Fifth Avenue Psychiatry Logo (typeface)

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Our Doctors Specialize in the Treatment of Mental Health Disorders and Addiction

Sometimes referred to as co-occurring disorders or dual disorders, dual diagnosis occurs when there is both a mental health and substance use disorder present. This might mean the individual is struggling with alcohol abuse as well as depression, for example. Many people with alcohol use disorders and addiction have co-occurring anxiety and mood disorders.

Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

People from all walks of life are affected by mental health disorders. Often, an individual will self-medicate, leading them to substance dependencies and addictions. However, a dual diagnosis indicates that the individual has both a substance use disorder and a mental health condition.

According to SAMHSA’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) (PDF | 3.4 MB) an estimated 59.3 million (23.1%) of Americans ages 18 and up experienced some form of mental illness. In the past year, 48.7 million people aged 12 and over (17.3%) had a substance use disorder. In 2022, an estimated 43.9% of adults with any mental illness had used illicit drugs, in comparison with about 20% of people without any mental illness who had used illegal substances. People with mental illness are more prone to illegal drug use.

What Causes Dual Diagnosis?

For many, mental health and substance abuse disorders are a result of environmental or biological factors. Genetics, life experience, trauma, and pharmaceutical history all can influence an individual’s susceptibility as well. People who have a mental health disorder are more likely to become dependent on drugs or alcohol than people without one.

Types of Dual Diagnosis

The most common mental health disorders that are often present with drug or alcohol addiction are depressive disorders, anxiety disorders including PTSD, and bipolar disorder. Through concise individual therapy, we can better understand the root cause of mental health conditions and substance addiction, try to understand which came first, and how to treat each individually for a positive outcome.

What Are the Symptoms of a Dual Diagnosis

Another facet of dual diagnosis is that many of the behaviors in mental illness and drug and alcohol dependency present similar symptoms. For example, heightened anxiety in a person can be caused by an episode of PTSD or CTSD, but it can also indicate cocaine or benzodiazepine abuse.

Depending on the substance or mental illness, the following can illustrate the symptoms of each:

  • Increased preference for isolation
  • Sudden behavioral changes
  • Risky behaviors
  • Violent outbursts, suicidal tendencies
  • Feeling like you need a drug to be able to function

Age-Related Mental Illness

With the increasing incidence of young adult stress, marijuana use in adolescents and teens, and overuse of social media and video games, young adults are exhibiting many of the signs of depression, anxiety, and mood disorders.

In addition, numerous research studies are shedding light on long-term marijuana use in those under the age of 18 and the development of psychotic behaviors. There are also points throughout human development that engage a natural shift in hormone levels that can help set the stage for schizophrenia in young adults (17-27 years) or postpartum depression, as well as depression and anxiety onsets during menopause.

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

Integrated care is recommended for individuals seeking treatment for a dual diagnosis. An integrative treatment program provides the individual with medical and therapeutic care to help the client heal physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Integrative Care for Dual Diagnosis

Treatments for dual diagnosis include:

  • Medical Detox
  • A Mental Health Evaluation
  • Diagnosis
  • Personalized Treatment Plan
  • Private Therapy
  • Group Therapy
  • An Aftercare Plan
  • On-going Aftercare and Support

Traditionally, integrative mental health and addiction treatment would be provided in a residential or in-patient setting. However, as addiction rates continue to climb, traditional treatment is evolving to accommodate the changing needs of the public. Today, with the development of both new evidence-based treatments and new medications, all stages of addiction care can be provided in an outpatient setting.

Here at Fifth Avenue Psychiatry, we believe working with an addiction-trained psychiatrist is the optimal professional treatment for dual diagnosis. Our treatment plan is completely personalized to meet the individual’s specific needs. Our services provide our clients with the highest level of care in a private and confidential psychotherapy office.

Private Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Are you interested in learning more about our approach to dual diagnosis and our private outpatient treatment offered in our Manhattan offices? We invite you to schedule a call with one of our doctors to discuss your needs.

All initial consultation calls are completely confidential and free. We will help you understand if Fifth Avenue Psychiatry and our services are the right fit for you or your loved one.


Treating dual diagnosis means addressing both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. The medications used in this process can include antidepressants, anti-psychotics, and other medicines that are primarily for the mental health aspects of treatment. For substance abuse, medications like suboxone and naltrexone can help reduce cravings and block the euphoric effects of opioids.

A major obstacle to recovery in clients with dual diagnosis is that symptoms of the co-occurring mental health disorder can complicate treatment in the form of more intense symptoms, like anxiety, more impulsivity as a result of underlying ADD, or lack of motivation due to depression.

In dual diagnosis, several other obstacles must be overcome to begin and maintain recovery, including:

  • Acknowledging the addiction is likely a symptom of mental illness
  • Developing an individualized treatment plan to address a person’s unique challenges
  • Preventing relapse or the development of maladaptive behaviors
  • Developing coping skills to help with cravings and mental health symptoms

The most common conditions that co-occur with substance abuse are depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.

The traits of someone with a dual diagnosis can vary depending on what mental conditions they have and the type of substances they abuse.

Some common characteristics of dual diagnosis include:

  • Social withdrawal/isolation
  • Erratic behavior or mood swings
  • Abusing substances
  • Taking part in risky behaviors to obtain substances
  • Developing a high tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Feel unstable or unable to function without the substance
    Thoughts of suicide

Yes, having co-occurring mental health disorders alongside substance abuse is a common occurrence among people with either condition. More than one in four adults living with serious mental health problems also has a substance use problem.

Similarly, 2024 research shows that of all people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29 percent abuse alcohol or drugs.

Dual diagnosis is important because it targets the underlying causes of addiction. It’s common for addiction and mental health problems to trigger the other and amplify the symptoms. Dual diagnosis treatment treats mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders together so that the core issues are addressed.