Co-occurring Disorders

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 8.2 million American adults (3.4 percent) had a mental illness and a substance use disorder. Sometimes this is also known as dual diagnosis or dual diagnosis disorders. The same study found that 2.6 million American adults had a co-occurrence of serious mental illness and a substance abuse disorder and over 50% of people with a substance use disorder also had a mental health condition.

While some people begin using substances to self-medicate or “treat” their mental health, others develop a mental illness due to drug and alcohol use. Often each condition will exacerbate the other. Ultimately, which came first isn’t as important as treating both co-occurring conditions. Surprising or not, alcohol and many other drugs can significantly impact mental illness and cause or increase many symptoms. This is because drugs change the way the brain works. Substance use disorder is also considered a mental health disorder, and treatment for both can improve your overall mental health and well-being.

Substance Abuse Disorders

A substance use disorder (SUD) comprises:

  • Drug abuse or alcohol abuse
  • Drug dependence or alcohol dependence

A SUD can be defined as a pattern of symptoms resulting from the use of a substance. Those with the disorder will continue using despite adverse consequences, even if they involve family, friends, the law, or mental health.

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On the other hand, a more severe condition is when an individual has an alcohol or drug dependence where they experience physiological dependence.

Mental Health Disorders

A substance use disorder (SUD) comprises:

  • Drug abuse or alcohol abuse
  • Drug dependence or alcohol dependence

Mood changes and anxiety are two of the most common mental health disorders found in individuals with a substance use disorder. It’s important to note that individuals who already have a mental disorder may be at a higher risk of developing a problem with drugs or alcohol. Here are some diagnoses that are associated with co-occurring substance use disorders broken down into three different categories:

Mood-Related Disorders

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major depression
  • Dysthymia

Anxiety-Related Disorders

  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Severe Mental Illness

  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Causes & Symptoms of Co-Occurring Disorders

addiction. Some people may have a higher risk because of their genetic makeup. In other cases, the environment may also play a role in the risk of a co-occurring disorder. Some symptoms that people with co-occurring conditions may experience are related directly to the substance they are abusing and their particular mental health disorder. However, individuals with co-occurring disorders are at a much higher risk for problems such as:

  • Hospitalizations
  • Financial issues
  • Homelessness
  • Relapses
  • Social isolation
  • Family issues
  • Sexual/physical victimization
  • Incarceration

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Process

An individual must receive help when experiencing co-occurring diagnoses, such as mental illness and substance use disorder. A recovery treatment center or rehab with a focus on treating these conditions can help you. Most dual diagnosis treatment programs consist of various treatments for those living with both a drug and/or alcohol addiction and a mental disorder. These may include:

  • Treatment Plan: All individuals are given a unique, customized plan consisting of medical and therapeutic interventions to assist with mental health symptoms and any personal problems.
  • Diagnosis: These help individuals understand their past experiences and create future plans.
  • Evaluation: This step is essential to ensure that an individual’s mental health symptoms are diagnosed correctly.
  • Medical Detox: This is the first several days to several weeks after the individual has stopped using the substance. Detox provides all individuals with monitoring and support to help with balancing treatment.
  • Group Therapy: 12-step groups and groups that look at a particular aspect of addiction are a part of treatment programs.
  • Individual Therapy: This is one-on-one therapy, which is known as the “foundation of recovery.” It gives individuals a platform to feel safe to talk about any issues.
  • Family Therapy: Working together with the family to restore relationships that have been affected during the addiction phase is essential.
  • Aftercare Support/Sober Living: Individuals are encouraged to develop an aftercare plan with a therapist to help them fulfill goals to assist with recovery into independent living.

Individuals should consider specific lifestyle changes to promote wellness and overall health. These are some lifestyle changes that can take place at an integrated recovery treatment program:

  • Communication skills improvement
  • Sleep habit improvement
  • Eating behavior improvement
  • Discussion of any chronic medical conditions
  • Improving family relationships
  • Discussion of any work-related issues
  • Legal issue management

In addition to the more well-known mental health disorders, health problems are also essential to treat. Rehabs with a full medical staff can help you manage these conditions as part of your co-occurring disorder treatment, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Asthma
  • Smoking
  • Obesity

Do you believe that you or a loved one are suffering from a substance use disorder? Talk to our experienced addiction professionals by calling: (844) 978-1524