How Do You Deal with Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis isn't itself a diagnosis, but it is a term that describes co-occurring conditions of a substance use disorder and mental illness.

Recovering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol is not as easy as simply saying “No. I quit.” It takes time, support and guidance. If you develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it doesn’t mean you are weak or a morally corrupt individual. With continued use, addictive substances can hijack your hardwired brain. They can disrupt the ability of your brain’s prefrontal cortex to make sound decisions that help you avoid certain risks or consequences. Addiction can also cause you to crave substances compulsively and compromise your brain’s pleasure and reward circuits.

Although habits are a part of addiction, quitting substance use or drinking requires more than willpower and determination, like most average habits do. Instead, many people remain in denial and never seek help from their addiction. Doing so only delays treatment and deepens the issue. 


When you are ready for a lifestyle change and stop use of substances or drinking, commitment to the process could be a little intimidating. Getting help means changing some of your addictive and habitual behaviors that may have served a purpose at one point. But with self-awareness and acceptance, you’ll eventually see how those behaviors have stripped you of control over your body and your life.

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for addiction. Instead, you must seek help and support that will be the most beneficial for you. Most treatment options involve essential components like medications, detoxification from addictive substances, behavioral psychotherapy and long-term follow-up and support. You have several options in the type of treatment program you choose to help with your recovery:

  • Sober living communities typically follow an inpatient or residential treatment program. They are drug-free environments with recovering peers that are supportive and safe.
  • Residential treatment involves living at a facility as an inpatient to receive 24-hour monitoring and care for a few days or a few months.
  • Day treatment, which is partial hospitalization, allows you to receive ongoing medical care at a treatment center for seven to eight hours a day, and then you go home for the night.
  • Outpatient treatment is a flexible way of receiving help for your addiction that allows you to accommodate treatment around your school or work schedule. The program spends a good amount of focus on relapse prevention. 

Recovery doesn’t end with sobriety. You must work with your clinical team to identify triggers, no matter what program you choose. Triggers can be a person, place, thing, situation or behavior that evokes cravings and urges to use drugs or drink again. By identifying what those triggers are, you can develop strategies to avoid them and fight powerful impulses when they creep up. There may be slips and surges of motivation, and your ability to distract yourself from triggers may wane from time to time. The most important thing is that you keep trying. Recovery is a beautiful journey, but that doesn’t mean it’s a plain sailing path.

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