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What Does A Dual Diagnosis Mean?

Dual Diagnosis condition

In the medical community, dual diagnosis simply refers to a person having two conditions at the same time. In most mental health practices, dual diagnosis usually presents as a substance use disorder paired with a mental health disorder, such as mood disorders and anxiety or traumatic stress disorders. Having a dual diagnosis can complicate the treatment process.

Common Dual Diagnosis Disorders

At Encore, we often see dual diagnosis in the form of a substance use disorder paired with a mental health disorder. Families and clients are often looking to discover which came first: the substance use disorder or the mental health disorder. However, often by the time a person is dually-diagnosed, treatment should focus more on symptom reduction. Below of some of the common mental health disorders we see paired.


Depression is characterized by periods of two weeks or longer of deep sadness, loss of interest in activities, isolation, feelings of worthlessness, fatigue, and sometimes, thoughts of suicide. Sometimes, people with depression drink or use drugs to change their mood or help them cope with their symptoms.


Anxiety disorders are the most common class of psychiatric disorders, with a lifetime prevalence rate of in the United States of 29%. These disorders are often characterized by feelings of nervousness, irritability, restlessness, and excessive worry. People with anxiety disorders can sometimes experience symptoms of anxiety and panic so strong that it hinders their daily living.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects over three million individuals in the United States every year. Approximately half of the individuals seeking help for substance use disorders meet criteria for PTSD. PTSD refers to an individual that has undergone a traumatic event and how they experience the world afterward. Individuals with PTSD may have symptoms of depression or anxiety related disorders, in addition to flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance, and feelings of detachment.

Encore Outpatient Services in Washington DC

At Encore, we understand the need for specialized treatment for individuals with dual dual diagnosis. It has been a common practice in substance use disorder treatment to separately the substance use disorder from the co-occurring disorder and treat them each independently. However, this may contribute to poorer treatment outcomes seen in this population, especially those with PTSD. At Encore in Washington DC, we feel it is imperative to address both mental health and substance use disorders for the best possible treatment outcomes. Encore uses somatic experiencing, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), mindfulness, qi gong, and psychodrama to holistically treat our clients with all of their needs in mind. Additionally, Encore recovery coaches provide additional support to our clients as they learn to navigate their world free from substances.

If you or a loved one is struggling with symptoms of dual diagnosis, visit the us here or call us today at 703-594-7396

Dual diagnosis

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