What is Dual Diagnosis?

If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re either looking for help with addiction, or you know someone who needs help and you want to understand what they’re going through. Either way, we’re here to help.

Dual diagnosis is a term used to describe people who suffer from both mental illness and substance use disorder (SUD). In the United States, it’s estimated that 25% of people who have mental illnesses also have substance use disorders—and vice versa. In other words, more than 1 in 4 Americans with mental illness also struggle with addiction at some point in their lives.

People who suffer from dual diagnoses often struggle with depression, anxiety disorders, or bipolar disorder. They may also experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, or other mood disorders like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Those with dual diagnoses frequently experience a sense of hopelessness because they struggle to find a starting point for addressing their substance abuse issues, not to mention their mental health concerns.

What are the most common conditions with a dual diagnosis?

  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Alcohol Abuse: Individuals with ADHD may turn to alcohol as a form of self-medication to cope with their symptoms, leading to alcohol abuse.
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Opioid Addiction: Trauma survivors with PTSD may use opioids to numb emotional pain, leading to addiction.
  • Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol: People with bipolar disorder may use alcohol to self-medicate during depressive or manic episodes.
  • Schizophrenia and Marijuana Addiction: Some individuals with schizophrenia may use marijuana to alleviate symptoms, but this can lead to addiction.
  • Eating Disorders and Appetite Suppressants: Those with eating disorders may misuse appetite suppressants or other substances to control their weight.

What are some of the challenges that are associated with having a dual diagnosis?

  • Acknowledging Addiction Is Often a Symptom: Often, individuals with dual diagnoses may not realize the extent of their substance abuse because it’s intertwined with their mental health symptoms.
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment Requires Specialization: Effective treatment should address both the mental health and substance use components, and it often requires specialized care.
  • Increased Risk of Relapse or Developing Maladaptive Behaviors: Treating one aspect without addressing the other can lead to relapse or the development of maladaptive coping mechanisms.
  • The Struggle With Self-Medication: Many individuals with dual diagnoses use substances to self-medicate, which can exacerbate both their mental health and addiction issues.

How can I get help?

If you think you might be suffering from a dual diagnosis or want to talk about how to get help for someone who is, contact OC Revive. We’re here 24/7 to help you find treatment options that fit your lifestyle and needs.


Dual diagnosis refers to the coexistence of a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder in the same individual. These conditions often interact and complicate each other’s management.

Common conditions include ADHD and alcohol abuse, PTSD and opioid addiction, bipolar disorder and alcohol, schizophrenia and marijuana addiction, and eating disorders with appetite suppressant misuse.

Some challenges include the difficulty of acknowledging addiction as a symptom, the need for specialized treatment, an increased risk of relapse or developing maladaptive behaviors, and the struggle with self-medication.

Look for signs such as significant changes in behavior, mood swings, substance abuse patterns, and unexplained physical or psychological symptoms. However, a professional assessment is necessary for a definitive diagnosis.

Yes, with the right treatment approach, dual diagnosis can be effectively managed. Treatment typically involves a combination of therapy, medication, support groups, and lifestyle adjustments.

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