What is Dual-Diagnosis Treatment?

At Agape Behavioral Center, we know that with mental health and addiction, there is often a complex interplay between the two. Many people who struggle with substance abuse also have underlying mental health conditions, and this is known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Understanding dual diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment and recovery. 

The Link Between Substance Abuse and Mental Health

Substance abuse and mental health disorders are closely interconnected. While one does not necessarily cause the other, they often coexist and exacerbate each other’s symptoms. Some individuals turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with the symptoms of an undiagnosed mental health disorder. However, self-medication can lead to a worsening of both the substance abuse problem and mental health disorders.

It is important to note that substance abuse can increase the underlying risk for mental health disorders. It can be challenging to determine if substance abuse directly causes mental health problems. There is evidence to suggest that certain substances can increase the risk of developing mental health disorders.

Recognizing a Dual Diagnosis

Identifying a dual diagnosis need can be challenging because the symptoms of substance abuse and mental health disorders can overlap. Some common warning signs may indicate the presence of a co-occurring disorder:

  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope with unpleasant emotions or situations
  • Feeling depressed, anxious, or out of balance even when sober
  • A family history of mental health disorders or substance abuse
  • Difficulties in relationships, work, or school due to substance use or mental health symptoms
  • Previous treatment for either addiction or mental health issues

If you or a loved one are struggling with any of the above symptoms, please contact us so we can help determine if we are a good fit for treatment for you.

Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse can manifest in various ways, depending on the type of substance used. However, there are some common signs and symptoms that may indicate a substance abuse problem:

  • Feeling the need to use more drugs or alcohol to achieve the desired effects
  • Failed attempts to cut down or quit substance use
  • Lying about the amount or frequency of substance use
  • Neglecting responsibilities and relationships due to substance use
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop using

Addiction impacts everyone in different ways, but remember that it doesn’t matter what substance is being used, but the negative effect it has on you.

Signs and Symptoms of Common Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders can involve various mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. People struggling with mental health disorders often turn to substances to self-medicate to mediate the symptoms they are struggling with, but eventually harm themselves in the long run. Here are some common signs and symptoms of these co-occurring disorders:


  • Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

Anxiety Disorders

  • Excessive worry or fear
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Physical symptoms such as racing heart or shortness of breath
  • Difficulty concentrating

Bipolar Disorder

  • Shifts in mood from extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression)
  • Grandiose beliefs or unrealistically high self-esteem during manic episodes
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Impaired judgment and impulsivity
  • Rapid speech and racing thoughts


  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Disorganized speech or behavior
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Impaired cognition and difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of emotional expression

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

Effective treatment for co-occurring disorders involves an integrated approach that addresses both the substance abuse problem and the mental health condition simultaneously. We integrate our care seamlessly to treat the whole person.

1. Assessment and Evaluation:

A thorough assessment is crucial to understanding the specific substance abuse and mental health issues involved. This evaluation occurs with our admissions department and helps determine the appropriate treatment methods and interventions for an individual’s unique circumstances.

2. Detoxification

If an individual is physically dependent on drugs or alcohol, a medically supervised detoxification process may be necessary to manage withdrawal symptoms safely. Detoxification is the first step towards recovery and prepares the individual for ongoing treatment.

3. Medication Management

In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage the symptoms of mental health disorders. Medications such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or antipsychotics can help stabilize mood and reduce cravings for substances. This can help to ease symptoms and a reduction in relapse.

4. Individual Therapy

Having individual therapy sessions provides a safe and confidential space for individuals to explore their underlying issues, develop coping skills, and work towards recovery. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and motivational interviewing are commonly used in dual diagnosis treatment.

5. Group Therapy

Our group therapy offers individuals the opportunity to connect with others who are facing similar challenges. It provides a supportive environment for sharing experiences, gaining insight, and learning from one another.

6. Psychoeducation

Education about the nature of addiction and mental health disorders is a crucial component of treatment. Psychoeducation helps individuals understand the factors contributing to their conditions and equips them with the knowledge and skills necessary for recovery. Understanding the how and why can help clients recognize their triggers and take preventative measures to stay on the path of recovery.

7. Supportive Services

Recovery from a dual diagnosis often requires ongoing support beyond formal treatment programs. Supportive services such as 12-step programs, peer support groups, and aftercare programs can help individuals maintain their sobriety and manage their mental health in the long term.

Finding the Right Treatment Program

The right treatment program for dual diagnosis is essential for a successful recovery. Some factors to consider when choosing a treatment program:

  • Licensing and accreditation: Ensure that the program is appropriately licensed and accredited by reputable organizations.
  • Integrated approach: Look for a program that offers integrated treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders.
  • Evidence-based practices: Choose a program that utilizes evidence-based treatment methods and interventions.
  • Individualized treatment plans: Each person’s journey to recovery is unique, so it is important to find a program that offers individualized treatment plans tailored to specific needs.
  • Aftercare support: A comprehensive treatment program should include aftercare support to prevent relapse and provide ongoing assistance in maintaining recovery.

Group Support During and After Treatment

Group support plays a significant role in the recovery journey for individuals with a dual diagnosis. Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA) offer a community of individuals who understand the struggles of addiction and mental health. These groups provide a safe space to share experiences, gain support, and learn from others who have similar experiences.

Helping a Loved One with a Dual Diagnosis

Supporting a loved one with a dual diagnosis can be challenging, but there are ways to provide assistance and encouragement:

  • Educate yourself: Learn about substance abuse and mental health disorders to better understand your loved one’s challenges.
  • Encourage treatment: Express your concern and support for their well-being and encourage them to seek professional help.
  • Offer support: Be a source of emotional support and encouragement throughout their recovery journey.
  • Set boundaries: Establish healthy boundaries to protect yourself and avoid enabling destructive behaviors.
  • Seek support for yourself: Taking care of your well-being is crucial when supporting someone with a dual diagnosis. Consider joining a support group for family members or seeking therapy to address your own needs.

Dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorders, requires a comprehensive and integrated approach to treatment. By understanding the link between substance abuse and mental health and recognizing the signs and symptoms of co-occurring disorders, individuals can seek the appropriate help and support. At Agape Behavioral Center, we bring hospitality to healthcare and treat the whole person – body, mind, and soul. Dual-diagnosis treatment is available to address both addiction and mental health disorders to achieve lasting recovery.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top