Dual Diagnosis: Explaining the Language of Addiction Series

What Dual Diagnosis Means

It may seem kind of obvious that this generally refers to a person who has been diagnosed with two different afflictions. But there’s a little more to it than that.

Dual diagnosis is a term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance use disorder simultaneously. (source: National Alliance on Mental Illness) When not referring to the actual clinical diagnosis, some people use “co-occurring conditions” to mean generally the same thing.

A graph with green and white circles overlapping.
Dual Diagnosis: Language of Addiction

Depression, Trauma & Self-Medicating

Experiencing trauma, whether mentally or physically can lead to regret, disdain and places a burden on the unknown future of one’s life. Facing the fact that life will now be altered by the preceding events can often time lead to a depressive state. This depression further deteriorates the “quality of life”. While depression is a treatable illness, many while attempting to find the resolution to depression, can lead many down the road of self-medicating.

Doug Winter - Primary Therapist MS LASAC CSAT EMDR
Doug Winter
Primary Therapist
Specializes in Trauma Resolution

Survival Mode

Physical trauma and disabilities painfully challenge individuals who attempt to maintain a lifestyle. Some have described this as “survival mode” and begin self-medicating to offset the daily mental anguish and/or pain. These issues/ailments can also lead to several self-harm attempts or surgeries which can cause further pain and complications. Finding the correct medical provider to understand how important the proper medications and what the current mental issues or physical ailments are to overcome. Finding Trauma Resolution at Prescott House is an essential part of the recovery process.

Examples of Dual Diagnosis

We’ve talked before about dual diagnosis on the Prescott House blog, including articles about the potential for a person to be dealing with an opioid addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) simultaneously. Other examples include depression that stems from and/or fuels alcoholism; substance abuse that magnifies the symptoms of bipolar disorder; or anxiety that intensifies with the use of heroin or other illicit drugs. There are many other combinations of substance abuse + mental illness, but these examples represent a few common dual diagnoses.

How Dual Diagnosis Treatment Differs

When a person has been dual-diagnosed, he requires careful treatment that begins addressing both the substance use disorder and the mental health problem at the same time. The conditions are so intertwined, that treating one affliction before the other is almost always counterproductive. At Prescott House, our professional, clinically credentialed team is specially trained to work with clients who have received a dual diagnosis. We use a holistic approach to address both conditions at once, recognizing that each person’s struggles are unique and require individualized treatment. Our therapists expertly combine group therapy, individual therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy to create a unique treatment plan for each client.

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Get Prescott House Involved

If you or a loved one is dealing with co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health issues, Prescott House can help. Whether or not you have officially received a dual diagnosis, we can get you the help that you need to begin addressing both your mental illness and your addiction. Call us or contact us online today!


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