose people to mental illness also influence how vulnerable they are to the effects of certain drugs.
  • Unhealthy Coping – When people turn to substances as a way to manage their mental illness, there is an increased risk of addiction.
  • Brain Abnormalities – Studies have shown that abnormalities found at the root of certain disorders, also make people vulnerable to addiction.

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy greatly benefits people with Dual Diagnosis. The reason for this is because it focuses on both the mental illness as well as addiction. The critical aspect of treatment is that both conditions need to be addressed at the same time, and CBT does this. During therapy, the patient’s behaviour will be modified over a number of visits. This happens by helping the patient to break patterns in negative thinking, and ‘unlearn’ harmful behaviours. By learning to adopt a more positive perception of self and the world in general, a patient will feel more empowered to make healthier choices when it comes to coping.

Prescribed Medication

In cases of Dual Diagnosis, it’s common for treatment to be integrated. What this means is that in addition to therapy, mental health specialists will also advise the use of medication to promote recovery. The type of medications prescribed will depend on the mental illness. For instance, antipsychotics are used to treat schizophrenia, while antidepressants treat depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. When depression is not present, anti-anxiety medication and mood stabilizers will be prescribed for anxiety disorders or mood disorders, like bipolar. In addition to the medication used to treat a specific mental disorder, detox drugs are also prescribed. These are to alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal for the patient.

Natural Treatments

Although traditional chemical treatments are still preferred, natural methods of treating Dual Diagnosis are becoming more and more popular. The cause of this popularity is because of the results in patients. Studies not only show success in recovery, but a high level of maintaining sobriety without relapse. What’s more, natural treatment focuses on the patient’s whole self – body, mind, and spirit. Things like massage therapy, yoga, and nutrition counseling takes care of the patient’s physical needs. With regard to their mental state, journaling is encouraged. This is combined with art therapy, meditation, and psychotherapy. And finally, Reiki, prayer, and spiritual counseling make up the last aspect of holistic healing.

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