Dual diagnosis

This Page was last reviewed and changed on June 8th, 2022

Dual diagnosis is a common clinical condition in the UK. Whether you are dealing with a mental health condition or a substance abuse condition, one often leads to or encourages the other. UK studies have reported dual diagnosis in 20–37% of people across all mental health settings and 6–15% in addiction settings. UKAT understands the difficulties faced when dealing with a dual diagnosis and has developed and honed a dual diagnosis programme that can help you overcome it.

On this page, we’ll look at what dual diagnosis is, how dual diagnosis treatment works, the main components of treatment and how UKAT can help you recover.

  • Jump to
  • What is dual diagnosis?
  • Treatment for dual diagnosis
  • How UKAT can help you
  • Frequently asked questions


What is dual diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis defines having a mental health condition and an addiction simultaneously. An example would be someone who is both an alcoholic and clinically depressed. It is difficult to accurately detect a dual diagnosis because substance abuse often masks an underlying mental illness or vice versa. However, doctors and therapists have made great strides in the field and can often detect it at its early stages.

Adults and young people who deal with severe mental illness and substance abuse are some of the most vulnerable people in our society because treating someone with co-occurring conditions requires a specialist with experience in the field, and a unique treatment programme tailored to the two individual conditions must be applied if they are to experience eventual success in overcoming them.

Treatment for dual diagnosis

Should you enrol in a dual diagnosis treatment programme, one of the first things you’ll experience is a professional assessment of your current condition. Your doctors and therapists will want to differentiate between pre-existing conditions and your substance abuse. Differentiating between conditions allows doctors to understand cause and effect. It allows them to effectively create treatment plans that address substance abuse without negatively impacting your mental health.

Attempting to deal with co-occurring disorders via a self-help strategy is discouraged. As a general rule, self-help is effectively unlikely for long-term recovery. Remember that dual diagnosis issues are complex and require understanding both addiction and mental disorders. We urge you to seek out professional help rather than trying to do this on your own.

We also advise you to seek out group support. We cannot overstate the value of group support for both addiction and mental disorders, as it provides mutual accountability, educational opportunities and a safe environment where you can discuss your issues with others who understand what you are going through.

There are three main components of dual diagnosis treatment to help alleviate the challenges presented. These are detox, counselling and personal ownership.


The need for detox is often present with substance addiction, as it’s important to rid your system of any toxic chemicals. The benefits of drug detox will have an ever-increasing positive effect on your mental and physical health. By removing the substance from your body, you have given yourself the best possible chance of growing and achieving your goals because it cannot play with your mind and therefore hinder your progress.


Both addiction and mental illness utilise counselling as a part of treatment. In both cases, clients train new ways of thinking to avoid falling back into the same pitfalls that led to the problems in the first place.

Counselling provides you with skills that are applicable in your everyday life. When presented with a challenging situation where you are at risk of relapse, you can rely on the skills learnt during counselling to overcome the temptation and keep moving forward with your recovery.

Personal ownership

Both addiction and mental illness require personal ownership if clients are to maintain recovery. It is easy for someone caught in a dual diagnosis situation to blame one condition on another and expect, incorrectly so, that solving one problem will mean permanent recovery. Both issues need to be addressed, and if addiction is your primary condition, then this must be dealt with first. Overcoming addiction is not easy and requires dedication, and rehab will only work if you are willing to use the tools taught to you to make positive change.

How UKAT can help you

Dual diagnosis scenarios are treated by combating the primary issue first. If your mental health disorder is a result of your addiction and doesn’t need urgent care, we offer world-class support for addiction as a primary issue, and our diverse treatments and workshops help you to address a range of issues that may contribute to your secondary condition. Our therapists understand the need for custom treatments for every individual, and we typically recommend residential treatment as the best course of action for these cases. Remember that dual diagnosis involves co-occurring conditions that are more challenging to treat. While it is possible to handle a dual diagnosis scenario using outpatient treatment, residential treatment is preferred because it offers more concentrated care in an environment that is more conducive to getting well.

UKAT is the leading provider of bespoke addiction treatment in the UK and will give you the best possible opportunity for recovery. With the skills gained during our treatment programmes, you will know how to stay on the road to recovery and avoid a relapse. If you or someone you know requires some help, please know that you are not alone. We are ready and waiting to offer you the best possible chance at a successful recovery.

[Addictions] started like magical pets, pocket monsters. They did extraordinary tricks, showed you things you hadn’t seen, were fun. But came, through some gradual dire alchemy, to make decisions for you. Eventually, they were making your most crucial life decisions. And they were less intelligent than goldfish.

– William Gibson

Call us now for help
+44 2039 496 584


Frequently asked questions

How common is dual diagnosis?
Dual diagnosis is more common than most people know, with as many as 50% of those suffering from mental health issues being prone to using drugs or alcohol.
How does a dual diagnosis affect a person?
Dual diagnosis affects different people in different ways. In most cases, however, the co-occurring disorders are made worse the longer they are ignored, making it vital to seek medical treatment if you suspect you or a loved one is suffering from a dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis negatively affects both your mental and physical health, commonly inducing more psychiatric symptoms and physical health problems.
Which comes first, mental illness or addiction?
There is no black and white answer to this question. In some cases, one disorder precedes the other. But there are plenty of cases in which the two disorders begin manifesting themselves around the same time.
Our brand promise

If you successfully complete our 90-day inpatient treatment programme but experience a relapse within 30 days of leaving, we will welcome you back for complimentary 30 days of treatment.*

* Click here to learn more or contact UKAT directly for rehab availability.

Start The Admissions Process Now
  • Easy
  • Confidential
  • Lifetime Support

Call Now +44 2039 496 584

Call Now +44 2039 496 584

Call Now
+44 2039 496 584

Text “Help” to 66777

Corona Virus SymbolUKAT Group centres will continue to follow health and safety precautions to reduce the risk of COVID-19 entering our clinics.