What Is a Co-Occurring Disorder?
A co-occurring disorder is a medical diagnosis that indicates a person is suffering from both a mental health condition and a substance use disorder at the same time.
Although both disorders are typically treated separately, when they are present in the same person, it’s best to treat both conditions simultaneously, as the issues are likely related to one another. Each disorder can also impact the other in different ways.
The categories of mental health conditions that often co-occur with substance use disorders are:
- Mood disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Psychotic disorders
- Personality disorders
- Eating disorders
A person suffering from a mood disorder is troubled by changes in their mood that negatively affects their lives. Depression and bipolar disorder, for example, often co-occur with substance use disorders. It’s not clear which condition is manifested first, but one certainly has an effect on the other.
Anxiety disorders can include different types of conditions:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
People with anxiety disorders tend to turn to substance use in order to relieve their symptoms, often leading to addiction.
A person with a psychotic disorder experiences changes in their ways of thinking and in their perceptions of themselves and others. Schizophrenia, delusional disorder and schizoaffective disorder are examples of psychotic conditions. Psychosis, a symptom of these disorders that involves hallucinations or delusions, can make it difficult to diagnose a co-occurring disorder with substance abuse, as the symptoms sometimes overlap.
Personality Disorders manifest in unhealthy behaviors and ways of thinking that negatively affect daily life and relationships. Some personality disorders the can occur along with substance use disorder are:
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Antisocial Personality Disorder
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder
These mental health conditions typically co-occur with drug addiction rather than with alcohol abuse.
Eating Disorders involve dysfunctional eating habits. Some eating disorders that co-occur with substance abuse include:
- Binge Eating Disorder
- Anorexia Nervosa
- Bulimia Nervosa
These types of eating disorders can sometimes be linked to genetic factors that also make a person more susceptible to substance addiction, placing them at a higher risk for acquiring a co-occurring disorder.
Some specific mental health disorders that tend to co-occur most often alongside a substance use disorder are:
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Some people suffering with depression may begin abusing alcohol or drugs to feel better or to escape from reality.
Someone with OCD cannot control their intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, which often interferes with their life activities. This mental health disorder is often found in individuals who also suffer with substance abuse disorder.
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Signs of a Co-Occurring Disorder
Co-occurring disorders involving mental illness and substance use disorder need to be diagnosed by a physician and/or a mental health professional. There are some common signs that can be noted, however, to help someone recognize that help is necessary.
The signs of a co-occurring disorder in a person will include symptoms of both the mental health condition and the substance use disorder. These signs typically will involve:
- Neglecting and withdrawing from relationships with loved ones and friends
- Changes in behavior that occur suddenly
- Having trouble taking care of or managing everyday tasks
- Participating in risky behaviors
- Not paying attention to health issues or hygiene
- Abusing drugs or alcohol under dangerous conditions
- Not being able to control substance use
- Developing a tolerance to a drug or to alcohol
- Having withdrawal symptoms
- Needing to use a substance just to be able to function normally
- Getting in trouble with the law
- Having financial problems
- Lacking control over emotions
- Not being able to communicate coherently
Dangers of Self-Medication
Self-medication occurs when someone turns to substances to help them cope with the physical and psychological issues they’re experiencing due to a mental health disorder. This is an unhealthy way to try to and manage your symptoms because self-medicating with drugs or alcohol can lead to addiction.
Not only can self-medication usher in a substance use disorder, but it can also worsen your current mental health condition. Someone who is suffering from a mood disorder, like depression, may decide to self-medicate by abusing alcohol. Unfortunately, when the effects of the alcohol (a depressant, itself) wear off, worse symptoms of depression will set in. This may lead to drinking more alcohol, which will begin a cycle leading to addiction and a co-occurring disorder.
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Co-Occurring Disorders Statistics
More than 20 million adults in the US have a substance use disorder. Nearly 38% of them also suffer from mental illness.
Forty-two million adults have a mental health disorder. 18.2% of them also are diagnosed with substance use disorders.
Close to 8 million adults have been diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder. It’s often hard to determine which occurred first: the mental illness or the substance use disorder.
It’s estimated that 20% of people who suffer from an anxiety disorder also acquire an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
PTSD and substance use disorder often co-occur. In fact, nearly 50% of patients diagnosed with PTSD have a co-occurring addiction to substances.
The same percentages of people (50%) who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder also have substance use disorder. The two mental health conditions must be treated simultaneously.
Persons with bipolar disorder also suffer from substance use disorder at high rates. They often use drugs or alcohol to help manage their symptoms.
People with co-occurring disorders don’t always get the treatment they need:
- 52.5% receive no treatment for either disorder
- 34.5% only receive treatment for their mental health issues
- 9.1% receive help for their co-occurring disorders
- 3.9% only get treatment for their substance use disorder
The reasons why people with co-occurring disorders aren’t getting the mental health care they need vary widely:
- More than half of them couldn’t afford to get the necessary treatment.
- They didn’t know where to go for treatment,
- They thought they could handle their issues on their own,
- They were afraid of being committed to an institution,
- They said they didn’t have the time for treatment.
Adults who have co-occurring disorders but aren’t being treated for their substance use disorder report that:
- They’re not ready to stop abusing substances,
- They have no health insurance to cover treatment,
- They are concerned about their bosses or neighbors finding out,
- They don’t know where to get treatment
- They couldn’t find a program to treat their condition.
Treatment Options For Co-Occurring Disorders
The optimal treatment for co-occurring disorders is personalized treatment that’s targeted to your personal diagnoses. Customized dual diagnosis treatment begins with medication-assisted detoxification, followed by drug rehab treatment and treatment to address your co-occurring mental illness.
The specialized treatment program at Resurgence Behavioral Health addresses both your addiction and your underlying mental health conditions. We take a holistic approach to your care by getting to the root of your causes for substance use and focusing on learning how to help you cope with life’s twists and turns and problem-solve without the need for substance use.
Through a program that uses individual and group therapy, nutrition and exercise, medication management, group support, family therapy and aftercare planning, we customize a plan that will help you get back your life.
Detox: The treatment options for co-occurring disorders begin with a period of detox to cleanse your system of the substances you’ve been abusing. Once you’ve gone through withdrawal with 24-hour supervision and medications to relieve discomfort and anxiety, you can begin rehab treatment.
Inpatient Treatment: Residential treatment is often the most successful type of treatment for co-occurring disorders. During inpatient treatment, you will live on-site at our serene, beautiful campus that offers you around-the-clock care, delicious meals, wonderful amenities, including our equine therapy located on the grounds.
Outpatient Treatment: This is a great option for patients who cannot take time away from work, school or family obligations but need to receive treatment a few times a week by coming to our center for therapy.
We also offer a Partial Hospitalization Program and Intensive Outpatient Program.
Our trauma-informed care helps patients who need specialized counseling in this field. Patients suffering from disorders involving trauma, such as PTSD, along with substance use disorder, will find that our trauma-informed care is an individualized treatment program that places them in a safe, comfortable environment where they can get past their issues and move on to enjoy life once again.
Mental health treatment at Resurgence is very specific to your holistic needs for recovery. Our evidence-based treatment utilizes rational emotive behavioral therapy methods to help you successfully deal successfully with your issues in a safe, relaxing home environment.
Our therapists are highly trained and have decades of experience in designing a program to suit your unique needs for recovery. Some of our treatment modalities include:
- Medically assisted treatment (MAT)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
- Rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT)
Getting at the root of your issues with the guidance of professional clinicians helps bring everything to light so you can heal and find that health and happiness awaits you.