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What is a Dual Diagnosis?

RiverMend Health Centers of Georgia Psychiatric Evaluations for Co-Occuring Disorders and AddictionA dual diagnosis, also referred to as co-occurring disorder, is when a person has both a co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse problem. More than half of individuals who have a serious mental illness also have a substance use disorder. A recent study shows that in the United States, approximately nine million Americans suffer from co-occurring disorders. However, a small percentage of these individuals do not have access to adequate care partly because many practitioners are only trained to treat one or the other. Fortunately, there have been many addiction experts—such as our very own—who have spent their careers researching the development of dual diagnosis with addictive behaviors and have found that offering a treatment option that addresses the physical addiction as well as the underlying mental illness is the appropriate plan of care.

Different Types of Dual Diagnosis Conditions We Treat

Dual disorders come in many different forms and can be comprised of any combination of mental illness and addiction. It is not uncommon for individuals who are suffering with an addiction to have a mental health disorder. In fact, this mental health disorder may be the driving force behind the addiction. Therefore, in order to overcome the addiction, it is necessary to take a very close look at the mental disorder as well. A dual disorder should be accurately diagnosed and treated properly as one condition can exacerbate the other. Fortunately, our addiction team is highly skilled at identifying dual diagnosis with mental health disorders which include:


  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • PTSD/Trauma
  • ADHD
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder

Combining one of more of these issues with alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or prescription medication abuse is considered a dual diagnosis. For example, you might suspect that your spouse has been drinking excessively since the passing of a parent. This could be an indication of depression and alcohol addiction. The good news is that once a diagnosis is confirmed, both the depression and alcohol abuse will be treated.

How to See the Signs of Dual Diagnosis

Since every individual is different, symptoms and signs of a dual disorder may vary. However, in general common symptoms include excessive use of drugs and alcohol coupled with:


  • Social withdrawal from friends, family and co-workers
  • Problems at home, work, or school
  • Inability to hold a job, attend classes or events
  • Problems with relationships
  • Changes in behavior or increased mood swings
  • Angry, violent, or reckless behavior
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Changes in sleep patterns (insomnia or excessive sleep)
  • Severe tension or worry
  • Inability to concentrate or pay attention
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Disorganized speech or behavior
  • Experiences delusions, hallucinations, or seems out of touch with reality
  • Intense or prolonged feelings of despair, hopelessness, and worthlessness
  • Excessive thoughts that lead to repetitive behavior

The Treatment Process for Dual Diagnosis

At our Atlanta dual diagnosis outpatient treatment, the first initial step before treatment is to perform an evaluation. Once that evaluation is completed, our experts will develop a diagnosis and an integrated treatment plan that will address both conditions. RiverMend Health Centers uses a comprehensive treatment approach to provide effective, compassionate care for co-occurring disorders. Creating an integrated treatment plan that includes therapy, holistic care, and family involvement and relapse prevention is the gold standard for addiction treatment. Our multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists, nurses, clinical therapists, case managers, and certified chemical dependency counselors work with each individual through their dual disorders treatment.

Treatment length varies between individuals and greatly depends on the addiction and the mental health disorder. Regardless of the type and duration of an addiction, dual diagnosis recovery and treatment requires a multifaceted approach that includes:

Intensive Outpatient Program
This program gives individuals the opportunity to continue living at home and work in the community during treatment. Individuals are able to begin implementing the recovery skills acquired through the dual disorders program and are provided the opportunity to process their experience in a safe and supportive group environment.

Partial Hospitalization Program
This program is designed to treat dual disorders for individuals who are able to tolerate the less intensive structure of a day program and have support, especially safe housing, outside the treatment environment.

Counseling & Therapy
Our counseling and therapy programs help individuals identify the stimuli that may cause relapse and provide guidance on how to cope with these stressors. Stimuli that may cause relapse include looking for a job, rekindling relationships, moving, seeing friends who continue to abuse drugs or alcohol or visiting a neighborhood that may trigger memories of addiction.

Family Program
Family members are important in the recovery process. At RiverMend Health Centers, we invite families to learn about addiction and dual disorders and to gain advice on supporting their loved one’s recovery. This may include removing triggers at home, setting boundaries that provide accountability and structure, identifying signs of relapse, and having an action plan in case of relapse.

Relapse Prevention
Relapse happens gradually, sometimes beginning weeks or even months before it happens. Throughout addiction treatment at RiverMend Health Centers, we’ll discuss the stages of relapse, the early warning signs of relapse, and how to cope with triggers.

Free Psychiatric Evaluations for Dual Diagnosis

RiverMend Health Centers of Georgia conducts free psychiatric evaluations as part of our comprehensive assessment process since co-occurring psychiatric disorders are common in patients with addiction and if untreated usually lead to relapse. The goal of our free psychiatric evaluations is to establish whether a mental disorder or other condition requiring the attention of a psychiatrist is present; to collect sufficient data to support a diagnosis; to collaborate with you or your loved one in order to develop an initial treatment plan, and to identify longer-term issues that need to be considered in follow-up care.

A multi-disciplinary team of experienced professionals at RiverMend Health Centers of Georgia will administer the free evaluation. Addiction and other psychiatric disorders are influenced by genetic and environmental factors. We develop working diagnoses and continuously re-evaluate your progress in treatment, adjusting your care to help prevent relapse and continue to improve your overall wellbeing.

What Does the Free Evaluation Explore?

  • Current and past use of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs, and any past treatment history
  • Medical history
  • Psychiatric history
  • Family history
  • Personal history (including birth complications, childhood development, parental care in childhood, educational and employment history, relationship and marital history, and criminal background)
  • Social and biographical information and circumstances

How Can the Results of a Free Psychiatric Evaluation Help Me?

  • Provide a comprehensive diagnostic assessment that covers a variety of issues (e.g., mood disorder, disruptive behavior issues, personality disorder, sexual compulsivity, trauma, other psychiatric disorders in addition to substance use/addiction)
  • Provide recommendations based on American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) criteria regarding the optimal type and level of treatment (e.g., outpatient, residential)
  • Determine if treatment is necessary
  • Provide recommendations to assist monitoring agencies to increase accountability and facilitate re-entry into the workplace
  • Provide recommendations that will guide treatment planning and reduce risk of relapse

Request a Free Addiction Evaluation Today

RiverMend Health Centers of Georgia offers free comprehensive psychiatric evaluations, including diagnostic evaluations, psychotherapy service, medication management, and group and couples therapy for the spectrum of psychiatric disorders.

Call 844.497.2368 to speak to a RiverMend Health Centers of Georgia addiction expert. Our compassionate, friendly staff will guide you through a free phone consultation, discuss your treatment options, and schedule an in-person evaluation from a physician.

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