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What Are Co-Occurring Disorders?

co-occurring disorders

Mental health and addiction are often connected. Substance use disorders affect a person’s mental state, and symptoms of mental health conditions can lead people to abuse substances to feel some relief. Since these conditions occur together so often, health care professionals and treatment programs in the recovery space treat the two conditions simultaneously in what’s known as dual diagnosis treatment. If you’re looking for compassionate, comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment in Florida, it’s important to know more about how co-occurring disorders work.

Where Addiction and Mental Health Intersect

People who have mental health conditions, when compared to the general population, are at higher risk for developing substance use disorders. Research estimates about half of the individuals with either a mental illness or a substance use disorder will develop the other during their lives. One disorder can be more severe than the other, but they will both affect one another; for instance, people may start abusing drugs or alcohol to feel relief from mental health symptoms.

Compared to someone without a dual diagnosis, a person in recovery with a dual diagnosis is likely to have more severe physical and mental health challenges and spend longer in treatment.

Common Co-occurring Disorders With Substance Abuse

Mood, anxiety, and personality disorders are frequently co-occurring conditions in people with substance use disorders. Specific co-occurring disorders that are most common include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

In some cases, people may have a genetic predisposition to a mental health or substance use disorder since both conditions can run in families or be passed down through inherited trauma. Environmental factors like a person’s surroundings or support system can increase their likelihood of developing co-occurring disorders.

In other cases, one disorder may contribute to the other. People with depression may try to “self-medicate” their feelings of sadness and emptiness by abusing substances, or people with anxiety may use drugs and alcohol to give them courage in social situations. People with post-traumatic stress disorder might abuse substances to numb the strong emotions that come with traumatic flashbacks.

Substance abuse can make a person more vulnerable to developing a mental health condition or worsen a condition someone already has. Many addictive substances change the way the brain functions. Additionally, relying on substances can prevent a person from developing healthy ways to deal with stress and emotions. And alcohol and drugs interfere with many medications prescribed for mental health conditions.

It’s not always easy to recognize if you or someone you love has co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. You may notice that mental health symptoms aren’t getting better, even during treatment with therapy and medication, if you’re still using alcohol and drugs. Or you may notice that mental illness symptoms persist even after you’ve stopped using substances if you’re not getting mental health treatment. Because addiction and mental health are connected, someone with an untreated mental health disorder is more likely to relapse.

Benefits of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

The most effective treatment programs address addiction and mental health together, taking a “whole person” approach.

One benefit of this approach is integrated treatment; your medical doctors and mental health counselors will be on the same treatment team. They’ll all have full knowledge of your physical and mental health conditions, which gives them a deeper understanding of how to tailor a successful treatment plan for your situation.

Therapy techniques can target your sobriety and mental health needs by teaching healthy coping skills, assertive communication techniques, and methods for changing destructive behavior. Not only can therapy help you deal with challenging situations without resorting to substances, but it can also give you new tools to handle mental health crises.

A good dual diagnosis treatment program also provides practical support, like case management, assistance with work and housing, and supportive alums communities that continue when you leave the program.

Footprints Beachside Recovery: Treatment for Bodies and Minds

Our treatment center in beautiful beachside Florida has various evidence-based treatment options for co-occurring disorders. Therapy is an integral part of our continuum of care. Individual and group therapy sessions are available in our outpatient and day-and-night programs. In addition to more traditional forms of therapy, we offer holistic treatments ranging from yoga, massage, and art to biosound therapy. If medication is part of your treatment plan, you’ll have access to skilled, empathetic practitioners who can design a treatment program based on your needs.

Call 727.513.5972 to learn more about co-occurring disorders or how Footprints Beachside Recovery can help you or someone you love; call 727.513.5972.