Addiction is a complex disease that can affect multiple aspects of your life. Substance use problems affect people differently. It often comes with complicated underlying issues like social problems, other mental health issues, past traumas, or medical problems. In many cases, these underlying issues contribute to substance use disorders and make treatment more difficult. Co-occurring mental health issues like anxiety or depression are common among people who seek treatment for addiction. If they are left untreated, addiction treatment may be less effective.

When you enter an addiction treatment program, you will go through an assessment process that will identify your level of need when it comes to treating addiction and co-occurring problems. Effective addiction treatment will address physical, psychological, and social needs.

Dual diagnosis is a treatment method that addresses substance use disorders and other mental health issues at the same time. It’s important to address these issues simultaneously because they often feed into one another. Trying to treat addiction without addressing something like depression can be ineffective. Not only will depression continue untreated, but depressive symptoms will also make progress in addiction treatment slower and more difficult.

Serenity at Summit offers treatment for dual diagnosis cases, which may involve various mental health issues. But what is involved in dual diagnosis treatment? How is addiction treated alongside mental health issues?

What Is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

Dual diagnosis refers to someone who is diagnosed with a mental health disorder and a drug or alcohol use problem at the same time. It’s very common for substance use disorders to come with depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue at the same time. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), around half of people with substance use disorders also experience another mental health problem and vice versa. Mental health problems can make substance use disorders worse. In some cases, mental health fuels substance misuse and abuse. Substance abuse can also trigger mental health problems that were previously under control.

Dual diagnosis treatment addresses both problems at the same time. At Serenity at Summit, your substance use disorder may be treated while you also receive treatment for one or more other common mental health problems. Mental health issues may be related to addiction as an underlying cause or as a consequence of substance abuse.

Addiction and mental health often occur together for many reasons. Dual diagnosis treatment may involve medications or therapy options that are useful in treating both issues at the same time. You may also go through specialized treatment options to address particular mental health issues that you might not go through as a part of typical addiction treatment.

Common Dual Diagnoses

Several mental health issues are commonly presented alongside addiction in treatment. In many cases, untreated mental health problems increase your risk of substance use problems. Serenity at Summit offers treatment services for many of the most common mental health problems that may be complicating your substance use disorder. Each dual diagnosis case requires personalized care. When you begin treatment, you will create a plan that addresses all of your needs with the help of your therapist. Many of the treatment options you receive should help to address related or underlying mental health problems.

Here are the mental health issues that you may be treated for as a part of your addiction treatment plan at Serenity at Summit:

  • Depression. Depressive disorders like major depression and persistent depression are one of the most common mental health issues that occur in dual diagnosis cases. Depression can lead to alcoholism or drug use as a way to mask uncomfortable emotions.
  • Anxiety. Anxiety is the most common mental health problem in the United States. It affects millions of people each year, and it frequently occurs alongside substance use disorders. Anxiety is also a common withdrawal symptom associated with alcohol, depressants, and opioids.
  • Bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder associated with high and low moods. Low moods can cause depressive episodes that could lead to self-medication with alcohol or other drugs. High moods, or manic episodes, can cause poor decision-making.
  • OCD. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a unique mental health issue that causes unwanted thoughts and compulsive actions that are difficult to control.
  • Mood/Thought Disorders. Mood disorders often involve very low moods, low energy levels, and loss of motivation. Mood disorders include depression and bipolar disorder, which are frequently seen alongside substance use disorders.
  • PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder triggered by a traumatic event. It’s common among combat veterans, who have an increased risk of alcohol use disorder (AUD). However, any kind of trauma, from assault to car accidents, can cause PTSD.
  • Substance-Induced Psychosis. Substance-induced psychosis is a mental health disorder directly caused by drug or alcohol use problems. Stimulants like meth and cocaine are commonly associated with psychosis. Alcohol can also cause psychosis during severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Trauma/Stress. Stress and trauma are commonplace in the lives of most Americans. However, stress that becomes hard to cope with can contribute to mental health problems and addiction. Addiction treatment may require learning healthy ways to cope with stress.

What Causes Dual Diagnose?

Substance use disorders and mental health problems are distinct from one another, so what makes dual diagnosis so prevalent? In some cases, it’s difficult to notice that you are dealing with dual diagnosis. You may think your drug or alcohol problem is causing your symptoms, not realizing that you have an underlying disorder. It can be hard to tell if your substance use problems might have been caused by mental health issues or vice versa, but it’s clear they often go hand in hand. However, researchers have found that several factors could be the link between addiction and mental health.

Potential factors that could lead to dual diagnosis are:


Self-medication is a clear and direct link between addiction and mental health issues. As a mental health problem like depression or anxiety becomes overwhelming in your life, you may turn to drugs or alcohol to mask symptoms. Self-medication is any drug or alcohol use to treat mental or physical health issues without guidance from a medical professional. This includes illicit drug use or the misuse of prescription drugs.

Self-medication usually starts with social substance use but gets out of control when you start using the drug to feel better or feel normal. Common signs of self-medication include using drugs by yourself when you used to use them socially, using them at odd hours, and using more than you used to.

Overlapping Risk Factors

Another potential cause of dual diagnosis is overlapping risk factors. Addiction and substance use problems both have similar risk factors, including genetic, environmental, and developmental causes. For instance, past trauma, a lack of parental involvement, and economic instability are all risk factors for both disorders.

Genetics plays a major role in the development of behavioral and mental health disorders. You are more likely to struggle with mental health or substance use problems if your parents or grandparents did. There may be genetic factors that increase both issues at the same time, which could explain the link between mental health and addiction. Genetic predispositions don’t guarantee that you will struggle with one or both disorders, but you may be at greater risk than someone else.

Head/Brain Injury

Head injuries are an uncommon factor in the development of mental or behavioral disorders, but an injury that involves your brain could lead to issues like PTSD, depression, learning disabilities, and substance use issues. This is particularly a risk among high-level athletes and military service members. However, it could happen to anyone that experiences a significant head injury.

How to Treat Dual Diagnosis

At Serenity at Summit, we offer several options to help treat dual diagnoses. While treating both addiction and mental health is complex, there are several therapy options that can be useful for both. Treatment options include:

  • Trauma-Informed Therapy. Trauma is relevant to many mental and behavioral health problems. Trauma-Informed Therapy specifically addresses past trauma and helps you cope with it.
  • Mindful-Based Trauma Therapy. Mindfulness is a concept centered on staying in the moment, and it emphasizes acceptance. It’s incorporated into other therapies like DBT.
  • Biofeedback. Biofeedback is a therapy that shows you the connection between your body and mind. Painless sensors will increase your awareness of your body’s processes and how you can regulate them at will. This can help with stress management.
  • CBT. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most versatile therapies available. It was developed to treat addiction as a way to build self-efficacy and prevent relapse. However, it has been adapted to be useful in treating many mental health disorders.
  • DBT. Dialectical behavior therapy is a form of CBT that uses mindfulness techniques to emphasize acceptance and staying present. It’s useful in learning to regulate your emotions.
  • One-on-one sessions with physicians. It’s important to address physical issues that may be related to addiction or mental issues. Your doctor may also be able to prescribe certain medications that can help with anxiety or depression, like SSRIs.
  • Treatment planning with a therapist. Creating and assessing your treatment plan is an important part of treatment.
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