Mental Health and Dual Diagnosis in the Bay Area

Mental Health and Dual Diagnosis in the Bay Area

Mental health issues are common around the United States. With the impact that the pandemic has had, these issues have only been exasperated for many people.

If you have a mental illness or addiction and you live in the Bay Area, you may be looking to learn about how you can find quality treatment.

Interested in learning more? Keep reading to learn about dual diagnosis and treatment options for patients.

What is Dual Diagnosis?

“Dual diagnosis” has a simple definition but comes with a variety of complications. If you have a dual diagnosis, this means that you have two or more conditions simultaneously as distinct diagnoses.

This does not just exist in the mental health sphere. However, since the term was first coined in the 1980s, mental health professionals use it to describe people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

What Mental Illnesses Can Exist with Addiction?

Dual diagnosis can exist between mental illnesses and substance use disorders (alcohol, drugs, etc.). It is important to know some of the common mental health disorders associated with this phenomenon.

Keep in mind that these are not all mental illnesses that can be diagnosed alongside addiction, but they are some of the most common.


One of the biggest issues with mental illness and addiction is that substances are often used as a form of self-medication to deal with mental illness. With an illness as common as depression, this can lead to high rates of substance abuse.

Researchers estimate that one in every ten adults living in the U.S. suffers from depression. Many of these people are attempting self-medication (and often falling into addiction as a result). There can be serious side effects, and people’s depressive symptoms can be aggravated.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Another widespread mental illness in the U.S. is generalized anxiety disorder. Eighteen percent of the population has GAD.

People with anxiety may try to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, like people with depression. However, there is another danger present. Benzodiazepines are sometimes prescribed to people with anxiety, but this is a highly addictive medication that can be abused if not taken per doctor’s orders.

Bipolar Disorder

People with bipolar disorder seek drugs and alcohol to relieve and escape during their manic episodes.

Recovery can be tough for people with bipolar disorder due to the cycling nature of their highs and lows.


While drugs and alcohol are not as big of a threat with ADHD, many people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are prescribed stimulants that can be very habit-forming.

This can lead to an addiction to prescription drugs.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental illness caused as a reaction to a traumatic event or a series of traumatic events. When someone has PTSD, their brain becomes less capable of creating endorphins.

Endorphins are some of the chemicals in the human brain that contribute to feelings of happiness. People with PTSD may turn to alcohol and drugs to simulate the happiness that endorphins provide.

PTSD is an illness suffered by soldiers, sexual assault survivors, and those present during natural disasters. Roughly 75% of soldiers who experienced a traumatic event during their tour report alcohol abuse, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans affairs

How is a Dual Diagnosis Treated Differently?

The effects of alcoholism can cloud the symptoms being displayed by the patient. Doctors are often unable to tell if a specific behavior is a mental illness or alcoholism product.

Alcoholism can confuse the people diagnosing the patient. To diagnose the patient, the patient often has to quit consuming alcohol.

The treatment for a dual diagnosis patient is done best if it is approached concurrently. This means that the patient needs to drink less, and they need to receive treatment for their mental illness. This will lead to a reduced desire to drink and self-medicate.

It is also imperative that mental health professionals and addiction experts treat a patient. For a long time, these skills were not connected, but today, many therapists and doctors have training in addiction treatment.

The Risks of Self-Medication

Many perceived benefits help to feed their addiction and lead to a dual diagnosis for people who self-medicate.

For example:

  • Alcohol may help reduce anxiety in a social situation
  • Cocaine may increase energy levels enough for a depressed person to complete their daily tasks
  • Marijuana (while not physically addictive) leads to an emotional dependency and toxic use due to its ability to help a person numb their emotional pain from past trauma

While these may seem like benefits for the self-medicating person, over time, they will need to consume more and more of their chosen substance to enjoy the desired effect. This can have a long-lasting impact on a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and social health.

Finding Help in the Bay Area

Finding quality treatment for a dual diagnosis can be difficult. You want to make sure that you are surrounded by mental health professionals, healthcare workers, and addiction specialists who can all help you recover and be treated in the safest way possible.

If you are struggling with dual diagnosis in the Bay Area, check out our Program page. There, you will see the available options as you start on your journey towards a healthier life.