What are Co-Occurring Disorders?

what are cooccurring disorders A co-occurring disorder is the diagnosis given to people who suffer from a substance used disorder or addiction and a mental illness. Every case of co-occurring disorders is different depending on the individual. In some cases, the mental illness precedes the substance addiction, and in other cases, the substance dependence can cause the psychological disorder. This co-occurrence is also referred to as a dual diagnosis, and requires treatment from licensed psychologists at a certified rehabilitation center.

People who suffer from metal illness often find it difficult to cope with the symptoms of their disorder. As a result, they turn to drugs and alcohol in order to self-medicate. Others develop a mental health disorder as a result of years of heavy drug use and addiction. In many cases of dual diagnosis, each condition exacerbates the other, making treatment all the more necessary.


What is a Mental Health Disorder?

The industry standard for the diagnosis of a mental illness in the U.S. is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This manual defines the diagnostic criteria and classifications of mental disorders for diagnosis and treatment. Each disorder is defined by a set of symptoms that are typically present or exhibited by the individual, as well as the amount of time those symptoms are present, and the level of severity. If a person is experiencing very acute symptoms that interfere with their daily lives for an extended period of time, this is often a sign that they have a mental health disorder.

Each disorder in the DSM-5 includes a description including some of the following:

  • The pervasiveness of the disease
  • How the disorder generally develops and the course it takes
  • Risk factors and prognosis for the disease
  • Diagnostic criteria
  • Other features of the disorder that could add to the issues
  • How the disorder affects the individual’s ability to function

What are the Types of Mental Health Disorders?

  • Depression
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Personality Disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Eating Disorders

How Often do Addiction and Mental Illness Co-Occur?

Which are the Most Common Disorders with Addiction ?

Some of the most commonly co-occurring mental health disorders and addictions include: mental illness

  • Alcoholism and Anti-Social Personality Disorder
  • Marijuana Addiction and Schizophrenia
  • Cocaine Addiction and Anxiety Disorders
  • Opioid Addiction and PTSD
  • Heroin Addiction and Depression
  • Alcoholism and Depression
  • Prescription Drug Addiction and Anxiety

What are the Effects of Self-Medicating?

People who use drugs or alcohol to medicate the symptoms of their mental illness may experience some of the following physical and emotional side effects: 

  • They can experience cravings for drugs or alcohol
  • Build up of tolerance for the drug, requiring higher doses
  • An increase in the severity of mental health symptoms
  • Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when drug use or drinking is stopped or reduced
  • Addiction

When someone has been diagnosed with co-occurring disorders, the recommended form of treatment involves a medical and therapeutic approach that addresses both conditions simultaneously. Dual diagnosis treatment is a specialized form of treatment designed to address the underlying causes of addiction, as well as treat the symptoms of the mental health disorder. At our featured rehab centers, clinical staff will create a specialized treatment program that includes the administering of prescription medications, along with individual counseling sessions and behavioral therapies that treat both conditions. Integrating treatment for the mental illness into an addiction treatment program increases the success rate for recovery. It also helps to reduce the risk of relapse after rehab treatment is completed.

Medical Detox

Undergoing a detox period under the supervision and care of medical experts is the safest and most effective way to address the physical addiction to drugs and alcohol. Our medical experts will help to mitigate the often dangerous symptoms of withdrawal with the use of medications and 24/7 monitoring to make sure patients are stable throughout the process.

Evaluation and Diagnosis 

In order to accurately diagnose and treat co-occurring disorders, a thorough evaluation must be made. The information gathered from this evaluation will be taken into account when the diagnosis is considered, and will allow for a more thorough treatment plan to be created.

Treatment Plan

A unique and customized treatment plan is created for each patient according to their specific needs. A range of medical and therapeutic treatments will be used to help the recovering addiction heal physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Through therapy, dual diagnosis patients will learn how to manage the symptoms of their mental health disorder, and learn new coping techniques so they can live a life free of drugs and alcohol. Examples of therapeutic treatments include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic/Alternative therapies

Aftercare Services 

As patients begin to near the end of their treatment program, they will be provided with a unique addiction aftercare plan. This will include a list of resources, a range of treatment services, such as follow up care and outpatient rehab. Other aftercare services include sober living facilities and local support groups and meetings. Patients with co-occurring disorders benefits most from ongoing treatment that addresses both conditions, especially mental health counseling. The holistic and alternative treatments that worked for them during rehab should also be continued after treatment is completed.

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