Dual diagnosis is similar to co-occurring disorders, but they do not mean the same thing. While these medical terms are remarkably similar, they often overlap each other. How? Let’s see.

Co-occurring disorders happen when one condition exists due to the other. For example, when a mental health disorder causes a substance use disorder or a substance use disorder causes a mental health disorder. On the other hand, in dual diagnosis, mental health disorder and substance use disorder co-exist independently, not because of one another.

Hence, dual diagnosis describes an individual who suffers from both a substance use disorder and mental health disorder. For example, if a person is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and cocaine addiction, they qualify for dual diagnosis treatment. Also, it is estimated that more than 50% people suffering from a mental health disorder are also dependent on alcohol or drug use. If you are looking for addiction treatment in UK, you must learn about its causes, diagnosis, and treatment first.


According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), there are multiple reasons why substance use disorder co-occurs with mental health conditions:

Common Risk Factors

Mental health disorder and substance use disorder are interconnected with each other, hence they both have common risk factors, such as stress and trauma. Also, having a family history of depression increases the odds of a person suffering from the same addiction or mental health issue.

Self-Medication and Social Anxiety

People with social anxiety are more inclined towards finding distractions like alcohol and drugs, which makes them feel less anxious and awkward around other people. We all know that a few drinks make us feel less conscious and more comfortable. But, regular use of alcohol and drugs develops drinking problems. People who are not aware of their mental illness or those who can’t access proper healthcare depend on this kind of self-medication to help them get by. Unfortunately, the lack of proper treatment turns these habits into addiction that exacerbates mental illness rather than cures it.

Mental Illness Can Lead to Substance Use Disorder

Mental Illness and substance use can affect certain parts of the brain equally. For example, the happy hormone, called Dopamine is released if a person ingests an illicit drug, such as heroin and the lack of it can cause illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia. Consequently, people suffering from mental illnesses use drugs to cause a rush of dopamine into their brains. As a result, they become dependent on high doses of dopamine that they achieve from their choice of drug, leading to substance use disorder.

Substance Use Disorder Can Lead to Mental Illness

Similarly, as the above, the excessive use of substances can cause addiction and mental health disorders in a person. The substances can change the brain in many ways, i.e., the longer you use substances, the greater the risk of developing mental illness. Also, visiting the nearest dual diagnosis treatment centre becomes critical for those who use substances to cope with the symptoms.


Dual diagnosis requires an integrated approach to treatment. Since both mental illness and substance use disorder impacts a person’s life, the dual diagnosis must address both collectively rather than focusing on each one separately.

A few treatment approaches that healthcare providers recommend for dual diagnosis constitutes:


Stopping the use of substances and flushing them out of the system is the most difficult yet significant step of the treatment. Undertaken in an inpatient setting, the detox process ensures that a person is not ingesting any drug or consuming alcohol. The healthcare providers monitor the patients regularly and provide medication and care in case the patient experiences withdrawal symptoms.


The next step of the dual diagnosis treatment has to be therapy. Attending therapy sessions allow patients to control the unhealthy thoughts or patterns that can contribute to substance abuse. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the therapies that help patients overcome their addictions. While some people require intensive therapy initially, they can reduce the frequency of the therapy sessions once they learn helpful coping skills and keep the symptoms under control.

Support Groups

Connecting with people in support groups can help in dual diagnosis treatment. When a patient interacts with people suffering from the same disorders or mental health issues as them, they are more likely to recover quickly. Support groups offer an avenue for people to share their experiences, and traumas, vent frustrations, find resources, celebrate successes, and much more. Listening to other people’s stories, struggles, and successes will inspire you to become a better person.

Seek Help!

Coping with a substance use disorder along with mental illness can be horrid and challenging at the same time as co-occurring disorders always tend to worsen the situation, if not properly treated. Hence, it is crucial to seek help when you start experiencing the symptoms or for your loved ones who are immersed deep in the substance use disorder. The correct diagnosis and treatment will help you build a new, sober life. Start today by finding the best dual diagnosis treatment in UK near you!