Alcohol and Dual Diagnosis 2019-04-03T17:08:16+00:00

Alcohol and Dual Diagnosis

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Alcohol and Dual Diagnosis

The term dual diagnosis is used to describe a mental health disorder and substance abuse problem that occur at the same time. Alcohol abuse is often associated with a mental health disorder and an individual seeking treatment will need help with the substance abuse problem as well as the mental health issue that exists.

What is Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is used to describe an individual who has a substance abuse problem such as alcoholism and a separate condition involving mental health. Additional terms for Dual Diagnosis include Co-Occurring Disorders and Co-Morbid Disorders.

It is quite common for an individual to be given a dual diagnosis. When it comes to alcoholism, an individual is more likely to suffer from a mental health condition than someone who is a non-alcoholic. An individual with a mental health condition is also more likely to develop an alcohol dependence than someone who does not have a mental health condition.

There is a link between alcohol and mental health. Patients with mental health issues will turn to alcohol to self-medicate. It can then be difficult for the individual to stop drinking, be it for one night or for an extended period of time. This, in turn, creates alcoholism and can make the symptoms of the mental health condition even worse. The two play off of each other and the individual will drink more to stop the symptoms, but the symptoms only increase with the drinking.

In the past, alcoholism and mental health conditions were not treated together. However, over time, experts have found links between the two and see the benefit of treating both, instead of one over the other. The two simply go hand in hand in most cases. There is a greater understanding as to what the two derive from each other, which helps the treatment process to be more successful for each patient.

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Common Dual Diagnosis Conditions with Alcohol


One of the most common mental health conditions that people are diagnosed with today is depression. This condition is the most frequently associated with a dual diagnosis involving alcoholism. Those who suffer from depression will often turn to alcohol to be able to stop the symptoms associated, such as feeling lonely or hopeless, sad or suicidal. Unfortunately, the effect is not the alleviation of the symptom, but the exasperation of the symptoms.

The individual suffering from depression will then continue to drink, trying to feel better, only finding that they continue to feel worse. The vicious circle continues until the individual finds the help they need, working on the alcoholism aspect as well as depression. With the right treatment, both conditions can be treated, helping the patient to gain a strong sense of self and avoid the symptoms associated with each issue.


After depression, anxiety seems to be the most common diagnosis when alcoholism is present. It is not uncommon for an individual to suffer from anxiety at some point in time and alcohol is often used to help provide a sense of relaxation. Anxiety comes in many forms, from feeling anxious in social situations to being on edge all the time. Depending on the type of anxiety, the drinking issue may be mild to extreme.

Some individuals will drink only in social situations, to feel more confident around others. However, over time, this can result in a major drinking problem, with the individual feeling that the only way they can function in public is when drinking.

Over time, the use of alcohol will also create worse anxiety as the drinking can cause the individual to make decisions that can place them in high anxiety situations, which only brings back the feelings the individual is trying to get away from.

Bipolar Disorder

The abuse of alcohol and bipolar disorder are also often put together as an individual diagnosed with a bipolar disorder will often develop an issue with addiction at some point in time. The most frequent addiction among those with bipolar disorder tends to be to alcohol. Patients diagnosed as being bipolar will find an attraction to alcohol with the reasoning varying depending on the individual.

With bipolar disorder, a patient will have a cycle of activity that they complete. As alcohol is mixed in, it can become dangerous, especially during a manic phase. When a manic phase occurs, the individual can be at risk as they will be fueled to be even more reckless or exhibit careless behavior associated with their mania.

It is essential that any patient with bipolar disorder is treated effectively when alcoholism is present to ensure no drastic measures or careless activity takes place when under the influence of alcohol.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a type of anxiety disorder, also known as OCD, that involves uncontrollable obsessions that will trigger compulsions that are repeated. A percentage of patients with an OCD diagnosis will turn to alcohol due to their actions based on the OCD behaviors.

The type of obsession and compulsion associated with an OCD diagnosis will vary from patient to patient. Some individuals may count items while others might wash their hands over and over. Other patients might arrange items in a certain way within their home while some may exhibit actions from each category.

A patient with OCD wants to stop the intrusive thoughts or their behavior so they may turn to alcohol as a distraction. The goal is to let the alcohol provide an escape and a form of relaxation. However, it usually just makes the symptoms of OCD much worse. When relying on alcohol to deal with OCD issues, the individual ends up becoming addicted and face health issues as well as emotional problems as the substance abuse problem continues.

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Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis

The symptoms associated with a dual diagnosis will vary depending on the mental illness associated as well as considering the frequency in which alcohol is consumed as well as how long the individual has been drinking. Learning the warning signs of dual diagnosis can be helpful so that a problem can be detected as soon as possible. By recognizing the signs, help can be provided sooner which can add to the success rate.

Common symptoms of dual diagnosis include the individual isolating themselves from family and friends as well as a change in appetite. The individual may begin to eat more or less than they normally do. The individual will also begin to have less energy and unable to find motivation for simple tasks.

Dual diagnosis signs also include having trouble concentering or completing tasks. The individual may begin to neglect their personal responsibilities or within their job. It is not uncommon for the individual to become irritated, angry or begin to show signs of anxiety. With alcohol abuse, the individual may also begin to try and rationalize why they are drinking in excess.

By recognizing these signs, you can help those you love to begin seeking treatment as soon as possible.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Options

Dual diagnosis does not have a standard treatment option that works for every patient. Typically, a recovery plan will be created for the individual based on their alcohol use as well as the associated mental condition. Various therapies may be used along with aftercare programs to focus on the mental health condition and the alcohol abuse.

The first step of the treatment plan is usually detoxification. The alcohol needs to be removed from the body so that the person can then fully begin treatment and working on their recovery. From there, the patient will usually go to an inpatient rehab facility. With this option, the patient will have 24/7 care, including medical assistance. This type of treatment is the most effective as it offers support groups, therapy sessions and medication as needed. Outpatient treatment may also be considered, where the patient will work with a facility but live at home.

Impact of Dual Diagnosis on Treatment

If a patient is just being treated for a mental health issue or alcoholism and both are present, as with a dual diagnosis, then the treatment is not going to work. With dual diagnosis, the medical professionals assisting with treatment know the conditions the patients face, and they know what to do to ensure a path that hopefully leads to success.

By treating both conditions, the patient receives the best care, able to deal with the alcoholism as well as a mental health condition. Because both go hand in hand, it is essential that the dual diagnosis is realized, and any mental health conditions are treated properly along with dealing with the alcohol abuse. This way, the patient learns how to deal with everything they face, working towards being mentally healthy as well as physically healthy by avoiding alcohol.

As the individual begins to avoid using alcohol, the symptoms of the mental condition are alleviated. The drinking is no longer increasing the symptoms of the mental condition, such as anxiety or depression. With a decrease in symptoms, the patient can then focus on the mental health issue, working to find a solution to deal with the condition rather than turning to alcohol.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you love is facing mental health issues and a drinking problem, they are most likely suffering from dual diagnosis. Receiving help as quickly as possible can ensure the individual is able to work on their mental health and alcoholism, hopefully becoming sober quickly and regaining their sense of self

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