By: Anna Fortune, Director of Substance Use Services and Anna Giddens, Community Support Specialist

Individuals who have both a mental health and a substance use diagnosis are said to have a co-occurring diagnosis (or dual diagnosis). One-third of individuals who have an alcohol use disorder also have a mental health disorder. There are many mental health conditions that can co-occur with alcohol use disorder. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), three mental disorders most commonly comorbid with alcoholism are major depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder.

Alcohol Use Disorder can cause symptoms and behaviors of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis both during intoxication and withdrawal. On the other hand, mental health diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and childhood trauma can create an increased risk of someone developing an alcohol use disorder. Co-occurring diagnoses can occur simultaneously or sequentially, yet it is important to note that there is not always a causal factor between the two. There are also many instances where intoxication and withdrawal look like a psychiatric disorder that is not actually there.  

When seeking treatment for co-occurring issues, it is imperative to treat both and not neglect one of the conditions while focusing on the other. This should be a standard part of every alcohol treatment program as the relationship between the two diagnoses can impact each disorder’s symptom severity and frequency. 

Most common symptoms of a dual diagnosis include:

  • Isolating oneself from family and friends
  • Changes in appetite, such as eating more or less than usual
  • Loss of energy and motivation
  • Trouble concentrating or completing tasks
  • Neglecting personal or professional responsibilities 
  • Increased irritability, anger, or anxiety
  • Rationalizing excessive alcohol consumption

References:

https://www.alcohol.org/co-occurring-disorder/Dual diagnosis. Alcohol Rehab Guide. (2022, February 24). Retrieved March 23, 2022, from https://www.alcoholrehabguide.org/resources/dual-diagnosis/

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