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What is Dual Diagnosis Treatment? Signs & Solutions

Last Updated: August 24, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Substance use disorders commonly occur alongside mental health conditions. Effective dual diagnosis treatment in Kansas City addresses them simultaneously.

Mental health conditions and substance use are often intertwined. It’s common for individuals with mental health conditions also to have a substance use disorder and vice versa. Addiction treatment must simultaneously treat co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health conditions to be effective.

What Is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is when you simultaneously have a substance use disorder and a mental health condition. Health professionals may also use words like comorbidity or co-occurring when referencing a dual diagnosis. Diagnosing and treating both disorders is crucial for recovery. A person is at a higher risk of relapse when both conditions are not addressed in rehab. When the disorders remain untreated, they often worsen one another.

Common Mental Health Disorders Seen in Addiction

People with specific mental health conditions are at a higher risk of developing substance use concerns. These conditions include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Personality disorders

Signs of Co-occurring Disorders

A person with a dual diagnosis experiences two disorders, meaning two sets of symptoms. Substance use disorder symptoms can include:

  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Withdrawing from loved ones
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Building a high tolerance for a substance
  • Feeling that you need the specific substance to function
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms

The second set of symptoms a person experiences will depend on their specific mental health disorder. Symptoms can differ significantly but may include:

  • Difficulty functioning
  • Trouble focusing
  • Brain fog or confusion
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Behavior changes
  • Withdrawing from loved ones
  • Dramatic mood changes

Get Treatment For Addiction & Co-Occurring Disorders

The Recovery Village Kansas City provides comprehensive rehabilitation services for patients with addiction and mental health concerns. Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer questions and help you get admitted.

How Common Is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is more common than you’d think. In 2020, 17 million U.S. adults experienced co-morbid mental health and substance use disorders. Other studies found that nearly 50% of adults and 60% of youth with a substance use disorder also have a mental health condition. Furthermore, around one in four adults with a serious mental health condition also have a substance use disorder. A serious mental illness greatly impacts functioning and impairs at least one area of a person’s life (e.g., personal hygiene or work).

How Mental Health Disorders Contribute to Addiction

Mental health conditions can impact daily functioning, relationships, employment and schooling. Certain disorders affect your mood, thoughts, behaviors, and your view of yourself and the world. Left untreated and without support, individuals may use alcohol or drugs to cope.

In other circumstances, folks have substance use concerns first. The development of a mental health condition then exacerbates the addiction. For example, if you’re already struggling with drug or alcohol use, developing PTSD will likely worsen your substance concerns.

How Addiction Can Contribute to Mental Health Disorders

Just as mental health disorders can exacerbate substance use, the opposite is also true. Alcohol and drug use can intensify a person’s mental health symptoms. It can also trigger a mental health disorder for people predisposed to developing one. In other cases, substances can change a person’s brain, increasing their risk of developing a mental health condition.

The Importance of Addressing Mental Health When Treating Addiction

Since both disorders interact and worsen each other’s symptoms, treatment must address each condition simultaneously. If you use substances to self-medicate, you’ll need assistance and coping strategies to support your mental health when you stop using. For example, if you’ve been using alcohol to cope with anxiety, you’ll have a higher risk of relapse if you don’t also receive treatment for anxiety.

These conditions intertwine and have the same contributing factors. One’s environment, trauma, stress and genetics play a role. Addressing both disorders in treatment helps support your long-term recovery.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Comorbid disorders significantly impact your life, but help is available. Our treatment team will recommend treatment options based on your diagnoses, needs, strengths and goals. Each person’s treatment plan is unique, but it’s typically some combination of therapeutic and rehabilitation services and medication. Before starting these services, you may need to complete a medical detox where you will be provided medical support and monitoring to detox from substances safely.

Behavioral Therapy

Dual diagnosis treatment often includes behavioral therapy, which can include:

  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT): helps individuals reduce harmful behavior patterns and manage emotions
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): focuses on individuals identifying, challenging and changing thought patterns


Many folks experiencing dual diagnosis need comprehensive rehabilitation services at a treatment center. This may be through an inpatient program where patients live onsite, followed by lower levels of care as you recover.


Your healthcare provider may prescribe several medications to treat one or both conditions. Medications can help with withdrawal symptoms related to specific substances. Others target mental health symptoms and improve functioning. Healthcare providers may avoid certain medications used for mental health disorders if they are known to be addictive.

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