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  • Writer's pictureMaureen


Co-occurring disorder, often referred to as Dual Diagnosis, is the combination of a mental/behavioral health diagnosis alongside the complication of a substance abuse issue.

Each is an illness that needs to be addressed individually and in conjunction with the other diagnosis.

Both illnesses can be treated successfully. Neither diagnosis is considered a moral weakness or character flaw. Each diagnosis can affect anyone, it does not discriminate.

Substances are often used to self-medicate an undiagnosed mental health issue. Most substances, legal or not, can provide quicker relief from the negative effects of mental illness. However, they may only mask the reality of the issues that are not being addressed.

Mental illnesses can be depression, bi-polar, borderline personality, anxiety, depression, PTSD and more. Symptoms are sad, feeling worthless, racing thoughts, feelings of guilt, shame, change in sleep patterns, impulsive behavior, thoughts of suicide, etc.

Substances can be alcohol or drugs or abuse of prescribed medication.

Treating only one diagnosis and not the other leads to making one illness worse.

When only one illness is addressed the treatment of the other is often less effective.

Both are treated together there is a better chance of lasting, full, and quicker recovery

Each diagnosis, mental health or substance abuse, can be addressed with residential treatment, One-on-one talk therapy, group therapy or medical assistance.

What Can You Expect From Treatment?

Treatment begins with a through and complete Bio-psycho assessment for substance abuse history from a Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC).

A mental health assessment or evaluation, performed by a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) or Licensed Social Worker (LSW), explores current, past, and family history of a mental illness and symptoms that are causing the individual significant impairment in social, family and work environments.

Although this information can overlap, each assessment is focusing on separate needs and issues.

After the assessment, the counselor will make treatment recommendations, set up separate treatment plans, and get your permission to allow the counselors to work together for your success and recovery.

Addiction counseling can use one-on-one sessions, group outpatient meetings, to help you look at your drinking/drug use habits and assist you working on staying clean and sober.

Talk therapy (psychotherapy) can help you learn to cope with symptoms of the mental health diagnosis to help change you patterns of negative thinking.

The mental health counselor may suggest that medication management would benefit you based on symptoms and needs of the individual. They will assist you in finding an appropriate medical professional to prescribe this medication and monitor your progress.

Some say if you take a mental health medication you are not truly in recovery.

Prescribed medication, taken appropriately, does not impair your judgement or give you a false sense of courage. The medication will not cause you to crave another pill after taking the prescribed amount or need to cut it with another drug.

The goal of medication assistance is to help you get to a healthy and stable place in your life.

Medication management is intended to manage your symptoms, not mask them. To help you take control and work towards positive change.

Check back on this blog site for future articles on the symptomology of individual mental health diagnosis and what they mean.

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