WHAT IS DUAL DIAGNOSIS
- Dual diagnosis one of the most commonly used terms to describe when someone has both a substance abuse disorder like alcoholism and a separate mental health condition or conditions such as depression. Other commonly used terms include co-occurring disorders, co-morbid disorders, and comorbidity.
- Dual diagnosis is extremely common. Although some mental health conditions are more or less likely to appear among alcoholics, alcoholics are much more likely to suffer from a mental health condition of some kind than non-alcoholics. Similarly, an individual with a mental health condition is much more likely to develop alcoholism than an individual without a mental health disorder. Approximately 7.9 million Americans classify as dual-diagnosis (with any substance and any disorder). Among this population, alcohol is by far the most commonly abused substance, much like in the population as a whole.
- The link between alcohol and mental health is very close and complex. Many individuals with mental health issues turn to alcohol as a method of escape or self-medication. Many mental health conditions make it more difficult for individuals to stop drinking, either over the course of a single night or over an extended period. This increases the likelihood of alcoholism and other risky drinking behaviors like binge drinking. However, alcohol use actually makes the symptoms of many mental health conditions worse, brings them on prematurely and more frequently, and extends their durations. There is research that suggests that alcoholism can actually cause certain mental health conditions, especially depression, but those conclusions are controversial.