Mental health care. Depressed young black woman suffering from emotional burnout on couch at home

What Is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

When you suffer from addiction and an underlying mental health condition, this is called a co-occurring disorder. Addiction and the co-occurring disorder work together to worsen each other, creating a vicious cycle that is difficult to break without treatment. Addiction is often a symptom of a co-occurring disorder rather than a stand-alone condition. Keep reading to learn more about what a co-occurring disorder is and how to receive proper treatment for long-term, successful sobriety.

Do I Have a Co-Occurring Disorder?

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, co-occurring disorders may include any combination of two or more substance use disorders and mental disorders identified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). No specific combinations of mental and substance use disorders are defined uniquely as co-occurring disorders.

Some of the most common mental disorders seen in MAT, as well as the conditions that Luxe Treatment Center’s therapeutic staff is trained to recognize, include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Trauma

When a new client enters our addiction treatment center, one of the first steps our team makes is to complete a thorough evaluation and assessment. This allows our team to identify any co-occurring mental health disorders and begin targeted treatments to reduce symptoms. It also affords our team an opportunity to answer the question, “What is a co-occurring disorder?” and help clients understand the treatment process.

Often, co-occurring disorders cannot be diagnosed straight away. The symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawals often closely parallel the symptoms of mental illness. As such, our team routinely watches for signs and symptoms of mental health disorders throughout the treatment process.

How Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders Make Each Other Worse

Co-occurring disorders can be diagnosed or undiagnosed. Many times, the individual may not even know that they are suffering from a co-occurring disorder that is worsening their addiction.

People with co-occurring disorders tend to self-medicate, whether knowingly or unknowingly, to escape the symptoms of their disorder. However, some of the side effects of drug and alcohol use include depression and anxiety. When a mental health condition is compounded by those side effects of substance abuse, it makes the condition worse and, in turn, makes the addiction spiral further.

At times, the relationship between substance abuse and other mental health disorders can go the other way. Some people may develop mood or anxiety disorders as a result of drug abuse. For instance, a person can develop depression in response to years of drinking.

Regardless of the direction of causality, treating co-occurring disorders is of vital importance to ensure long-term recovery.

How Are Co-Occurring Disorders Treated?

Co-occurring disorders must be treated simultaneously as substance abuse issues, alongside addiction treatment. This ensures that one will not exacerbate the other after treatment is over. This makes your choice of a treatment center, as well as your openness during treatment, vital for your recovery.

Dealing with issues of this nature can seriously hinder your ability to focus on sobriety. So we work with you through individualized treatment administered by our licensed, knowledgeable professionals to help you deal with any underlying conditions. These sessions will enable you to understand better the relationship between the dual disorders and how they can amplify your distress. Once you recognize these factors, you can better deal with the issues at hand.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

When people have co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, the style of treatment is often referred to as dual-diagnosis treatment or integrated treatment. People in a dual-diagnosis treatment program still receive the best evidence-based therapies for substance use disorders, but they also receive specialized treatment from trained mental health providers to alleviate their mental health symptoms.

This could include treatments such as:

  • Meeting with a psychiatrist
  • Targeted psychiatric medications
  • Group therapy for mental health
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Trauma-informed therapy

Each of these treatments is effective at reducing mental health symptoms and teaching people how to manage them in the future.

Why Treating Co-Occurring Disorders Is Essential to Recovery

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has made clear that dual-diagnosis treatment is the best possible option for people seeking to overcome addiction. There are a few simple reasons why this is the case:

  • Nearly 40% of all people with a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental illness
  • People with an untreated co-occurring mental illness have a higher risk of relapse
  • Treatment for mental health disorders is highly effective
  • People who get their mental illness treated have a higher quality of life

In addition, substance abuse treatment is the perfect opportunity for people to begin working to treat their symptoms of mental illness. The best addiction treatment centers offer a wide range of supportive services that complement mental health treatment. 

These include access to mental health professionals, regular monitoring and tracking of current mental health status, and a wide range of helpful therapies and treatment methods that can benefit both addiction and mental illness.

Even if you don’t believe you have a mental health disorder, it’s often the best choice to attend a dual-diagnosis program. Many mental health conditions will only show up after the effects of drug abuse have worn off. Frequently, people who engage in regular substance abuse will have masked underlying symptoms through frequent drug or alcohol use.

What Is a Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment Plan?

Depending on your diagnosis, there are several different treatment options that may be able to help you recover. Just as there is no one-size-fits-all approach to recovering from addiction, there is no single treatment that works for every mental health disorder.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in the United States. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, roughly one in five adults are living with anxiety disorders at any given time. This includes diagnoses such as:

  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Specific phobias

Multiple treatments and therapies have been developed to help treat the symptoms of anxiety. This includes both behavioral therapies and pharmaceutical interventions, depending on the specific nature and severity of the condition.

For people dealing with both anxiety and substance abuse, dual-diagnosis treatment centers are of particular benefit. Many of the medications commonly prescribed to treat anxiety are addictive in their own right, including benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. Treatment professionals at a dual-diagnosis facility are acutely aware of this complication and can weigh the pros and cons of medications to ensure you receive the most beneficial treatment.

Behavioral therapies for anxiety disorders include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction

Having options in your treatment plan ensures that you find the treatment that works best for you.

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders affect the way people feel in everyday life. They include disorders such as:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Seasonal affective disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Dysthymic disorder

People with these disorders can feel incredibly sad, have little hope for the future, and struggle with focus and motivation. They may also experience significant sleep disruptions and may experience unintended weight changes. Importantly, these disorders cause significant disruption in everyday life and can last for weeks, months, or years if left untreated.

The best way to treat mood disorders is with a combination of targeted psychotherapies and psychiatric medications. Both of these treatments are effective at reducing the symptoms of mood disorders. However, combining both types of treatments can produce the best results.

Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Moreso than many other mental health disorders, there is a strong connection between PTSD and substance abuse. Nearly half of all people living with PTSD have a co-occurring substance use disorder, making dual-diagnosis treatment all the more important. People experiencing the symptoms of PTSD may turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to deal with their symptoms and cope with the events they experienced.

People who have lived through intense traumatic experiences can show a host of negative mental health symptoms. Common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Intrusive memories about the traumatic event
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Avoiding particular places, people, or situations
  • Nightmares
  • Feeling constantly on edge

Trauma treatment takes a careful approach to ensure that nobody undergoing treatment experiences retraumatization. Specialized therapies help people to break free from the restrictions that trauma placed upon them and learn to live a healthy and happy life in recovery.

Luxe Treatment Center

If you’re ready to take the next step toward recovery from substance abuse and mental health conditions, we are here for you.

Luxe Treatment Center applies evidence-based treatment methods. Therapies rely upon behavior modification and motivational interviewing as solid cornerstones for long-lasting recovery. Combined with non-invasive detoxification and psychotherapy, we utilize many proven tools to facilitate the best outcomes possible.

We know this is a difficult time for you, and we recognize how brave you are to come forward and ask for help. For more information, please visit us at luxetreatmentcenter.com or fill out our confidential online contact form.

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