What Does It Mean to Have a Dual Diagnosis?

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For many recovering addicts acknowledging a dual diagnosis is crucial for a complete and smooth recovery. This is because one diagnosis usually affects and feeds off of the other. Unfortunately, having patients with a dual diagnosis is very common in addiction treatment settings. Due to this fact and the importance of both diagnosis being treated, understanding what a dual diagnosis is and how to treat one is vital when it comes to addiction treatment and recovery.

What is a Dual Diagnosis? 

In addiction treatment and recovery having a dual diagnosis means that a patient is diagnosed with an addiction and a mental condition. The addiction can be involved with anything, but alcohol and drug addictions are possibly the most common. In addition to this, the mental condition or disorder can involve any of the recognized diagnosable mental conditions out there from anxiety to schizofrenia. As you can probably imagine, it is not uncommon for an addiction to arise as a coping mechanism for a mental condition. For this reason it is crucial for those with a dual diagnosis to receive treatment for all existing conditions. Not only does this prevent a relapse but it also makes the transition into Austin sober living better for recovering addicts with a dual diagnosis.

How Is A Dual Diagnosis Treated 

Typically a dual diagnosis is treated one of two ways, and there are pros and cons to each method. The first is having each diagnosis be treated by a different doctor at the same time. The pros to treating a dual diagnosis in this way is that there is no break between treating and addiction and treating a mental condition. This is great because a break between treatments is usually when a relapse occurs. However, the cons to treating a dual diagnosis this way is that having two doctors treating separate diagnoses often does not give them the whole picture of a patient’s condition. This can lead to mistakes being made during treatment that would not have occurred if all treatment went through one doctor.

“The second way that a dual diagnosis is typically treated is by having both diagnoses be treated by the same doctor. This is done by first treating the addiction through an alcohol or drug detox and an addiction recovery program”, says Mat Gorman, CEO at Briarwood Detox. Then the mental condition is treated. The pros to this method of treatment is that the doctor treating the dual diagnosis gets a full picture on the patient’s condition. However, the cons to this type of treatment is that there is usually a gap between treating the addiction and treating the mental condition, which puts patients receiving this type of treatment more at risk of relapsing.


Having a dual diagnosis is becoming more and more common when it comes to addiction treatment and recovery. As a result, knowing how to properly treat a diagnosis is extremely important. Patients having a dual diagnosis are typically either treated for both diagnoses at the same time by different doctors, or they are treated by the same doctor who treats the addiction first and the mental condition second. In order to find the best treatment plan for a dual diagnosis, it is important to weigh the pros and cons for each treatment method.

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