There is a consensus among people in the healthcare field that dual diagnosis refers to individuals with mental health disorders and a substance use disorder (SUD). Co-occurring refers to other health issues such as diseases occurring amongst SUD. Comorbidity is another term that you may run into, which simply means that someone has two disorders simultaneously regardless of whether substance use is involved. For many years the three terms were often used interchangeably by laypeople. When discussing them with others, you will want to specify what you mean when referring to dual diagnosis, comorbidity, or co-occurring disorders:

  • Dual Diagnosis: Someone with a mental health disorder and a SUD
  • Comorbidity: One or more condition that may be physical or psychological
  • Co-Occurring Disorder: Someone with any number of diseases while also being diagnosed with SUD

It is essential to understand the difference between these terms because of the different treatment approaches needed for each. Regardless of whether you have a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis, you may experience complications during treatment. These various issues often have overlapping traits that can make it harder to determine which treatment to use while also potentially increasing symptom severity. Prescription medication or other options may also be more limited. There is often a heavier focus on cognitive behavior therapies for dual diagnosis and more physical treatments for co-occurring disorders.

What Should I Expect In A Dual Diagnosis Treatment Setting?

Dual diagnosis involves treating each issue independently to ensure each problem is appropriately addressed. Some overlapping symptoms may be treatable with medication or therapy, but it is crucial that none of the diagnoses have a greater priority. They each need equal amounts of attention. Because dual diagnosis involves substance use and mental health disorders, the treatments will include a combination of treatments, including:

While some individuals develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol before being diagnosed with a mental health disorder, others become addicted after acquiring a mental health disorder. Whichever happened first, it’s paramount to find a tailored treatment plan that targets both disorders simultaneously – rather than a plan that treats them separately. In the case of a dual diagnosis, the best form of treatment is in the structured, safe environment of an inpatient rehab center.

When you get into a setting that accommodates dual diagnosis care, you can expect a holistic approach. Mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing is essential during dual diagnosis treatment. You can expect to experience talk therapies, prescription medications for some more severe symptoms, and peer group support. You will work with medical health care professionals, therapists, and community resources. There will be both one-on-one and group sessions, and when necessary, family therapy may also play a role. Family therapy could occur in a therapist’s office or within the home, depending on those involved. The location of treatment and how long you can attend the programs will depend on your insurance coverage and local resources.

What Is The Recommended Length Of Stay To Address Dual Diagnosis Support?

Dual diagnosis treatment often takes longer, which can be due to various reasons, including compounded symptoms. Recovery cannot progress without taking the time needed to get care for each diagnosis. You will significantly reduce the risk of relapse and other symptoms by treating both disorders. SUDs often accompany one of the following mental health issues that Safe Harbor Treatment Center can address:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar

  • Personality Disorders

  • Schizophrenia
  • Other Psychotic Disorders
  • Eating Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Codependency Disorder

Some diagnoses take longer than others to treat, which means the length of stay will be impacted by what precisely you are diagnosed with before intake. Often treatment requires coordinating with a multi-disciplinary team of professionals. Staying at a treatment center like Safe Harbor in Costa Mesa, California, can provide a safe space to build up self-confidence and tools for dealing with the long-term symptoms that may be associated with either diagnosis.

You can feel secure knowing that no matter what mental health disorder you have, there is a program to help you work through it while simultaneously providing care for substance use. There will be cognitive behavioral skills and physical treatments combined to give you the most efficient care with a timeline that works for your needs. You can always work with your team to find a balance between in-person and aftercare treatments that will allow you to get the help you need without taking you away from your career, school, or relationship responsibilities.

A dual diagnosis means that you have one or more mental health issues in addition to a substance use disorder (SUD). Sometimes, the term dual diagnosis can be confused for co-occurring disorders, but they are no longer considered interchangeable. A co-occurring disorder involves having SUD and one or more of a variety of diseases. Dual diagnosis is something that Safe Harbor Treatment can manage while taking a holistic approach to your wellbeing. Our psychiatry and medication treatments have everything necessary to treat anything you are struggling with. Being diagnosed with more than one disorder will alter what services you require and how long they may take to reach full effectiveness. We have many therapeutic options and other treatments to give you the support you need to succeed. Our goal is to restore spiritual wellbeing, self-worth, and the ability to thrive in a life of fulfillment through unconditional love, acceptance, and evidence-based treatment. Safe Harbor Treatment Center in Costa Mesa, California, has the behavioral and psychological therapies needed to help with your dual diagnosis. For more information, call us at (833) 580-1473.


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