Co-Occurring Disorders

To seek treatment for addiction with a co-occurring behavior or mental disorder will provide a better chance of successfully attaining a happy and healthy lifestyle that you deserve.

What is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

Most individuals diagnosed with a substance use disorder are usually also suffering from co-occurring mental health or behavioral disorder. These conditions will often occur together and are known as dual diagnosis. About half of the individuals with a mental health disorder will also suffer from substance use disorder and vice versa. The interactions between both conditions can only worsen each.

An integrative treatment plan to address both disorders of interconnected mental health issues will be required for individuals with a dual diagnosis. Studies from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health claim that almost 50% of individuals with addiction will also have a co-occurring mental health disorder.

A dual diagnosis is a term for individuals who are experiencing mental illness and substance use disorder at the same time. Individuals experiencing a mental health condition find themselves turning to alcohol or other drugs as a form of self-medication. Initially, this is done to improve mood and mental health symptoms. However, research has shown that drugs and alcohol make those symptoms of mental illnesses even worse.

Dual Diagnosis

Common Addiction and Mental Health Issues

Some more common mental disorders linked to substance abuse will include:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder – Individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) are most commonly known for abusing drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with their symptoms. Individuals who are prescribed stimulants to treat their ADHD may find them habit-forming, which may lead to a toxic pattern of substance abuse eventually.
  • Bipolar Disorder – About half the individuals with bipolar disorder, will struggle with addiction also. Like any other disorder, it will be extremely tempting to self medicate. Taking drugs and alcohol will provide a source of temporary relief from emotional situations and manic episodes for individuals with bipolar disorder.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder – Study shows that addiction and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) will often occur simultaneously. More than 66% of individuals with BPD have turned towards substance abuse to cope with the symptoms brought by it. 
  • Depression – It is said that one and ten adults in the U.S. have been reported for suffering from depression. Many individuals diagnosed with depression will try to self medicate with alcohol or drugs. This will often make the problem much worse. The crash after the high is devastating for individuals with any pre-existing depressive conditions.
  • Eating Disorders – An Eating disorder will often stem from an intense feeling of inferiority. Appetite suppressing drugs are most common amongst people with an eating disorder.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects about 80% of adults in the U.S., making it the most common mental condition. Individuals suffering from GAD are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs to manage the symptoms. Individuals may also abuse benzodiazepines, which are a highly addictive prescription medication that is used to treat anxiety disorders.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) will cause several unwanted obsessions and compulsions like a rational fear of germs and the need to consistently clean. 
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – When an individual develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), the brain will produce fewer endorphins than a healthy mind, which makes them more likely to start using drugs and alcohol to feel happy. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs states that nearly 75% of soldiers and veterans experiencing a traumatic or violent event during combat are known for repetitive alcohol abuse.
  • Schizophrenia – Hallucinations and delusional thinking will characterize schizophrenia. Diagnosing schizophrenia with addiction is difficult because both conditions will share the same effect. When an individual has schizophrenia and is using drugs and alcohol as a way to self medicate their condition, they are at great risk of putting their health in danger.

Symptoms of Co-Occurring Disorder

Dual Diagnosis symptoms will vary once they occur. Mental health clinics, in the beginning, were using drug and alcohol screening tools to help identify individuals at risk for drug and alcohol abuse. Some symptoms of substance abuse will include:

  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Using drugs or alcohol despite dangerous circumstances
  • Developing a high tolerance and withdrawal symptoms
  • Needing drugs or alcohol to function
  • Losing control over the substance abuse cravings

Mental health condition symptoms will vary significantly. There are warning signs such as mood changes, problems concentrating, avoiding all social activities, and suicidal thoughts may be a reason to get help.

Causes of Co-Occurring Disorder

Several factors can agitate mental health or substance use disorder which includes:

  • Brain Responses – Substance abuse can cause symptoms that mimic mental illness symptoms. For example, using excess marijuana gives rise to psychosis in some individuals, which is a severe mental disorder that causes individuals to hallucinate.
  • Genetics – An individual’s genetics can also make them more likely to develop a mental health disorder or addiction. Research shows that family genes make up to 60% of an individual’s susceptibility to addiction.
  • Environmental Triggers – A traumatic event, persistent anxiety, or chronic stress can kickstart a mental health disorder or an addiction.
  • Exposed at Early Age – Individuals experimenting with alcohol or drugs at a young age may develop mental health disorders and a substance-abuse problem later on. The causes of adolescents and young adults become more prone to bring damage from early substance abuse in older adults.

Dangers of Self Medicating

A more common issue that surrounds dual diagnosis is self-medication. Self-medication involves using alcohol and drugs to veer from the symptoms of mental health illnesses. However, abusing substances as a coping mechanism for behavior or mental illness will induce an addiction, which will make the underlying psychiatric condition even greater.

Here are a few scenarios that demonstrate how individuals will attempt to self medicate their mental illness:

  • Taking excessive amounts of benzodiazepines to curb oncoming panic attacks.
  • Drinking alcohol to curb anxiousness and social situations.
  • Using cocaine to increase energy and motivation to fulfill daily tasks.
  • Using marijuana to curb emotional pain from grief or trauma

Resorting to substances like drugs or alcohol to escape mental health conditions can be a damaging decision. An individual struggling with a mental or behavioral illness who is also abusing alcohol or drugs will consume whatever it takes to achieve the high they need. Over time, the individual builds tolerance and starts to consume more drugs or alcohol each time to reach that high. The negative, self-feeding cycle will give birth to co-occurring substance addiction and mental health disorders.

How is a Co-Occurring Disorder Treated?

The most effective treatment for dual diagnosis is an integrated intervention, which is when an individual receives care for their mental illness and substance abuse simultaneously.

The individual and treatment provider will understand the ways each condition affects each other and how the customized treatment plan can be most useful to the patient. A treatment plan will not be the same for everyone, but there are a few standard methods that are used during the treatment plan, which include:

  • Detoxification – Step one in dealing with dual diagnosis is the detoxification process. Inpatient detox Is generally more effective than an outpatient detox for the process behind it. During inpatient detox, treatment medical staff will monitor the individual 24 hours a day, for up to seven days. The medical team made minister tapered amounts of the substance or the medicated prescription alternative to wean the individual off and lessen the effects of withdrawal.
  • Inpatient Rehabilitation – individuals with a mental illness condition and dependent patterns of substance use will benefit from an inpatient rehab center where they’re able to receive medical and mental health care 24 hours. Inpatient treatment centers will provide therapy, medication, support, and health services to treat the addiction and its underlying causes.
  • Supportive Housing – Residences like group homes or sober homes are treatment centers that help individuals who are newly sober to be around peers to help avoid relapse. These residential centers will provide support and independence to everybody enlisted. Stays at residences like this may go on for long after 12 months.
  • Psychotherapy – This type of therapy is a large part of a practical tool diagnosis treatment plan. Particularly, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) will help individuals with dual diagnosis to learn how to cope and change their ineffective patterns of thinking, which increases the risk of substance use.
  • Medications – These are useful for treating individuals with diagnosed mental illness. Some medications will also help individuals experiencing substance use disorders with withdrawal symptoms while going through the detoxification process.
  • Self-Help and Support Groups – Individuals dealing with a dual diagnosis may feel challenged and isolated at times. There are support groups that allow members to share frustrations, find a referral for a specialist, celebrate their successes, find top community resources, and share recovery tips.

Which Comes First, Mental Illness or Addiction?

Some individuals will develop an addiction to alcohol or substances before they’ve been diagnosed with a mental disorder. Others will become addicted to alcohol or other substances after acquiring a mental health disorder diagnosis.

Regardless of which happens first, it is critical to find a custom treatment plan which will target both disorders simultaneously rather than a treatment plan, which will treat them separately. In the case of dual diagnosis, the bus trip form is in a structured and safe environment of an inpatient rehabilitation center.

Choosing a Rehab Facility for Co-Occurring Disorders

When choosing a rehab center, it is vital to choose one that specializes in an individual’s addiction and substance abuse disorder. This will ensure the most effective care, along with the most significant potential of a sobriety lifestyle.

An inpatient rehab facility is a top choice for co-occurring disorders due to the high level of attention and medical care the patients endure. Usually, individuals with co-occurring disorders will check into rehab in various states of distress and declining general health. The combination of a neglected mental condition and substance abuse will require the help of both addiction and mental health professionals.

Once the individual is settled into rehab, the treatment process will begin. The rehab program should incorporate several therapies, medications, and activities during the program. Counselors will hold group and individual therapy sessions, and offer patients to enroll in any of the centers provided activities and amenities.

Get Help for Co-Occurring Disorders

If you or a loved one is showing signs of addiction and a co-occurring disorder, it is time to let our treatment specialists at Absolute Awakenings to help you through this process.

Treating a dual diagnosis can be tricky, and be assured that our team is very experienced with that and many other forms of treatment. Allow our team here at Absolute Awakenings to get you the information you need to make one of the most significant decisions of your life. Contact us today.