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Co-Occurring Disorders

A Path to Full Recovery

Co-occurring disorders, formerly known as dual diagnoses, refers to the coexistence of mental health issues along with a substance abuse disorder. Individuals with mental health disorders are more likely than individuals without mental health disorders to struggle with alcohol or substance use disorders. It can happen when a person meets the diagnostic criteria of two mental health issues or a mental health issue and a substance use problem etc. In a number of cases, an underlying problem gives rise to another psychological issue which can in turn can result in two diagnoses. This is also described as co-morbidity or co-occurring mental health issues.

Each individual suffering from co-occurring conditions are different when it comes to their experience with addiction and mental illness. For most people, they began to experience mental health issues and tried alcohol or drugs soon after in order to “self-medicate”. For others, they first develop an addiction that grows so severe that it causes or triggers a mental health disorder. Clients with co-occurring orders often face more chronic medical, social and emotional trouble than clients suffering from addiction or mental health illness alone.

At Safe Harbor Treatment Center, we use a variety of programs compassionately created to target and overcome co-occurring conditions. Our treatments are designed to relieve an array of mental and physical conditions that come along with co-occurring conditions. In addition to practices such as yoga, mindfulness, and meditation, we also use non-addictive medication programs to treat co-occurring disorders and put you on the path to full mental and physical recovery.

We invite you to reach out to a member of our team as soon as you are ready.

Our Admissions Department is kind and patient, as we understand the stress and fear you may be experiencing. You have made a courageous decision and we are here to support you 24 hours a day.

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What is Dual Diagnoses and How Can it Help you Get Better?

There are a number of ways with which a person can have dual diagnosis. A person might have two or more psychological disorders co-occurring together, for example someone might be facing depressive symptoms and would have a diagnoses of alcohol use disorder too. Drug dependence often shares co-morbidity with other psychological issues. 

Likewise in kids, if there is an intellectual problem going on, there might be another diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder co-occurring as well. Another example of co-occurring disorder can be use of a specific drug and an ongoing problem of psychosis or schizophrenia.  Thus, there are a number of possibilities when it comes to dual diagnoses. This can be related to the fact that a person might be going through a number of psychological issues or might be having a substance use disorder as well.

How Does Dual Diagnoses Help in Treatment?

Dual diagnoses can help in the treatment of related problems in a much better way by addressing all diagnosis’s rather than one at a time. If a clinician works for the progress of only one symptom then it might not work well as the other diagnosis will looming around causing issues until addressed. Having co-occurring diagnoses can help the psychiatrist cater to all issues at once. It also helps the clinical psychologist or psychologist create a management plan well suited for long-term recovery.

Most Common Dual Diagnoses in the U.S.

The most common diagnoses in this category lay around the corners of drug abuse, drug addiction with a co-occurrence of mental health issues. The most common dual diagnosis’s given by clinicians in the United States include:

As we can see that in the above most common occurring problems, drug addiction is certainly one of the common problems that occurs between the two diagnoses. In the US, drug addiction has become a serious problem and has given rise to a number of mental health issues. Recent stats show the rise of dual diagnoses in the US population in recent years.

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U.S. Dual Diagnoses Statistics

A research done by National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), revealed that there are around 20.2 million adults in the US who are suffering from a problem of drug addiction or dependence. Among these, around 10.2 million adults which make up almost 50.05% of the population have gotten a dual diagnoses of substance use disorder with a co-occurring mental health condition. Initially it was thought that having a double diagnoses might occur rarely. 

However with the increasing use of alcohol and other drugs in the younger generation along with psychological issues have become a worrisome occurrence. The number is expected to rise in the next few years due to many factors including, easy availability of nonprescription drugs, low socioeconomic status and lack of ability to deal with mental health challenges. According to a research done by National Institute of Health (NCBI) in 2017, in the United States alone, the prevalence of mood disorders is at 24% in all  adults and the lifetime prevalence of drug abuse is found to be around 19.4% in the population. Many studies have now pointed towards the co-occurrence of both these problems.

Another research study done by the Office of Applied Sciences at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service’s Administration (SAMHSA), states a number of alarming facts about dual diagnoses occurring among the U.S. population.

Around 17.4 million suffer from dual diagnoses among the population. Out of these 17.4 million, most have the dual diagnoses of Drug Dependence and Depression. The second most prevalent dual diagnoses given in the country is Drug Dependence and Substance Induce psychosis. While, the third most commonly occurring diagnoses if Drug Abuse and Schizophrenia. Drug Dependence along with PTSD is another common dual diagnoses given in this category.

50% of people that have dual diagnosis did not opt for treatment

The study also stated that around 50% of people having the dual diagnoses did not opt for psychological health services nor they looked for any psychiatric facilities where they could take help for their co-occurring psychological issues.

Co-Occurring Disorders - Only 34 Percent of People with Dual Diagnosis Took a Treatment for Both Diagnoses

The stats also show that in the year 2002, only 34% of the people took help for their drug abuse problem. Only 2 % looked for the treatment of only psychological problems and 34% of the people with dual diagnoses took a treatment for both diagnoses. In order to have a better lifestyle, it is essential that a patient seeks both psychological and psychiatric facility for both disorders.

Dual Diagnoses to Increase by 2020

The research also formulated a hypothesis that this number of Dual Diagnoses to increase by at least 30% in the year 2020.

While it was also proposed that people will be less likely to take help due to inflation, poor psych education and shortage of facilities by the government were also noted to be major cause of increase in the problem.

Dual Diagnosis Details

  • Almost 35% of the people having Dual Diagnoses are from the age range of 18-26. This means that a number of emerging adults are dealing with the issue.
  • Around 7.2 percent people are over the age of 50 with dual diagnoses. Almost 30% of those have a co-occurring diagnoses of substance dependence or abuse.
  • Men are more likely to abuse drugs if they have a psychological issue compared to women.
Co-Occurring Disorders - 35 Percent of People that Have Dual Diagnoses Range from 18 to 26

Dual Diagnosis Facts

There are a number of things that are not known by the masses due to lack of awareness. Here are a few facts about Dual Diagnoses that can help you or your loved ones who are under going through these issues.

A person might not always get diagnoses of two problems when they are having a psychological or substance use issue.

Many drugs alter the chemistry of the brain in such a way that the user can have severe symptoms of a psychological problems. This makes it challenging for clinicians to determine if the substance use led to medical issues, or vice versa.

At times, people self-medicate themselves when they face a mood disorder. The misuse of prescription drugs can bring about the issue of drug dependence as the side effect of most mood stabilizers is addiction. This is the reason it advised to seek proper mental health supports for medication purposes and to monitor them too.

A substance use issue may not necessarily bring about another disorder however, it is common for drug or alcohol use occur alongside another medical diagnosis.

There are number of psychological issues such as depression, poor coping mechanisms, low self-esteem, relationship issues, and PTSD that are frequently linked to drug abuse. This can result in a dual diagnoses.

Dual diagnoses is not restricted to mental health issues associated with drug problems. They can occur in a number of other cases too. For example, a person can have a diagnoses of depression and PTSD. Or a person can have a dual diagnoses of ADHD and Anxiety. A clinical evaluation can help identify the correct diagnoses.

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Who is at Risk for a Dual Diagnoses?

Men are more likely to have a dual diagnosis compared to women

Treating Dual Diagnoses

There are a number of options to consider when we talk about the treatment of Dual Diagnoses.


Psychotherapy is an extremely important and essential part of treatment for any kind of dual diagnoses. Be it depression, anxiety, drug addiction or any other issues, Psychological therapy is very helpful in addressing complex health problems. There are a number of options to choose from when a person chooses psychological therapy for their problems.


Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), is one of the most widely used therapies all over the world with the highest success rate. It helps by working with the belief system of the patient. In this therapy, the patient works on their inner beliefs and they work towards building healthy beliefs systems.


Another very famous therapy is Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) which is specialized for personality issues and drug related problems. It works on mindfulness and changing of problematic thoughts. This helps to direct people towards positive thinking thus changing the whole idea of living of one’s life.


A relatively new and famous psychological therapy for addiction or dual diagnoses is named Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT works on building a mechanism of accepting one’s life problems and then moving on with a changing pattern to bring about a better life style.

Other therapies

Some other fruitful options for treatment of dual diagnoses include, Rational Emotive Behavior therapy (REBT), Behavior Therapy (BT), and Motivational therapy.


Medication plays a vital role when it comes to dual diagnoses. Many substance abuse withdrawal symptoms are managed by medical professionals via medications. Along with that, mood related symptoms are frequently managed by medication if they vary from moderate to severe level.

In cases where a person gets into a drug induced psychosis or schizophrenia, medications become essential for treatment. In case of psychosis, a person’s reality gets distorted due to delusional beliefs or hallucinations. This happens as a result of faulty brain chemistry that tends to occur after continuous drug usage. Thus, taking medication become necessary to get rid of psychosis symptoms.

Group Therapy

Group Therapy plays a vital role in helping to address symptoms. Research has stated that people who go to group therapies for their psychological issues tend to get better by 20% as compared to people who only take medication. Another research study supported the fact that the symptoms of patients subsided by 70% when they took psychological therapy, medication and group therapy for their psychological issues.
Group therapy gives a sense of belongingness and not being alone. This helps people get better in a fast pace as a group.

Follow Up and Aftercare

When the therapy and medications are ended, it is still necessary that a patient keeps the techniques learned close to heart. Follow up sessions by a therapists should be completed as needed so that any trigger or change in lifestyle does not result in a negative role or relapse of symptoms. Ideally, any major life change will be discussed and planned for before it occurs. For example, moving can be a stressful event and should be discussed with your healthcare professional to create a relapse prevention plan if it could lead to relapse. 

Dual Diagnosis Misconceptions

Society has several misconceptions about dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders. Here are a few misconceptions which are actually not true to any extent and you must not believe them if you hear them. 

Dual Diagnoses Are Not Possible

Well, it is totally possible to have dual diagnoses. When you are having more than one psychological disorder or a psychological disorder with co-occurring drug related problem, it’s a dual diagnosis.

Dual Diagnoses Are Only Given so Doctors Can Make Money by Telling People to go to Both Treatments.

Again, it is not true at all. Even a person has a single diagnoses of a mental health disorder or drug dependence, they need both psychological and psychiatric help to fully recover from the conditions.

Dual Diagnosis Medications Can Make You Slow And Addicted

It is not true, medication is always monitored by the psychiatrist and they manage the dosage according to the person they are giving treatment. When a patient does not talk to their psychiatrist or doctor before making medication choices, the likelihood of addiction increases. Self-medication can result in addiction. Regular follow ups with your psychiatrist and being open and honest about how the medication is making you feel will help you more.

Psychiatric Medications Are For a Lifetime

This is a very wrong and common misconception about psychiatric medication. Most studies reveal that the average duration of medication for patients with psychological issues only goes from 2-5 years. While only 7% of people require lifelong medication, which mostly occurs in more severe cases.

You Don’t Need Medication to Get Better

This may be true in a number of cases, but if your clinician is referring you to a psychiatrist for medications, then it might be helpful for you to see them too.

Finding Help With Dual Diagnoses

Although the path to receiving a dual diagnosis is often challenging, full recovery from co-occurring conditions is possible with proper supports. 

If you, or someone you love is struggling with a substance use issue and mental health issues or multiple issues that require assistance, Safe Harbor Treatment Center can help you get the help you are seeking.