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4 Steps To Manage Your Dual Diagnosis

Individuals with mental health issues are the ones most likely to develop substance abuse problems. The existence of both issues is called dual diagnosis. This condition means that there is a presence of mental health issues alongside drug or alcohol addiction. A recent study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse states that 17.5% of people with mental health issues have substance abuse issues. This is roughly equivalent to 8 million people. And among the 8 million, only 12.4% are receiving the appropriate treatments for their dual diagnosis.

What Are The Common Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders?

  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety
  • Panic disorder
  • Depression
  • Disordered eating
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD)

What Are The Root Causes Of Co-Occurring Mental Health Issues?

Self-Medication Theory

The self-medication theory states that a person may use drugs and/or alcohol to medicate their mental illnesses. These substances provide them with relief from reality. However, the relief is temporary and reliance on these substances will only result in harmful effects in the long run. Alcohol and drugs may even worsen pre-existing mental health disorders. These substances may heighten anxiety and depression. They may also lead to other types of mental disorders.

Multiple Risk Factor Theory

This theory states that shared risk factors can result in co-occurring disorders. These risk factors include social isolation, poverty, lack of structure in everyday life, or living in close proximity to drugs.

How To Manage Your Dual Diagnosis

1. Get A Diagnosis

The first step is to get a solid and valid diagnosis for your co-occurring disorders. The people who have the following diagnostic requirements will receive dual diagnosis

  • History with substance abuse
  • Presents mental disorder symptoms
  • Poses as a danger to others and themselves

You may begin treatment as soon as you express your willingness and motivation to recover. The first phase of treatment is getting admitted to rehab and detox from the substance. Diagnosis is a crucial first step so that your healthcare professionals can craft the best treatment plan that suits your needs. Your psychiatrist should be able to assess your situation, outline your condition, and provide the next steps for treatment.

There is no sure way to identify if you have co-occurring disorders by yourself. The best you can do is to analyze if you are feeling negative emotions, such as:

  • Worthlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Fear
  • Hopelessness
  • Panic
  • Racing thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts

2. Look For The Right Treatment Plan

After your diagnosis, the next step is to identify the rehab center that best caters to your needs. Not all rehabs are equal. Some centers specialize in certain treatments over others. It is preferable to go for the rehab center that has had experiences with dealing with co-occurring disorders. Focusing on one or the other may be counterintuitive to your healing.

Some common treatment plans offered by these centers include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on eliminating harmful actions and thought patterns. This is highly effective against depression and other mood disorders. This type of treatment aims to take negative thoughts and transform those into positive and more meaningful messages.

This type of therapy also helps the patient to create an effective coping mechanism to combat mental disorders and substance abuse. This is often issued as a short-term solution and may work alongside individual psychotherapy.


This type of treatment involves pharmaceutical drugs recommended by your physician in order to treat or manage your co-occurring disorders. The prescription medication greatly helps in altering your mood by stabilizing your hormones and regulating chemical imbalances in the brain. Some examples include antidepressants, anxiolytics, antipsychotics, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is an excellent treatment plan for people with dual diagnoses. The group sessions educate the participants based on their types of diagnosis. Everyone is empowered to cooperate and heal as a group. The feeling is a sense of belongingness is highly beneficial for people with co-occurring disorders as it makes them feel less alone and it fuels them to strive to become better.

Group therapy sessions are held with a moderator or therapist. The members share their journey and personal experiences. These are motivational for individuals who are in the same plight. Group therapy sessions are excellent sources of hope, optimism, and self-worth.

Individual Psychotherapy

This is also known as counseling or talk therapy, where a patient and a therapist work hand-in-hand to instill positive change in the patient’s life. Individual psychotherapy gives the two a chance to discuss private matters that may be impeding the patient’s healing.

This type of therapy is very broad and can cover all topics and factors related to the patient’s dual diagnosis. The goal of the sessions is to instill compassion, courage, and love so that the patient may overcome their addiction. The therapist typically outlines goals for the patient which will serve as markers for the patient’s recovery and overall health improvement.

3. Remember The Importance Of Sobriety

For dual diagnosis treatments to work, the patient must strive to maintain sobriety at all costs. Staying sober allows the patient to continue their healthy habits so that they won’t slip back to old patterns. You must take your recovery as a fresh start and a chance to eliminate addiction as the norm.

There are countless ways to stay sober, but the basic underlying principle is to have a healthy daily routine. Your routine may include:

  • Good night’s rest of at least 8 hours
  • Healthy meal preparation
  • Exercising or any other physical activity
  • Meditation or yoga
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Cleaning your house
  • Bonding with friends and family

It may be challenging to establish a healthy daily routine. Seek assistance from your therapist so that you may be guided on how to start and maintain one.

4. Remember That You Are Not Alone

Feelings of social isolation may cause you to feel discouraged about your healing process from dual diagnosis. It is important to know that you are not alone on this healing journey. There are other people in the world who are likewise going through a rough patch. Treating co-occurring disorders is no easy feat, but rest assured that there are other people in the world who are going through the same situation.

You may seek inspiration from their success stories and have hope that you will someday get there, too. You should also take comfort in the fact that you have friends and loved ones who are supportive of your journey.

You may find your community in group therapy sessions, online forums, or your close circle of loved ones.

Overall, dealing with dual diagnosis is no easy feat. Co-occurring disorders require a special treatment plan as compared to dealing with substance abuse. Contact R&R Recovery for a consultation and get started today.

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