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Dual Diagnosis

Often the underlying cause of addiction is another mental health disorder and these disorders can be treated with the right diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis Disorder

Do you know the scariest part about mental health disorders? It’s that they often come in pairs.  This is called dual diagnosis.

Addiction is the compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance. It’s a mental health disorder. But one thing many people don’t understand is that the addiction doesn’t come about on its own.

One reason an alcoholic may pick up their first drink is often due to a struggle with a mental health disorder. That’s where the term “dual diagnosis” comes into play.

Lets discuss what dual diagnosis means and the 7 most common addiction disorders with dual diagnosis.

Addiction Disorders and Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is when a person has both, a mental health disorder and a drug or alcohol addiction. The term is more common in the mental health industry than you might think.

In a 2014 national study on drug use and health, researchers found that over 12 million people suffered from drug or alcohol addiction. Of those, 7.9 million also had a mental health disorder. That’s a whopping 64%.

It goes to show that addiction doesn’t pop up for no reason. Many addicts use their drug of choice to self-medicate their mental health addiction.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common mental health disorders.

Bipolar Disorder

People with bipolar disorder have severe mood swings. The sufferer has severe bouts of mania followed by periods of severe depression. It feels like you’re on a mental see-saw.

Manic periods are periods of high-energy, obsessive behaviors, and inability to sleep. Depressive periods are the opposite. Limited energy, lack of feeling, and sleeping too much.

This disease affects about 2.6% of the American population in a given year. So it’s not a rare disease. And substance abuse makes the mania and depression worse.

People with bipolar disorder are often addicted to alcohol and cocaine. They sway between the two depending on what period they are in, mania or depression.


There are several disorders that involve anxiety and are often accompanied by addiction. These include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

An anxious person worries about things that they can’t control. Social anxiety disorder is the most common form of anxiety that addicts deal with.

With social anxiety disorder, their anxiety is greatest in a social setting. They have trouble meeting and talking to people. So much so that they tend to avoid social situations to keep from experiencing the anxiety.

Alcohol is particularly dangerous for someone with social anxiety disorder. Because alcohol gives you a sense of control over your emotions. It puts anxiety to rest and lets you socialize like anyone else.

Panic disorder is also associated with alcoholism. The alcohol keeps panic attacks at bay.


Anxiety and depression often get lumped together. But they are quite different.

Unlike an anxious person who worries, a depressed person doesn’t care about anything. They have prolonged periods of sadness. This affects other areas of their lives like work or family.

Depression usually corresponds to alcoholism. Alcohol gives depression a sense of numbness.

But alcohol is a depressant on its own. So using alcohol to cope with depression only makes it worse.


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is associated with nightmares and mood swings. Sufferers may avoid friends and family. And they relive the experiences over and over in their heads.

Those who have experienced war or a traumatic personal experience develop PTSD. But it can also affect someone who suddenly lost a loved one.

PTSD sufferers develop addictions to opioids as a release from reality. Or to sleeping pills, like Ambien, to help them fall asleep and stay asleep.

Eating Disorders

The three most common eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. These three diseases manifest themselves in different ways. But they are often associated with addiction.

Most people who suffer from eating disorders don’t suffer from just one. They might exhibit stronger signs of anorexia, but binge or purge when unable to cope with life.

Alcohol is a common substance for those that suffer from eating disorders. It offers a release from the constant stress of worrying about weight.

But cocaine, diet pills, and other high-inducing drugs are also common. The addict perceives that certain drugs will help them lose weight, thus causing the addiction.


Those who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are more impulsive than others. They have a hard time concentrating or finishing what they start. And they get distracted.

Because of the impulsive nature of this disorder, those with ADHD often suffer from an addictive personality too. They try things that others wouldn’t, like cocaine and heroin, take risks with their health and bodies and also abuse alcohol and use stimulants that help them focus better.


Of all the mental health disorder out there, schizophrenia is the most dangerous. People with schizophrenia are paranoid. They suffer from hallucinations and delusions.

In fact, many people with schizophrenia are mistaken for those abusing drugs because of the way they act.

The most common addiction for schizophrenics is nicotine, which they abuse at more than three times the normal rate. But they are also susceptible to other substances like marijuana and cocaine.

These drugs give the schizophrenic a sense or normalcy and an escape from the delusions. But in reality, they make the paranoia worse.

Get Help for Your Dual Diagnosis Addiction Disorder

If you have an addiction disorder, you need to get help. Not only will a recovery center or therapist help you with your addiction. But they’ll help you understand the underlying cause.

Often, the underlying cause of addiction is another mental health disorder. And these disorders can be treated with the right medication and therapy.

Visit our Blog to see our list of the Top Ten Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers in the United States