Stigma and Misconceptions About Dual Diagnosis

Addressing Stigma and Misconceptions About Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is sometimes referred to as a co-occurring disorder. The term is used to refer to the simultaneous presence of a mental health and substance use disorder. Treating a dual diagnosis is possible. Both conditions are addressed at the same time. However, there are often social factors that prevent someone from receiving the correct treatment.

There is a strong stigma against mental illness in this country, which can seriously interfere with getting proper treatment. This issue comes from misunderstandings, historical views, and social factors.

Over Half of People With Mental Illness Don’t Receive Enough Help

A study carried out by the American Psychiatric Association showed that more than half of people with some form of mental illness don’t receive help for their disorder. They often avoid seeking treatment due to the stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness. People who face mental health conditions are often marginalized and find it harder to progress in life due to misunderstandings and prejudice.

However, a mental illness or addiction can happen to almost anyone. There is nothing biological that prevents people from succumbing to an addiction due to their life circumstances and social factors.

Likewise, there is nothing that would stop someone from developing a mental illness due to environmental factors or otherwise. Since we are susceptible to developing one condition, we can also develop both. This leads to a dual diagnosis.

If having just a single mental illness is discriminated against, then having a dual diagnosis would lead to even more stigma.

The Types of Stigma That Affect People With Mental Health Conditions

Researchers typically categorize stigma into three types: public stigma, self-stigma, and institutional stigma.

Public Stigma

The public often sees people with mental illness as dangerous, unstable, or even incompetent. They may be blamed for their disorder, and they may be shunned due to how unpredictable they are perceived to be. As a result, they will find it hard to find work, landlords may not accept them as tenants, and the healthcare system may refuse to provide sufficient assistance.


Those who have a dual diagnosis may blame themselves for their conditions. They may tell themselves that they are weak, unreliable, incompetent, and to blame for everything that has happened to them. This can drastically lower one’s self-esteem, making it hard for them to muster up the courage or motivation to progress with their career or attempt to live happily.

Institutional Stigma

The last category is reserved for stereotypes that are embodied in laws. This may include limited opportunities for those with mental illness, lowering the funding to treat or research mental illness, or refusing to provide treatments and services to those who face mental health problems.

Statistics on Mental Illness Perception

Statistics on mental health stigma show that many people who experience mental illness are worried about their perception. 12.6% said they didn’t want to receive care because they believed their neighbors might have a negative opinion, and 12% said that it might negatively impact their employment opportunities.

More worryingly, the statistics showed many negative beliefs towards those with mental illness. For instance, more than half of people believe that people are not caring or sympathetic towards those with mental illness. Around 15% believe that those with a mental illness are a burden to society. Around 8% of people think that people with a mental illness are more violent.

Society Recognizes the Stigma and Misconceptions Against Mental Illness

While there is certainly a stigma against people with mental health conditions and a dual diagnosis, society is starting to show signs of understanding.

Around 98% of people agree that people with mental health conditions experience some kind of stigma and discrimination. There have also been increases in people seeking treatment and being more comfortable talking about their mental illness.

For example, there was a 5% increase in people who felt confident talking to others about their mental illness. There was also a 7% increase in people who would tell their friends or family members if they had a mental illness.

So, between the public, self, and institutional stigma against those with a dual diagnosis, there are signs that things are beginning to change, and people are becoming more sympathetic and supportive of those with mental health conditions. This has led to an overall increase in people seeking help. Additionally, being more open to talking about their experiences could help others cope with their conditions too.

Help Is Available – Your Journey Begins Here

If you or someone you know is struggling with a dual diagnosis, remember that you are not alone. Help is available when you need it. The Massachusetts Center for Addiction is committed to providing comprehensive, empathetic care for those facing the challenges of mental health disorders and substance use disorders. Our team of experts understands the intricacies of dual diagnosis and offers tailored treatment plans to meet the unique needs of each individual.

Don’t let stigma or misconceptions stop you from seeking the support you deserve. Reach out to the Massachusetts Center for Addiction today and take the first step towards a healthier, more fulfilling life. Together, we can break down barriers and build a path to recovery and wellness. Contact us directly to learn more about our programs and how we can assist you or your loved ones in this journey. Remember, hope and healing are within reach, and we are here to help every step of the way.

MCA Staff
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