Dual diagnosis is the co-occurrence of substance abuse with a mental illness. Substance abuse is a common problem in people with mental illness and can interfere with treatment and recovery.
Mental illness and substance abuse often go hand-in-hand. They may occur at the same time, or one may develop before the other. It's important to recognize both conditions for the best possible treatment outcome.
The Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration reports a significant percentage of the 1.5 to 2 million Americans with severe mental illness do, indeed, abuse substances. Of all people diagnosed with a mental illness, 29 percent abuse either alcohol or other drugs. And 37 percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers have a serious mental illness.
Co-occurring substance use and mental disorders can develop at any age. As many as half of the adults who have a diagnosable mental disorder will also have a substance use disorder at some point during their lifetime.
A National Association of Mental Health study reports the increased risk for substance abuse for these psychiatric disorders:
Disorder Percent Increased Risk of
Type Substance Abuse
Antisocial Personality 15.5
Manic Episode 14.5
Major Depressive Episode 4.1
Obsessive Compulsive 3.4
When someone suffers from a mental illness, they may self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs to ease symptoms. As use becomes more frequent, the person can become dependent upon the substance. Conversely, substance abuse can trigger symptoms of depression, anxiety, psychosis or suicidal thoughts.