Dual Diagnosis: Treatment Mental Health and Addiction

Treating addiction can be a complex process — and it is often further complicated by a co-occurring mental health disorder. It is common for people who struggle with substance abuse to have an underlying or accompanying concern such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or a personality disorder. In fact, according to a 2017 study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly half of all adults in the United States who have a substance use disorder also have some form of mental illness — a total of just under 9 million people. There may also be many more individuals who have co-occurring addiction and mental health concerns, but who have not yet discovered a formal diagnosis.  If you or someone close to you has been dealing with addiction in the presence of mental health concerns — or if you believe you see symptoms of a mental health disorder alongside addiction — a dual diagnosis treatment program is essential. In Tampa, Florida, Riverside Recovery provides specialized, targeted care for adult men and women with co-occurring disorders. Our exceptional team, which includes licensed and experienced healthcare and mental health professionals, is also equipped to help you or your loved one identify as-yet-undiagnosed disorders. No matter what your concerns may be, we can work with you to create a tailored plan for treatment that helps you get back to living a healthy and fulfilling substance-free life. 

Why is Dual Diagnosis So Common?

Drugs and alcohol are called mind-altering substances for a reason — when you use them, they affect the way your brain works to make you feel drunk or high. These substances release chemicals in your brain and body that control your mood, your energy levels and your perceptions. Over time, particularly with regular or continuous substance use, your brain becomes accustomed to the way it feels under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Being drunk or high becomes normal, while being sober will feel uncomfortable. The symptoms that arise from this dependency will often meet the clinical diagnostic requirements for mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder and otherwise — and this can last even beyond achieving physical sobriety.  In many other cases, the mental health disorder exists first, and substance abuse becomes a problem due to self-medication. Living with a condition like depression, anxiety, PTSD or an eating disorder makes day-to-day life incredibly difficult. All the stresses and pressures that you feel on a daily basis are compounded and can quickly become overwhelming. Drugs or alcohol can seem like an easy solution to make you feel more relaxed, happier or numb to negative emotions. In addition, some prescription medications used to manage mental health symptoms have the potential to become addictive. Taking these medications requires care and self-control to make sure you do not become dependent on them and to be certain you are only using them according to your doctor’s orders. 

Diagnosing Co-Occurring Disorders

Since co-occurring disorders can interact with substance use disorders in many different ways, it is sometimes difficult to diagnose both concerns. An untrained eye may mistake the symptoms of a mental health disorder for temporary symptoms related to drug or alcohol use. Too often, individuals are diagnosed with and treated for addiction without regard for the co-occurring mental health disorder. This becomes problematic in the long run because unmanaged mental health symptoms are likely to cause a relapse in substance use. Some common co-occurring disorders and their basic signs and symptoms include:


  • Lethargy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Misplaced guilt or shame


  • Sudden, unexplained sensations of panic, fear or worry
  • Sense of impending tragedy or doom
  • Hesitation to act in social or professional settings
  • High stress levels


  • A past experience with violence, abuse, neglect or other trauma
  • Flashbacks or nightmares
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Fear or avoidance of triggers

Bipolar Disorder

  • Shifts between manic and depressive episodes
  • Mood swings
  • Changes in personality and interests
  • Changes in sleep and behavior patterns


  • Repetitive behaviors or other distinct behavior patterns
  • Compulsive need to engage in such behaviors
  • Self-blame or low self-esteem
  • Panic attacks or anxiety

Eating Disorders

  • Food avoidance
  • Inability to control eating
  • Obsession with body image
  • Low self-esteem
If you or your loved one has a substance abuse problem and may be exhibiting signs of a mental health disorder, it is always best to get an evaluation from a mental health professional who has experience with dual diagnosis patients. Even if you are not sure whether a co-occurring disorder is present, a professional opinion can help you understand your symptoms and find the kind of treatment that will lead you to long-lasting sobriety.

Why Dual Diagnosis Treatment Matters

Imagine a person who struggles with undiagnosed clinical depression. After some time of fighting against their symptoms on their own, they turned to alcohol to help themselves feel happier and more carefree. Their dependence on drinking to feel good turned into an addiction. They eventually chose to enter a rehab facility to get sober. But the methods at their local facility did not address underlying causes of addiction: the approach focused on detox and physical sobriety as a solution. The patient was able to get sober during treatment, but when they returned to daily life, their depression flared up and led them back to drinking. This is not to say that dual diagnosis patients are not equally as capable of finding successful recovery as patients with only a substance use disorder. However, they often face a higher risk of relapse when unmanaged mental health symptoms arise in life after recovery. The outcomes for patients with co-occurring disorders can be significantly improved and more reliable when recovery treatment includes care that is informed by both diagnoses.

Holistic Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders in Florida

At Riverside Recovery, we use a holistic approach to treatment: we look at the whole person, evaluate everything that is contributing to their concerns and treat all aspects of the mind, body and spirit. We want to know about your past, your goals, your overall health, your lifestyle and your strengths and weaknesses — when we see the bigger picture, we can create a plan for your recovery that will make sense for you and fit seamlessly into your life. The personal level on which we treat our patients gives them a real and practical method of achieving long-term sobriety and successful relapse prevention. Our signature all-encompassing treatment includes specialized therapies for patients with a dual diagnosis. We have a clinical psychiatrist on staff along with several licensed mental health counselors and other trained and experienced mental health professionals. We are a Joint Commission Gold Seal-accredited behavioral healthcare center, and we meet and exceed high standards of addiction and mental health treatment and outcomes. We also offer VALOR, a specialized dual diagnosis track for veterans struggling with combat-related PTSD and substance use disorders. We are committed to guiding our patients back from substance abuse to a fulfilling, healthy lifestyle — no matter what their concerns may be.

Contact Us

If you or your loved one is in need of addiction treatment or dual diagnosis treatment, Riverside Recovery is here to help. At our waterfront facility on the banks of the beautiful Hillsborough River in Tampa, Florida, we welcome adult men and women from our area and beyond to engage with our recovery community. We provide several levels of care from medical detox through residential and outpatient treatment, and we want to work with you to create a sustainable path to recovery without relapse. Contact us today to learn more — call our team at 800-871-5440.


Riverside Recovery Of Tampa Is Open And Committed To Providing A Safe Environment For Those Struggling With Substance Use Disorder.
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  • Riverside Recovery interior
Riverside Recovery of Tampa

4004 North Riverside Drive
Tampa, FL 33603

(800) 871-5440


Recovery Specialist 24/7



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