Dealing With a Dual Diagnosis


Receiving a dual diagnosis does not mean that there is something inherently wrong with you? Both addiction and mental illness can be treated. They often come hand in hand, for self-medication is common.

A dual diagnosis is being diagnosed with a mood disorder such as bipolar or depression and a problem with substance abuse. These are two separate illnesses that need their own treatment.

Studies have shown that more than half of the people with mood disorders also use alcohol and/or drugs. This self-medication can be used to cover up or mask the symptoms of mood disorders. It may appear to help, but they can actually make symptoms worse.

Dual Diagnosis

Symptoms of Mood Disorders

Many mood disorders share common symptoms, but are drastically different and need different treatment. The following are symptoms of the common mood disorders that go along with substance abuse.


Five or more of these symptoms or they interfere with daily life could mean that you have clinical depression. See a health care professional.

  • Feelings of sadness, frequent crying
  • Irritability, anger
  • Appetite and sleep pattern changes
  • Pessimism, indifference, feeling hopeless
  • Worry, anxiety
  • Loss of energy, exhaustion
  • Aches and pains
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Not being able to enjoy things once enjoyed
  • Not wanting to socialize
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Bipolar Mania

Three or more of the following symptoms can interfere with daily life and may be due to manic bipolar disorder.

  • Irritability
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Racing speech and thoughts
  • Reckless behavior
  • Extreme optimism and self-confidence
  • Decreased need for sleep without feeling tired
  • Delusions and hallucinations in severe cases

Signs of a Substance Problem

A substance problem along with a mood disorder can be a dangerous combination. Without treatment, one can make the other worse.

  • Cravings
  • Loss of control
  • Physical dependence
  • Tolerance
  • Physical illnesses
  • Lying
  • Hiding substance uses from others
  • Not meeting responsibilities
  • Risk taking
  • Blackouts


Treatment consists of medications for the mood disorder and addiction treatment for the substance abuse. Many places offer dual diagnosis services. Expect to possibly see more than one doctor to treat both problems.

Places like Beachway Therapy Center are leading the way for treatment in the dual diagnosis field. They have cutting edge treatment programs tailored to meet individual needs.

The medication will probably take a while to get used to, and the urges will be hard to deal with. However, there are many things you can do to help yourself get even better during treatment.

  • Enjoy your new life. Explore new hobbies or volunteer, spend time with family and friends
  • Stay away from the places, things, and people that make you want to use.
  • Know your ability to say no. It is okay not to drink or use even if other people are. Keep yourself away from people who do not understand that.
  • Know your triggers
  • Be accountable for your actions
  • Keep records of your recovery
  • Learn relaxation to reduce stress.
  • Eat healthy
  • Stick to treatment plan

Whatever you do, make sure that you do not skip out on any treatment that is recommended or necessary. There is a reason you have to do certain things, and they will only help you to recover more easily.

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