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Co-occurring Disorders: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatments

in 2018 9.2 million americans had both a substance use problem and a mental disorder. in 2020 that number rose to 18 million americans living with co-occuring disorders

Substance abuse and mental health problems are real, serious diseases. They often overlap and are known as co-occurring disorders. People dealing with these issues deserve help, support, and understanding. They deserve effective co-occurring disorder treatment that leads to a healthy lifestyle.

What is Co-occurring Disorder?

Co-occurring disorders are conditions in which a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder coexist. These disorders affect the same areas of the brain of the person at the same time. The terms co-occurring disorder and dual diagnosis are used interchangeably.

The adequate treatment of a co-occurring disorder requires more intensive, individualized care than would be required for the treatment of a single disorder. Mental health symptoms and substance abuse symptoms can worsen both conditions. Drug and alcohol abuse can also deteriorate a person’s physical health, which can lead to additional consequences that make treatment for this subset of patients more difficult.

How Common are Co-Occurring Disorders?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 9.2 million Americans have both a substance use problem and a mental disorder. In 2020, that number rose to 17 million Americans living with co-occurring disorders. Men make up more than half of those with co-occurring disorders.

Several mental conditions that may overlap with substance use disorders (SUDs), including:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addiction
  • Anxiety disorders and addiction (e.g., stress, phobias, panic disorder, etc.)
  • Depression and addiction
  • Personality disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and addiction
  • Psychotic disorders and addiction (e.g., schizophrenia)

Because alcohol or drug use and mental health issues often co-occur, screening for either a mental health illness or a substance use disorder will typically entail a comprehensive evaluation for the other as well.

Risk Factors

Multiple risk factors can lead to the development of co-occurring disorders. Some people have a genetic risk factor for both addiction and certain mental health difficulties, which raises their likelihood of being diagnosed with co-occurring disorders. Other factors, including family history, environmental factors, trauma history, high levels of stress, and other factors that overlap, may also contribute to COD.

The use of drugs or alcohol to manage or “self-medicate” mental health problems rather than seeking mental health and substance addiction therapy in a treatment facility is another important risk factor. Although substance abuse might be beneficial in the short term, it is not a sustainable solution and often worsens mental and physical health issues. In addition, chronic drug and alcohol use can create structural and functional changes in the brain, which can degrade mental health issues.

Signs and Symptoms of Co-Occurring Disorders

There are a variety of combinations of co-occurring disorders, each of which manifests unique signs and symptoms. They will also require different treatment methods. Fortunately, mental health centers are beginning to detect individuals with co-occurring disorders using alcohol and drug screening tools. The following are symptoms of a co-occurring substance disorder:

  • Risky behavior
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Social isolation
  • Loss of control over how much they use substances or drink alcohol
  • Displaying withdrawal symptoms
  • Cravings for the substance
  • Using substances under dangerous conditions

Symptoms of a mental health disorder might also differ from person to person. However, the most serious warning symptoms are confused thinking, concentration difficulties, and suicidal ideas. If a person exhibits these signs of a co-occurring condition, it is crucial that they get prompt, professional medical attention from skilled mental health and substance addiction counselors.

Diagnosis of Co-Occurring Disorders

As symptoms of SUDs and mental health problems often overlap, diagnosing co-occurring disorders can be difficult at times. It is important to get a proper diagnosis for both conditions from a skilled healthcare professional to receive effective treatment for the condition.

Co-occurring disorders can only be diagnosed by a licensed medical or mental health practitioner. They will use criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) of the American Psychiatric Association to screen for the existence of a mental health issue as well as a substance use disorder (SUD). The DSM-5 includes specified time limits and behavioral, psychological, and emotional criteria to aid in the proper diagnosis of co-occurring disorders.

To screen for psychiatric disease and addiction, an evaluation may include the use of a wide variety of comprehensive assessment tools. People who join a treatment center for SUD may undergo observation after they’ve been abstinent from substances for a certain period of time; this can help to determine whether they are also experiencing a non-substance-induced mental disease.

Treatment of Co-occurring Disorders

Generally, co-occurring disorders should be treated together, a practice known as an integrated treatment. This implies that you receive treatment for both the addiction and the mental health issues simultaneously. Treatment for co-occurring disorders often comprises medication, counseling, and behavioral treatments, depending on the specific substance you use and your mental health diagnosis.

At The Recovery Team, we provide individualized, evidence-based treatment for co-occurring disorders, which can take place at various levels of addiction treatment. We offer a continuum of care that consists of medical detox, residential rehab, partial hospitalization programs (PHP), outpatient rehab, transitional living, and aftercare. Our professional experts will conduct a comprehensive medical and psychosocial evaluation to find the most suitable placement for you.

During treatment, you may get some medications, such as those used for opioid detox, alcohol detox, or nicotine addiction, as well as those used to alleviate the symptoms of mental health issues.

In addition, you may engage in group or individual sessions of various forms of treatment. This can include behavioral therapies such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), massage therapy, and yoga, which helps in changing negative thoughts and behaviors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the most effective approach for the treatment of co-occurring disorders?

Integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders, an evidence-based practice, is one of the most successful treatment options available, with consistent, good outcomes for those diagnosed with COD.

How are comorbid disorders treated?

The treatment of comorbidity usually requires coordination between professional doctors and organizations that offer supportive services to address difficulties such as homelessness, physical health, occupational skills, and legal challenges.

What is the best treatment for dual diagnosis?

Integrated intervention, in which a person receives therapy for both their documented mental illness and drug use problem, is the most effective treatment for dual diagnosis.

What is dual diagnosis treatment?

Dual diagnosis treatment refers to the simultaneous treatment of substance abuse and mental health issues. Co-occurring disorders are quite common among substance abusers, as a mental disease such as anxiety or depression frequently leads to substance abuse. Because drug addiction and mental illness may worsen both conditions, treatment for those with dual diagnoses typically differs from treatment for one or the other. To make progress with substance abuse, you must treat the mental health condition. Many people undergo withdrawal, inpatient or outpatient treatment, hospitalization, and eventually sober living programs.

Why do mental health disorders coexist with substance use?

Substance use disorders and other mental diseases are caused by factors that overlap, including genetic and epigenetic vulnerabilities, issues with similar brain areas, and environmental factors such as early exposure to stress or trauma.

The Recovery Team Can Help You Regain Peace of Mind

Choosing the right integrated treatment provider is the first step toward a long-lasting recovery. The Recovery Team is a state-of-the-art treatment facility for the treatment of co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

Our medical staff is educated in the most current and scientifically supported treatment approaches. We treat mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health as a whole. We do so in a tranquil, private, and healing location.

Contact us at (800) 817-1247 for more details on our mental health and addiction treatment options.