Free 24hr Assistance: 813.882.3003
Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

We are Ready to Help, Call Now!

Turning Point of Tampa has helped thousands find recovery. As an in-network facility, we are able and committed to helping you find the life you deserve.

What is Dual Diagnosis? Definition Symptoms and Treatment

What Is Dual Diagnosis? | Turning Point of Tampa

Mental illness and substance use disorders are a combination of co-occurring factors and conditions, such as genetics, stress, or trauma, for example. So, what is dual diagnosis?

It is well understood that substance abuse can contribute to, or actually cause, mental health problems and/or induce a dormant mental disorder such as depression, anxiety, and in some cases – psychosis. Occasionally the reverse is true – the mental health condition can contribute to, or actually cause, a substance use disorder.

As such, a dual diagnosis definition refers to a person with a diagnosis of mental illness and a substance use disorder occurring at the same time. Many who have a serious mental illness also abuse drugs or have a substance use disorder.

Dual diagnosis is considered to be serious. Mental illness or any mental disorder is serious, especially coupled with drug abuse.

This article is to discuss dual diagnosis, definition and symptoms. If you suspect yourself or someone you love might have these issues, an evaluation by a mental health professional is needed to determine the best course of treatment.

What Does Dual Diagnosis Mean?

Co-Occurring Disorder | Turning Point of Tampa

A substance use disorder is present when an individual is unable to control their use of legal or illegal drugs or alcohol, and use continues even when serious negative consequences result. These consequences include problems at home, work, or school; or involvement with police, courts and the legal system. Severe substance use disorders frequently involve serious health issues, as well.

Illicit or prescription drug abuse and alcohol abuse alone can disrupt and negatively affect many brain function, such as the production of serotonin. The National Institute of Health defines dual diagnosis as an when an individual is experiencing a mental health issue, in addition to a substance use issue.

Mental Health Disorders

Mental Health Disorders and Severe Mental Illness | Turning Point of Tampa

Co-occurring mental disorders and substance use disorders are serious, requiring professional evaluation. Also, because substance use disorder can mask or heighten symptoms of a co-occurring mental health issue, it can be difficult to determine the best course of treatment at first.

It is estimated that more than 50% of those diagnosed with a serious mental health disorder are also dependent on drugs or alcohol. Conversely, about 50% of those with a history of substance use also have mental health disorders.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that, as of 2015

“7.9 million people in the U.S. experience both a mental health disorder and substance use disorder simultaneously.”

The term mental health disorders, includes a wide range of conditions. The American Psychiatric Association defines mental illnesses as:

…health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues Commonly Occur Together

There is a large collection of data showing that those with a drug or alcohol addiction also suffer from an emotional, psychological, or psychiatric disorder.

However, by far the most common mood or anxiety disorders that co occur with substance abuse are:

  • Depression
  • General anxiety disorder
  • Bipolar depression

Mental Disorders That Often Co-occur with Substance Use Disorders include:

According to The National Library of Medicine, there are several mental disorders that commonly co occur with substance abuse.

  • Major depressive disorder (also called clinical depression)
  • Dysthymia disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder

What is Comorbidity?

Comorbidity is often referred to as co-occurring conditions or dual diagnosis. The terms can be interchangeable.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines comorbidity:

The term “comorbidity” describes two or more disorders or illnesses occurring in the same person. They can occur at the same time or one after the other. Comorbidity also implies interactions between the illnesses that can worsen the course of both.

This is particularly true when substance use is involved. Extreme mood changes are seen in conjunction with drugs or alcohol being used as a form of self medication, and can be caused by the mental issue or be made worse by the drug use. Additionally drug use and alcohol abuse can also mask symptoms of mental disorders.

Anxiety Disorders and Alcohol or Drug Dependency

Anxiety and Substance Abuse | Turning Point of Tampa

When addressing dual diagnosis, a patient with an anxiety disorder often falls into one or more of the following:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)

Other mental health conditions that may co-occur with substance abuse can include ADD, ADHD, schizophrenia and personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis Disorders and SUD?

Dual Diagnosis Symptoms | Turning Point of Tampa

The signs and symptoms a person exhibits will depend on the co-occurring disorders themselves. Symptoms will include those often found with a drug or alcohol use disorder, as well as those that are indicative of a specific mental health disorder. Drug and alcohol screening tools now make it easier for mental health clinics to identify co-occurring substance abuse problems.

Signs of Substance Use Disorder may Include:

  • Risky behavior (such as risky driving or swimming, unsafe sex)
  • Abrupt personality changes or changes in behavior
  • Socially isolating self from family, friends, and favorite activities
  • Unable to control drug or alcohol use
  • Craving substance
  • Financial or legal problems
  • Build-up of tolerance so more is needed to achieve the desired effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms

Signs of a Dual Diagnosis or Mental Health Disorder Include:

  • Confusion
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Lack of appetite and/or sleep problems
  • Inability to function in daily life
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Unexplained physical pain
  • Exaggerated expressions of sadness, fear, worry, or anger
  • Fluctuating mood, bouncing between highs and lows
  • Social isolation (drawing away from friends, family, favorite activities)

Severe symptoms may include delusions, paranoia, hallucinations, or talk of suicide. Individuals with any of these symptoms need immediate attention from a qualified mental health professional.

Treatment Options for Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center | Turning Point of Tampa

Although a determination of dual diagnosis makes treatment more complex, even in severe situations recovery is possible with the right treatment program. Facilities like Turning Point of Tampa located in Florida welcome those with a co-occurring disorders.

An article in Psychology Today states,

compared to individuals who have a single disorder, those with a combination of disorders may experience more severe medical and mental health challenges and may also require longer periods of treatment.

For the best outcome, it is essential that dual diagnoses be treated simultaneously.

With some obvious exceptions, addressing substance use disorders is the essential starting point.

Addressing the substance addiction first will generally allow a more accurate assessment of the mental disorder, which can mostly be treated with medication and talk therapy.

Turning Point of Tampa is a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center

At Turning Point of Tampa, we have found the best opportunity for long-term recovery for individuals with a dual diagnosis involves an integrative treatment approach. We understand the importance of treating mental health and substance use disorders concurrently and specifically tailor treatment plans accordingly.

Our compassionate, highly credentialed staff provides a safe, structured environment, where clients can be supported—and support others—as they go through the recovery process.

Our treatment approach includes:

Medical assessment and psychiatric evaluation upon admission, individual and group therapy, an individualized treatment plan, and family support group, as well.

Based on a set of spiritual principles, 12-step programs help guide people through long-term recovery. People who attend 12-step groups support and encourage one another, while also serving as accountability partners, helping to keep others on track.

Turning Point of Tampa’s goal is to always provide a safe environment and a solid foundation in 12-Step recovery, in tandem with quality individual and group therapy. We have been offering Residential Treatment for Substance Abuse, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987. If you need help or know someone who does, please contact our admissions department at 813-859-7204, 866-821-6751 or


Dual Diagnosis
Cleveland Clinic Health Diseases
Co-Occurring Disorders

Turning Point of Tampa Addiction Treatment Tampa Florida

Table of Contents

Call To Speak with our Admissions Department

Toll Free: 813.882.3003

Contact Us

If you’d like more information about our programs please select from the list below and we’ll contact you.


Please provide any necessary details about your reason for contacting us.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Turning Points of View