Dual Diagnosis Addiction Treatment: An Integrated Approach to Recovery

Dual diagnosis treatment is a fairly new approach to addiction recovery. Up until the mid-1990s, people who struggled with mental illness were treated separately from those who were getting help for drug or alcohol addiction. As a result, many clients who struggled with co-occurring disorders were denied mental health treatment until they got sober. However, addiction is often driven and exacerbated by mental illness, which is why it is important to treat both conditions simultaneously.

Dual diagnosis programs in West Palm Beach combine the most successful features of substance abuse treatment and mental health care to provide an integrated approach to recovery. Rather than treating the two conditions separately, they are treated as part of a full continuum of care. Clinicians who specialize in drug and alcohol counseling often receive training and credentials for the treatment of mental illness, allowing addiction therapists to better care for dual diagnosis patients.

What Qualifies as a Dual Diagnosis?

Patients who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction must meet the criteria for a mental health disorder as defined by The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) in order to be considered dual diagnosis. The DSM-V is the latest version of the American Psychiatric Association’s guidelines for making diagnoses of mental health conditions.[1]

A qualified counselor, psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist can diagnose you with a dual diagnosis if they believe you have a co-occurring mental illness and drug or alcohol addiction. Dual diagnosis can refer to a wide variety of co-occurring disorders. Some examples include:

People who suffer from mental illness may face additional hurdles on their road to recovery. These individuals are thought to be more susceptible to relapse due to the symptoms they experience. Without effective treatment and ongoing care, it can be difficult to recover from addiction while experiencing declining mental health.

Individuals who require dual diagnosis substance abuse treatment are those who struggle with substance use disorder as well as any of the following psychiatric conditions:

  • Mood disorders like bipolar disorder or clinical depression
  • Personality disorders including narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder
  • Eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia
  • Anxiety disorders such as PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, or OCD

Obtaining a dual diagnosis can come as a huge relief for someone who has lived undiagnosed for a long time while struggling to stay sober. Once patients receive an accurate diagnosis, they can begin dual diagnosis treatment.

Identifying the Signs and Symptoms of Co-Occurring Disorders

A formal diagnosis must come from a qualified medical professional. However, you don’t have to be a psychiatrist to recognize when something is wrong with your mental health. That being said, the symptoms of mental illness and addiction often overlap, making it challenging for many individuals to receive a proper diagnosis.

Common signs that someone has a problem with addiction include:[2]

  • Abandoning old friends and activities for new friend groups or activities
  • Having troubles at school, work, or home due to substance abuse
  • Lying, stealing, or manipulating to continue addictive behaviors
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Making attempts to quit using drugs or alcohol but being unsuccessful
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Engaging in risk-taking or illegal behaviors, such as drunk driving or insurance fraud
  • Seeking out larger and larger doses of a substance
  • Continuing to use drugs or alcohol despite worsening problems at home, school, work, or with one’s health

Symptoms of mental illness may vary greatly depending on the specific condition, but general signs that indicate the presence of a mental health condition are:[3]

  • Purposefully withdrawing from friends, family, and loved ones
  • Experiences persistent feelings of despair, hopelessness, and worthlessness for more than two weeks in a row
  • Feeling compelled to follow certain rituals and maintain high standards of order or control to relieve anxious feelings
  • Having a difficulty finding and maintaining a job
  • Experiencing dramatic changes in mood and energy levels
  • Using substances to cope with behaviors, moods, stress, or mental health symptoms

The only way to be certain of a dual diagnosis is to consult with an addiction specialist who has training in mental health care. Dual diagnosis addiction treatment programs hire specialists who will review your individual psychiatric and medical history as well as your substance use patterns to help develop an individualized treatment plan that meets your needs.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Options in West Palm Beach

Since each person is different and their treatment will depend on which psychiatric order they are diagnosed with, there is no single treatment option for people with co-occurring disorders. People with severe addictions or those who experience suicidal thoughts or psychotic episodes can benefit from a more intensive, residential addiction treatment program. Inpatient programs such as these provide around-the-clock monitoring and support until patients are deemed stable enough to transfer to outpatient treatment.

Others with less severe addictions and supportive housing may be able to receive treatment for dual diagnosis in an outpatient setting. However, most experts recommend that dual diagnosis patients participate in a full continuum of care consisting of inpatient rehab, outpatient treatment, and aftercare. Without access to constant supervision and support, it is easy for patients with mental health conditions to fall back into old behaviors or relapse.

Three Components of Dual Diagnosis Addiction Treatment

Whether someone is participating in an inpatient or outpatient program, dual diagnosis treatment typically consists of three components: pharmacological therapy, behavioral therapy, and peer support.[4]

Pharmacological Therapy

Pharmacological therapy is one key aspect of treatment for patients with co-occurring disorders. Certain prescription medications are used for mood stabilization, depression, anxiety, withdrawal symptoms, and drug cravings. Some medications are meant for short-term use, while others, such as those for depression or bipolar disorder, are meant for long-term use.

During medication therapy, patients will work one-on-one with their doctors on a weekly basis to determine the efficacy of their medications. Then, doctors can make adjustments, if needed, and better track the patient’s progress.

Behavioral Therapy

The use of behavioral therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and others have long been used in the treatment of mental illness and substance use disorder. Dual diagnosis therapists use an integrated approach, allowing behavioral therapy to target the symptoms of both mental illness and addiction. Oftentimes, mental illness is at the root of addiction, so addressing thought patterns and behaviors while introducing patients to healthy coping skills is highly effective.

Dual diagnosis therapy may occur in both individual and group therapy sessions. Sometimes, addiction treatment programs in West Palm Beach will also incorporate family behavior therapy to provide further support to the patients.

Peer Support

Lastly, peer support is crucial for ongoing recovery. Whether a person finds support in their friends, family, a 12-step group, or alternative peer support meetings, these groups help people meet their goals and stay sober. Fortunately, South Florida is teeming with a wide variety of support groups for sober individuals, so you can find the one that best meets your needs.

Get Connected With Dual Diagnosis Treatment in West Palm Beach Today

Dealing with mental illness and addiction is never easy, but with professional help, you can get your life back on track. At Comprehensive Wellness Centers, we understand how difficult recovery is for dual-diagnosis patients. That’s why we providing individualized and intensive treatment programs to help you get on the right path. If you or a loved one is in need of dual diagnosis addiction treatment, don’t hesitate any longer. Pick up the phone and contact one of our dedicated treatment providers today.


  1. https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/symptoms-causes/syc-20374968
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64179/