Co-Occurring Disorder and Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Northpoint Recovery

For years, a person who presented with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, but who also suffered from another type of disorder, such as a mental health issue, was never able to receive the appropriate type of treatment. Today, dual diagnosis treatment has dramatically changed this, but prior to the 1990s, treatment was usually given for one or the other.

People would be treated at different facilities, and only one of their issues was focused on at a time. The approaches to treatment were vastly different, and they rarely overlapped each other. This not only created confusion in the mind of the person being treated, but it also set the stage for relapsing back into addiction, and for the continued need for psychiatric help as issues became worse and worse. Many people never received treatment for their addictions, and likewise, many people never had their psychiatric issues properly addressed either.

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Dual Diagnosis Treatment Information

Today, this is a field of its own because experts recognize the importance of treating the source of the addiction, rather than just the addiction itself.

Fortunately, this problem started to see a shift in the 1990s with the development of dual diagnosis treatment, or treatment for co-occurring disorders, as it is often referred to. Today, this is a field of its own because experts recognize the importance of treating the source of the addiction, rather than just the addiction itself. Considering that as many as one in five people in the United States suffer from mental illness and 7 million of these individuals also have some type of addiction, the fact that they can now receive help for a dual diagnosis is, for them, like a breath of fresh air.


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It’s truly remarkable to consider all of the different disorders that can occur simultaneously with addiction. These include:

The key to freedom for these individuals lies in treating them for co-occurring disorders. History has told us that treating them for one condition at a time simply is not an effective way of bringing about recovery. As a matter of fact, dual diagnosis treatment is much more likely to reduce the risk of illness and disease, poverty, possible incarceration and even homelessness. 

Perhaps you’re curious about getting treated for co-occurring disorders, and you’re wondering how this type of treatment can benefit you in your recovery. It is certainly an option you should consider, and here at Northpoint Recovery, we want to help.

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How do Co-Occurring Disorders Occur?

The truth is that there is no one right answer to this question because everyone is so different. There are those who first start to experience mental health issues during their childhood years, or during adolescence, and then they start to experiment with substances soon afterwards. These individuals are basically developing an addiction and mental illness at the exact same time. Then, there are people who opt to try drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate a mental illness that they begin experiencing later on in their lives. These can develop because of injuries or traumas. Finally, it is possible for mental illnesses to be developed as a cause of addiction. Without the addiction, the psychiatric problem probably would have remained dormant, or at least not shown up for several years.

So many people attempt to live with their co-occurring disorders. It’s hard enough to cope when you are only trying to overcome your addiction, or when you’re struggling with a mental illness without an addiction. When you have a co-occurring disorder, you find it hard to hold down a steady job, keep meaningful relationships in tact, get an education, raise a family and achieve financial stability in your life. So many people who have dual diagnoses end up living under less-than-desirable circumstances, and they usually do not have an adequate support system in place to help them.


What are Some Commonly Abused Substances by Those with a Dual Diagnosis?

While addiction can occur simultaneously with any type of mental health condition, there are some psychiatric conditions that tend to occur more often than others. These include:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Various types of anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Eating disorders

In the same way, there are certain substances that seem to be more popular than others among those who have co-occurring disorders. These include:

  • Alcohol
  • Heroin
  • Marijuana
  • Tranquilizers
  • Hallucinogenic drugs
  • Prescription drugs

It’s important to note that the relapse rate is quite high for people who only get treatment for their psychiatric disorders and fail to get help for their addictions, or who only go to drug treatment but never get help for the mental health conditions. This occurs for those with co-occurring disorders because they’re not receiving the integrated care that they need in order to make recovery a possibility. Either the two types of therapy clash with each other, or they simply ignore one condition because the other seems worse to them.

Experienced addiction treatment specialists understand that unless treatment for an addiction is combined and integrated with treatment for a co-occurring disorder, recovery is not likely to happen for that individual. Instead, the result is probably going to be continued episodes of relapse, which can result in the development of a dangerous addiction cycle, or even overdose and death.

On the other hand, when proper dual diagnosis treatment is executed, the individual is much more likely to experience recovery because all of the underlying issues behind the addiction have been addressed and treated accordingly.

The Power of Integrated Treatment for a Dual Diagnosis

Studies have shown time, and time again that by combining the strategies of psychiatry and the strategies of addiction treatment, the relapse rates among those who have completed addiction treatment programs are greatly reduced. In addition, the number of suicide attempts is vastly decreased, and long-term abstinence numbers are on the rise among this group of people. This information just goes to prove the fact that integrated treatment through a dual diagnosis recovery program is the most effective approach.


Co-occurring disorder treatment is important for a number of reasons.

  • Mental health disorders have a lot of negative side effects, and dual diagnosis treatment is designed to overcome these side effects successfully. Examples might be those who have trouble paying attention, those who struggle to find motivation, and those who have difficulties in socializing with others.
  • Certain medications can contribute to continued struggles with addiction, or they can help with psychiatric diagnoses that are contributing to the addiction itself. However, it can be difficult to discern what’s happening when treatment methods are kept separate. During co-occurring disorder treatment, any medication decisions are made with both diagnoses in mind.
  • Any medication recommendations are able to be made confidently because the tendency toward addiction is known.
  • The group therapy that is available during dual diagnosis treatment is beneficial in both addiction treatment and in mental health treatment.
  • Receiving treatment for both addiction and mental health issues simultaneously alerts patients regarding their own personal relapse triggers, whether they may be depression, panic attacks or another issue altogether.

Above all, treatment staff in these settings are aware of the need for specialized treatment, and their unique understanding of how addictions and mental illnesses are linked with each other gives them the ability to provide the type of treatment that is so desperately needed.

Understanding the Various Approaches to Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

For many who enter drug and alcohol rehab, certain obstacles stand in the way of getting the help they need. For example, when symptoms like social anxiety, compulsive behaviors and feelings of hopelessness enter the picture, these patients are not able to let their guard down enough to get help. Also, staff members are not equipped with the proper tools to assist them. Treatment for co-occurring disorders changes this, and it all starts from the moment a patient walks through the door. 

There’s no denying that the approach to treatment is very different in a dual diagnosis treatment center. This is evidenced by: 

  • The fact that dual diagnosis patients are never shunned, and are always welcomed with open arms, regardless of their need for treatment for a mental health condition.
  • The fact that the same amount of care is given for the addiction as is given for the mental health condition during the entire process of recovery.
  • The fact that both conditions are addressed and thought of as relapsing conditions that require long-term attention and treatment.
  • The fact that the treatment team is well equipped to provide help for co-occurring disorders.
  • The fact that all patients are quickly assessed for any presence of a mental illness (even if one is previously undiagnosed) so that treatment can begin promptly.
  • The fact that patients are always treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their current mental status, or the crisis they may be facing at the time. 

Individual counseling, group therapy, nutrition therapy and other types of therapy are all utilized to provide treatment that addresses each patient’s needs specifically.

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What Types of Therapies are Appropriate in Treating a Dual Diagnosis?

There are so many different components that go into creating a treatment plan when someone has a dual diagnosis. While each patient does receive his or her own treatment plan, in generally, it will include a plan for:

  • Some type of detoxification
  • A full evaluation and diagnosis
  • Personal therapy with a counselor
  • Group therapy for peer counseling
  • Family therapy to rebuild relationships
  • A plan for aftercare
  • Continuing aftercare and support; sometimes in a step-down approach 

Even though all of these components will be present, the type of therapy that each patient receives will be very much reliant upon the diagnosis and what’s considered to be appropriate. Sometimes therapy methods are mixed. Some are more goal-oriented and some are designed to last for only a few sessions. A few examples of therapy methods may include:

Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies – These therapies focus on perception and understanding the behaviors behind the addiction and mental illness. The ultimate result is to improve the quality of life for the patient and put tools in place that will help with managing their lives to avoid relapsing. 

Interpersonal Therapy – This type of therapy focuses on communication skills, which many people who are in treatment for co-occurring disorders lack. This allows people to have their needs met in healthy ways, and can minimize misunderstandings with those they care about. 

Family Therapy – This therapy can apply to anyone who is of great importance in the patient’s life. It can be done with a spouse, with parents, or any other members of the family. The focus is on relationships and how family members can plan an integral role in the recovery process. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy – This therapy is often referred to as DBT. It’s useful for helping patients who frequently experienced suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and it helps them to work on accepting the reality of their situations. Mindfulness training is a major component of it.


Warning Signs that You Have a Co-Occurring Disorder

It’s possible that you’ve never been diagnosed with a mental illness, or a co-occurring disorder either. It’s common for people to keep their psychiatric conditions to themselves, and they do this for a number of reasons. Perhaps your symptoms come and go, and so you’ve never really thought about the importance of talking to anyone about it. Or, maybe you feel as though you’re experiencing symptoms because of a traumatic event that happened in your past, and you’re reluctant or even ashamed to talk about it with anyone. Regardless of what your reasons are, if you believe you do fit the criteria, it’s not too late to get a diagnosis so that you can get help.

Even so, there are some warning signs you can look for in your own life that can help you understand whether or not you have a co-occurring disorder that’s in need of treatment.

  • You have a history of trauma or abuse that you’ve never talked with anyone about.
  • You have been treated for a psychiatric disorder in the past.
  • You struggle with keeping a job, a relationship or a home because of your reliance upon drugs and alcohol.
  • If you aren’t using drugs or alcohol, it’s very difficult for you to remain focused on the tasks at hand.
  • If something scares you, such as an impending meeting or social situation, you depend on substances to get you through it.
  • You believe that you can’t control your moods unless you have drugs or alcohol.
  • Drinking or using drugs helps you suppress painful memories, or cope with fear and anxiety.
  • You’ve had feelings of hopelessness or sadness for longer than two weeks at a time, even when you’re not using.

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How do You Know You’ve Chosen the Right Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center?

If you recognize yourself in any of the above warning signs, you most likely do need co-occurring disorder treatment for a dual diagnosis. However, you might not be sure what qualities you should be looking for in a treatment facility. Search for those that have the following:

  • Clinicians that are trained in dual diagnosis treatment
  • Counseling sessions that can accommodate you if you have a hard time focusing
  • Group therapy sessions that are sensitive to your fear of socialization
  • Programs that will work with you despite the fact that you lack motivation to get help
  • Centers that will work with you through your denial
  • Individually tailored treatment plans instead of an approach to treatment that they believe works for everyone
  • Psychotherapy sessions that will explore the link between your addiction and your mental health condition completely
  • Medication treatment that will help you with your symptoms

Opting for Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Northpoint Recovery

At Northpoint Recovery, we have spent a lot of time ensuring that our treatment methods are solid for the purpose of helping those who come to us with co-occurring disorders. Many of them don’t realize that this is what they’re suffering from. They may have been struggling with mental illness for years, but never thought about the possible link their psychiatric issues might have with their addictions. Our goal is to provide an accurate diagnosis where there is none, so that our patients can get the type of help they need to recover. 

If you believe you may be suffering from a co-occurring disorder, it’s important to recognize that not all addiction treatment centers subscribe to this type of treatment. Even though the industry has started the shift to treating dual diagnoses, there are still those who only treat the addiction. In failing to treat the source of the addiction, more and more people are relapsing, and this is a serious problem. 

We don’t want you to fail in your recovery from addiction. If you would like to learn more about Northpoint Recovery and our approach to treating dual diagnoses, or if you’re ready to get started with the type of addiction treatment that can change your life, please contact us right away.