What is Dual Diagnosis and Why is it Difficult?

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What is dual diagnosis? Find exactly what dual diagnosis is and why it is difficult to diagnose and treat at HealthyPlace

What is Dual Diagnosis and Why is it Difficult?

Dual diagnosis, also called co-occurring disorders, is the term used when someone has both a mental health disorder(s) and a substance use disorder(s). Diagnosing and treating co-occurring mental- and substance use disorders can be difficult.

What is the relationship between mental illness and substance abuse?

According to SAMHSA, people with mental illness are more likely than people without mental illness to experience an alcohol- or other substance-use disorder. In fact, in 2014, almost eight million adults in the U.S. had a dual diagnosis.

There’s a connection between the two, but there isn’t a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Substance use doesn’t cause mental illness, nor does mental illness cause substance use and abuse.

It’s not uncommon for people with mental health disorders to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol as an attempt to deal with their symptoms and function better. Unfortunately, the opposite happens and people become trapped in co-occurring disorders.

Is Dual-Diagnosis Treatable?

Dual diagnosis is indeed treatable. Initially, practitioners use screening tools to help separate mental health and substance use issues. Then, each diagnosis receives its own unique attention and treatment.

Someone experiencing dual diagnosis faces many challenges. With the right treatment and support, he or she can overcome the challenges and experience mental health.

Related Articles Dealing with Dual Diagnosis

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APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2017, November 28). What is Dual Diagnosis and Why is it Difficult?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Last Updated: November 28, 2017

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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