Dual Diagnosis and Treating Problems at the Root

Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis


Mental health problems and addiction usually go hand in hand. With rising statistics of these two disorders being simultaneously diagnosed in people, the need for a new term arose. 

Read on; in this article, we will explain the term “dual diagnosis” – what it means, how it is diagnosed, what the statistics are pointing at, and the available treatments. 


What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is a term that is used to name dual mental health conditions in which a person battles a mental disorder and addiction (or, as it is academically called, “ substance use disorder.”) 

The term “addiction” includes all kinds of addiction – drugs, alcohol, food, sex, video games, gambling, or even work. The other mental health condition or disorder can be general anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, or any other mental disorder diagnosed by psychiatrists. It’s important to note that two mental or emotional disorders happening simultaneously are NOT a dual diagnosis. The term is used for the combination of a mental illness and an addiction.  

The term itself is very broad, and it doesn’t matter if the addiction or the mental illness came first. The most common case is a dual diagnosis where addiction arises as means to lower or ease untreated symptoms from the mental illness. But, as we will elaborate in the next section, the connection between addiction and mental illness goes deeper.

Furthermore, the severity of the dial diagnosis might vary – a teenager with mild depression and a habit of compulsive eating can be diagnosed with a dual diagnosis. A bipolar person with a relapsing heroin habit can also be diagnosed with a dual diagnosis. 


Why Does Dual Diagnosis Happen?

To understand the basic principle of a dual diagnosis, we need to take a look at both the conditions separately, and the combination of the two. 

The NIDA (or the National Institute on Drug Abuse) segregates the reasons as follow: 

  • The two conditions have common risk factors – Early development trauma, genetics, and family history (as well as functionality) play a big role as risk factors for developing both substance abuse and mental disorder. It’s usually the environment (and learned behavior) that sparks the possible transferred genes into active addiction or mental illness. 
  • Mental illness can lead to a substance abuse disorder – Research has shown that mental disorders increase the chances of developing an addiction. Primarily used as a “medication” for the mental disorder, the addiction is seen as something that can soothe the person and the symptoms. Furthermore, some conditions such as Bipolar disorder (especially mania episodes) or Antisocial Personality disorder increase the possibility of the individual indulging in unlawful behaviors, including drug abuse. 
  • Substance addiction can cause a worsening of mental health disorders. With the uncalculated behavior that substance abuse brings, the individual is more likely to commit a crime, expose themselves to traumatic events, or cause life-altering situations. That can, in turn, spark or worsen mental illnesses, especially if there is a genetic predisposition for the illness. 

The dual diagnosis is most often a cycle, where both the addition and the mental illness contribute and perpetuate one another.


Signs of Dual Diagnosis

If you suspect that you or someone you know might be battling dual diagnosis, these are the signs you should look for: 

  • Unusual new behavior and change in sentences or word patterns;
  • Worse work or school performance; abandoning activities that the person previously enjoyed;
  • Closing up and not wanting to communicate with people;
  • Leaving behind friends and family and hanging out with new groups;
  • Unusual need of money, obtained by either asking for them or stealing; 


In people that only have a diagnosed mental illness:

  • Sudden wish to stop medications
  • Asking for money; possible stealing, and lying 
  • Change in the way the person speaks and behaves
  • Strange new behavior that wasn’t previously displayed as part of the diagnosis 


In people that already had an addiction, but not a mental illness:

  • Strange new behavior that they didn’t previously display 
  • Closing up and not wanting to communicate with people
  • Change in the way they talk, think, or speak; believing 
  • Taking an even bigger dosage of their substance of abuse

What the Numbers Show

A survey from 2013 done by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) came up with some numbers about people with dual diagnoses: 

  • In 2013 there were around 24 million illicit drug users in the United States
  • In the same year, 1 in 5 adults; and 1 in 10 adolescents; has suffered from a mental illness
  • Around 1.4% of adolescents had a major depressive episode and substance use disorder
  • 3.2% of adults had a mental disorder and substance use disorder


Some of the most often mental illnesses that have risks of addiction are: 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Dissociative identity disorder


There are tens of thousands of people that battle dual diagnosis each year. No matter what the cause of simultaneous occurring of mental illness and addiction, there needs to be a special treatment that can help these individuals work on both conditions. 


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Treating Problems at the Root 

In people with mental illness, the drug or addiction of choice helps with coping with the symptoms from the first diagnosis. Without proper treatment, the risk for addiction relapse is bigger. 

Existing addicts who develop a mental disorder will only increase their usage, which will rapidly worsen the symptoms and the progression of the illness. 

Only by working on both of the conditions with the help of specialized treatment centers a person with a dual diagnosis can get better. 

Following the advice given by the World Health Organization, there is a need for continued and detailed care for people battling a mental health issue and an addiction. Numerous treatment clinics work with broad spectrums of adductions and are equipped to treat patients with Dual Diagnoses. Those rehab facilities can provide the person with an individual treatment plan based on their set of mental and substance abuse disorders. 


What is the Dual Diagnosis Treatment Model?

For individuals with Dual Diagnosis to recover, they need to have help in attending and working on both the addiction and the mental illness in treatment centers. 

For the best chances of recovery, Dual Diagnosis the professional care of the rehab facility should include: 

  • Substance abuse specialists and mental health professionals working together 
  • Psychotherapy or any other kind of therapy that helps the individual in their coping and managing of the conditions 
  • Prescription medication and therapy based on the individuals’ needs
  • Inclusion of spouses, family, friends, and the whole community on the road towards recovery. 
  • Work in and with support groups 


There are addiction treatment specialists that have psychiatric backgrounds, and they can help with both definitive diagnosis and treatment of the dual diagnosis. 

A drug rehabilitation center has all kinds of professionals, treatments, therapies, and medicaments that can help the individual. 

They should also have intensive, residential treatment programs which can help individuals with severe mental or substance abuse problems. 


Seeking Help

Dual diagnosis is a term that is used to describe a combination of two disorders – a mental health one and a substance abuse one. There are more possibilities why are mental illnesses and addictions connected, including mutual risk factors or one condition feeding the appearance of the other. Nonetheless, a dual diagnosis treatment model is available and includes simultaneous work and special care to both the mental illness and the addiction. 

If your daughter is struggling with addiction and another mental health issue, call Anchored Tides Recovery at 866-600-7709 to discuss support in Southern California. 

Staying Sober: Alcohol Addiction in Women

alcohol addiction in women

alcohol addiction in women


Rates of alcohol use and abuse are on the rise among women, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol addiction in women is a growing public health concern, particularly since women who drink have a higher risk of certain health conditions and problems compared to men.

During the pandemic, it seems that the rates of alcohol use and abuse among women have gone up even more, based on information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 


Alcohol Addiction in Women

Women might not feel like they have an issue with their use of alcohol because it’s so widely accepted to drink. There’s also the concept many of us have about what an alcoholic is, and if you don’t fit into that, you may think there’s not an issue.

For many women, it’s important to realize the signs of abuse and addiction. The longer these problems are swept under the rug or minimized, the more complications they create.


Why Do Women Drink to Cope?

Women are more likely, statistically, to experience childhood abuse and sexual abuse and assault than men, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Among teenage and young adult women, depression, eating disorders, and suicide are going up.

Some of these factors could be driving an increase in heavy alcohol use. Stress and trauma from COVID-19 and isolation could be worsening already troubling trends and adverse effects. 

In a study of college students early during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers found increases in alcohol use among people reporting higher anxiety and stress levels.


“Mommy Wine Culture”

There’s a term you’ll see some people talking about in the media right now, which is so-called mommy wine culture. 

You might have seen memes of women drinking alcohol to make it through their day and deal with their kids. There are often jokes on social media about needing or having a craving for alcohol, and it’s become an instilled part of not just motherhood but parenthood in general. 

Parents can feel high levels of stress, and they might also feel trapped, with a drinking habit becoming a crutch, but one seen as socially acceptable. 

Wine glasses and T-shirts with phrases like “Mom Juice” or “Mommy Needs a Drink” are popular.

These seemingly lighthearted jokes about caregivers who need to escape their daily lives with alcohol may not be a laughing matter.

For women, the idea of the wine mom lifestyle seems like a way to relieve stress and socialize, connecting with parents more easily. 

There can be very real effects of excessive alcohol use on women, their health, and their families.

  • Any type of self-medication is damaging. When parents use wine or other types of alcohol to deal with difficult emotions or as a coping mechanism, they’re not facing the situation head-on. They may be temporarily blunting whatever they’re feeling or going through at the moment, but that’s short-lived.
  • Children are also quick to pick up on what parents are talking about—it can feel like their parents need substances to spend time with them.
  • With childrens’ exposure to heavy drinking in the home, it becomes a risk factor for their own substance use later in life. Family history is very much linked to the development of addiction.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost half of adult women reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days. 

  • Nearly 13% of adult women report binge drinking, and on average, they do so four times a month. Binge drinking is having five drinks or more on one occasion.
  • For the past 100 years, the gap between alcohol abuse in men and women has been closing. There was a 3:1 ratio for risky drinking habits in men versus women in the past, and now, that’s much closer to 1:1.
  • In 2019, data found that women in their teens and early 20s would drink and get drunk at higher rates than male peers. It was the first time researchers saw these patterns since measuring related behaviors.

The trend seems to be rising simultaneously with other risk factors, including growing mental health conditions in young women. Researchers worry the ongoing effects of the pandemic could make both patterns worse as far as mental disorders and excessive drinking. 

Even as women drink more, they’re less likely to get help than men for addiction and alcohol dependence. 


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How Alcohol Affects Women Differently Than Men

There are biological sex differences between men and women, including body chemistry and structure that means women absorb more alcohol. 

Another gender difference is that women also take longer to metabolize alcohol. A woman drinking the same amount as a man is likely to have higher blood alcohol concentrations. The immediate response to alcohol and effects of drinking occur faster and will usually last longer in women.

These biological differences make women more likely to experience negative, long-term health effects of alcohol.

For example, alcohol increases the risk of negative effects like:

  • Liver disease and similar medical conditions
  • Cognitive decline and brain shrinkage as well as neurotoxic effects and alcohol-induced brain damage
  • Worsening symptoms of co-occurring disorders like depression or bipolar disorder 
  • Women who drink a lot are at an increased risk for damage to the heart muscle and heart disease 
  • Even small amounts of alcohol consumption increase the risk of many types of cancers, including breast cancer. 
  • Heavy alcohol use can raise the risk of being a victim of sexual assault. 
  • Women who engage in heavy drinking behaviors are twice as likely to develop alcohol addiction and dependence on alcohol. 


Signs of Alcohol Addiction

There are many possible signs of alcohol addiction in both women and men. Some signs of alcohol addiction to be aware of include:

  • Drinking more or for longer periods than planned. When someone is experiencing an addiction to alcohol, they can’t limit excessive alcohol consumption. 
  • A woman with alcoholism might truly desire to stop, but they can’t. According to medical professionals, addiction creates changes in brain activity relating to judgment and impulse control. 
  • Anyone with a substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder will spend large amounts of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects. A woman addicted to alcohol may spend most of her time drinking and then recovering from hangovers.
  • Continuing to drink despite known problems stemming from alcohol use is a sign of addiction.
  • Drinking in dangerous situations, like drunk driving, is a red flag. 
  • Having symptoms of alcohol withdrawal when cutting back or stopping drinking. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include nausea, anxiety, sweating, insomnia, and shakiness. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome can also be severe, including delirium and seizures.
  • Alcohol withdrawal seizures or alcohol withdrawal delirium and other severe symptoms require immediate, emergency medical attention. 


Why Aren’t Women Getting Alcohol Treatment?

Despite historically high alcohol use and abuse rates among women, they aren’t receiving substance abuse treatment. Researchers are finding alcoholic women are significantly less likely than men with substance use disorders to get treatment.

There are likely a variety of factors that are contributing to these trends. Women have family pressure, making them reluctant to admit a problem or seek treatment. As a woman, you might have less financial freedom and more responsibilities as far as caring for a family, so it’s harder to get treatment.

Alcohol addiction in women is a growing problem raising alarms throughout the country. Alcohol intake rates are soaring, as is the risk for alcoholism and psychiatric disorders. 

If you’re a woman struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, or you have a loved one who is, recognizing a problem and getting help are potentially lifesaving. Call 866-600-7709 and get in touch with Anchored Tides Recovery to learn more about help if you’re a woman who is alcohol dependent or are experiencing signs of alcohol abuse in Southern California.