Addiction to alcohol or drugs does not happen in a vacuum. Quite often people have co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, sexual addiction, anger management issues, abuse or other conditions that complicate their substance abuse. The interrelationship between addiction and mental health conditions can be complex and requires specialized treatment.

What Is Dual Diagnosis?

For people with mental health disorders, substance abuse often begins as a way to avoid or mute the emotional pain caused by their disorder. In other cases, the emotional and physical strain of addiction can trigger depression, anxiety eating disorders or other mental health concerns. When an individual suffers from both addiction and one or more co-occurring mental health disorders, it is called dual diagnosis because two separate but concurrent diagnoses are involved.

Dual diagnosis patients face additional challenges on the road to recovery. Not only can substance abuse be rooted in mental disorders, but mental health issues can exacerbate substance abuse. Unless both facets of the patient’s health are addressed, addiction and mental health can feed off each other in a never-ending and destructive cycle.

Why Is Dual Diagnosis Important?

If a patient’s mental health conditions are not correctly identified and treated in concert with his treatment for addiction, there can be little hope of long-term recovery from addiction. Unless the underlying causes of addiction are successfully treated, there is a higher degree of probability that the patient will slip back into the same emotional mindset and destructive behavior patterns that contributed to his substance abuse once he leaves the controlled and supportive environment of the treatment center.

Successfully treating substance abuse requires a holistic approach that addresses all of the issues that may be contributing to or enabling his addiction. Because mental health issues can have such a profound affect on addiction and recovery, it is critical that you choose an addiction treatment center with expertise in treating dual diagnosis conditions.