Dual Diagnosis


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What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is commonly used with the terms co-morbidity and co-occurring disorders regarding individuals who have two or more psychological diagnoses that affect them at the same time, whereby the individual experiences a psychiatric diagnosis that is exacerbated by some form of substance abuse or addiction. Individuals whom experience a Dual Diagnosis require specialized treatment regiments therapeutic interventions which accommodate for both illnesses individually, in addition to symptoms that may evolve due to interactions between the two disorders.

How common is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis affects individuals differently independently across all domains of psychological illness. Although Dual diagnosis can affect individuals from multiple diagnoses, it is extremely common in individuals who experience personality and mood disorders, in addition to schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder. The individual frequently engages in alcohol or substance use or dependence as a means of self-medicating. Unfortunately, many times an individual may not talk about a history of substance abuse in treatment, which may lead to a significant impact on the success of counseling or medications that are prescribed.

Forms of substances that individuals with Dual Diagnosis frequently use are, but not limited to:

  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Prescription Abuse
  • Inhalants (eg. paint, glue)
  • Marijuana
  • Hallucinogens (eg. LSD)
  • Sedatives

Signs and Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis

Individuals with Dual Diagnoses may have a preexisting condition for which they are self-medicating, may have engaged in drug use prior to the onset of a psychological disorder, or both disorders may have occurred at the same time. Typically the person is affected by both the disorder and the substance, and such interaction may produce symptoms that are not common to individuals treated for the psychological disorder alone. The individual may experience:

  • interference at work or school
  • substance abuse may continue despite severe problems associated with such
  • problems with the legal system
  • periods of experiencing withdrawal when not using the substance
  • symptoms of a preexisting psychological disorder may worsen, happen more

How can Psychotherapy Help?

Psychotherapy may help an individual who is applied a Dual Diagnosis through various ways:

  • to make appropriate referrals for potential prescription coverage
  • to discuss the stress and emotional reactions common to quitting
  • appropriate treatment accounting for diagnoses and substance abuse equally
  • to address concerns with family or friends who may also be affected


Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA)
World Services Central Office
P.O. Box 8107, Prairie Village, Kansas, 66208
Toll Free 1-877-883-2332

Alcoholics Anonymous

Dr. Paul's at the Bay (Drug Treatment Center)  www.floridatreatment.com