According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, dual diagnosis – also known as co-occurring disorders – is a term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance use disorder simultaneously. claims that a dual diagnosis consists of either depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, a personality disorder, etc. and alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling addiction, sex addiction, etc. Either the mental illness or addiction can develop first. People who have a mental illness may rely on drugs or alcohol to help them cope with their symptoms, which could lead to a drug/substance addiction as well. Conversely, if someone picks up an addiction, the symptoms of the addiction could perpetuate and bring about a form of mental illness. No matter the cause, dual diagnosis is a lot more common than people realize.

The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health noted that 7.9 million people in the United States experienced both a mental illness and a substance use disorder simultaneously. The data claims that over half of that number – 4.1 million people to be specific – were men. Dartmouth College further confirms that men are at substantial risk for dual diagnosis – males ages 18 to 44 are at greatest risk. Why might dual diagnosis be so common? Research suggests the following as potential reasons for this:


  • Biology. Our genes could make us susceptible to developing an addiction/mental illness.
  • Damage of one issue causes the other. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests that those who are susceptible to developing schizophrenia may see this mental illness appear after prolonged use of marijuana. In this instance, cause and effect plays a role.
  • Coping mechanisms gone wrong. The University of Utah states that 70% of people with schizophrenia smoke cigarettes because it helps them think more clearly – sometimes the coping mechanisms that we think “helps” us reels us into an addiction.
  • Improper diagnosis. Symptoms of a mental illness may be mistaken for a single addiction, causing the person’s symptoms to worsen or develop into something else.
  • Brain abnormalities. NIDA found that people who had schizophrenia and drug abuse had two brain abnormalities. In this case, some individual’s brain’s may be wired differently.
  • Overlapping environmental triggers. Environmental triggers such as stress, trauma, childhood abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more could trigger mental illness and addiction.


If you believe you may have a mental illness and an addiction, call us today at 855-577-0113 to receive a consultation. New Vista Behavioral Health is known for providing a multi-dimensional, client-focused approach in a home-like atmosphere. Our residential centers will allow you to focus on yourself and your recovery. Make the decision to take control of your life today.


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