What Is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

When you hear of mental illness, you don’t necessarily associate it with addiction and vice versa. In today’s society, millions of people worldwide suffer from mental health disorders. They are much more common than you think. Unfortunately, just because someone suffers from a mental health disorder, doesn’t mean they are immune to addiction. All too often, a person can have a mental illness and addiction at the same time. This is called a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Today, we’d like to take a deeper dive into dual diagnosis & co-occurring disorders. 

What Is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

A co-occurring disorder is a term that describes an underlying mental health concern alongside a substance use disorder. Co-occurring disorders can look a little different on everyone, and it isn’t proven if one “causes” the other. Kind of like what came first, the chicken or the egg?

Many people abuse alcohol and drugs to cope with anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. Others experience mental health issues after alcohol or drug triggers. 

Common Co-Occurring Disorders in Addiction

Several underlying mental health concerns can prompt someone to start abusing alcohol and drugs. One reason is they may use substances to mask feelings and emotions such as guilt, anxiety, pain, and shame.

While some co-occurring disorders are more prevalent than others, every disorder should be treated as soon as possible. Some common co-occurring disorders include we see in addiction treatment are:

  • Depression

Depression is a condition that affects all kinds of people, regardless of age, gender, race, etc. Many abuse drugs and alcohol to cope with emotional feelings and even excitement.

However, these substances can cause substance-induced depression as soon as the initial excitement wears off. This then triggers more drug or alcohol abuse, especially if the user wants to experience the euphoria to suppress any negative emotion. A dangerous cycle of depression followed by an intense addiction and vice versa ,then can potentially follow.

  • Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a disorder marked by extreme mood swings. Symptoms may include emotional highs (mania) mania or emotional lows (depression). 

People with this condition often abuse drugs to assuage the gravity of these episodes, eventually causing severe brain activity levels. Some studies reveal that a bipolar sufferer will abuse drugs or alcohol at some point in their lives.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD develops as a result of life-threatening and stressful experiences like accidents, natural disasters, or long-term bullying.  

To relieve the symptoms of PTSD, it’s not uncommon for someone to use alcohol or drugs. However, substance abuse can aggravate PTSD symptoms. And since the symptoms can be weakening, sufferers may continue to abuse drugs or alcohol to manage the symptoms irrespective of the consequences.

  • Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is marked by visual or auditory hallucinations. It is a condition that affects how an individual feels, thinks, and acts. 

Schizophrenic individuals often abuse drugs or alcohol to manage schizophrenic episodes and to overcome hallucinations. Sadly, abusing drugs and alcohol can increase the frequency and severity of the episodes.

Types of Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorder

Fortunately, there are numerous treatment options and addiction treatment centers available for co-occurring disorders, such as: 

  • Intensive individual therapy with a licensed therapist or psychiatrist can address the symptoms of co-occurring disorders.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy can teach sufferers how to cope with the disorder and raise self-awareness.
  • Medication therapy can help control psychiatric symptoms and lessen the urge for alcohol or drugs.
  • Group therapy for people who are going through similar disorders can help treat the disorder.
  • Counseling and family education help loved ones know the nature of the disorder.
  • Holistic therapies, including yoga, meditation, recreation therapies, creative therapies, can help encourage self-expression.

Finding Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Managing a co-occurring disorder can be difficult if you attempt to do it alone. If you or your loved one has a mental health condition and is abusing alcohol or drugs, it is crucial to get professional help as soon as possible. Abusing drugs and alcohol can make a co-occurring disorder much worse. So contact us today, and begin the path to healing.

Enlight Treatment Center encourages and promotes choices for healthier living by offering professional assistance to people who need crisis intervention and therapy for substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders.

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Our admissions team is available 24/7 for those in need of treatment. Even if we are not a match for you or your loved one, we are here to help. It is a cornerstone practice of  Enlight Treatment Center to serve as a bridge between the community and treatment.

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