A co-occurring disorder diagnosis means that an individual has two or more disorders in tandem. Often, these disorders are mental health-related, but they can be any disorders. One extremely common co-occurring disorder diagnosis is substance use disorder and a mental health disorder. Studies show a high link between substance use disorder and mental health disorders. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):
- 7.7 million adults have co-occurring mental and substance use disorders. This doesn’t mean that one caused the other, and it can be difficult to determine which came first.
- Of the 20.3 million adults with substance use disorders, 37.9% also had mental illnesses.
- Among the 42.1 million adults with mental illness, 18.2% also had substance use disorders.
Co-occurring disorders can make treatment more difficult, and those with a co-occurring disorder diagnosis are more likely to experience difficulties if both disorders are not treated together. There are many reasons that an individual may have co-occurring disorders; however, the exact reason and which came first cannot always be determined.
Tips for Recovery When Diagnosed With a Co-Occurring Disorder
After receiving a co-occurring disorder diagnosis, your medical team will work together to get you treatment from their side. This will be your medications, therapies, and ensuring these treatments work for you. You, however, can establish habits that will help you recover as well. You must establish a routine, take your medications as prescribed, eat healthily, and attend your therapy sessions. These things are essential to your recovery. Other things that you may find useful during your recovery include exercising regularly, finding additional support groups, meditation, picking up a new hobby, practicing being mindful, and spending time repairing and establishing healthy relationships.
The Causes of Co-Occurring Disorders
Co-occurring disorders are common. So common that almost half of all individuals with a substance use disorder have a mental health illness. What causes this common occurrence? Scientists and researchers do not know. Many factors can play a role in developing either a substance use disorder or a mental illness. These factors are common for both illnesses, leading researchers to speculate an overlap somewhere. Some common factors that may lead to the development of a substance use disorder, a mental health disorder, or both include (but are not limited to):
- Prenatal exposures
- Neurologic disruptions
- Gender- men are more likely to have co-occurring disorders
- Environmental circumstances
- Low self-esteem
- A family history of substance use disorder or mental health disorders
While these factors can not be directly linked as causation for co-occurring disorders, research has shown a high correlation between a diagnosis of co-occurring disorders and these factors. Co-occurring disorders are likely fueled by a combination of many factors, both genetically and environmentally. In addition, there are signs and symptoms that an individual may have a co-occurring disorder that may be useful for a diagnosis.
What Do Co-Occurring Disorders Look Like?
Co-occurring disorders look different for each individual. Physicians and medical teams will take a patient’s detailed history and look for certain markers for each disorder to obtain a diagnosis. Other factors that need to be considered are the severity of each disorder and which disorders may be present. Many mental health disorders present with similar symptoms. It may be more difficult to understand the symptoms when coupled with a substance use disorder, as substance use causes similar mental illnesses. Some of the common symptoms of co-occurring disorders are:
- Severe behavioral issues. These may be things like personality changes, withdrawal from family or friends, loss of interest in hobbies, intense bursts of energy, intense mood swings (happy one minute, sad the next), aggressive and violent outbursts, fidgeting, feeling invincible, hostility, or suicidal ideation.
- Severe physical markers include poor hygiene, rapid weight loss, insomnia, dental issues, sores, hair loss, extreme fatigue, or extreme energy.
- Cognitive issues can also intensify, including delayed or slow thought processes, extreme anxiety, paranoia, disorientation, compulsive behaviors, and frequent memory loss.
*It is also important to note that if an individual has experienced substance use disorder and has relapsed previously, they may also have a mental health diagnosis. Speak to your recovery team if you believe you may have a co-occurring disorder diagnosis. As stated previously, many of these symptoms may appear with each diagnosis, so it may be difficult for physicians to see a co-occurring disorder at first. Having a co-occurring diagnosis does present issues for recovery from both disorders. However, recovery is attainable with proper diagnosis and a fully integrated treatment plan.
Integrated Addiction Treatment Plans Meant for Success
An integrated treatment plan is essential for individuals with a co-occurring disorder diagnosis. The risk for relapse from substance use and the risk for relapse of a mental illness is greater when both disorders are not treated in tandem. Your medical team will help you establish a diagnosis; then, you will be given the proper treatment for each disorder together. Treatment involves a correlation of your medical team, working together to ensure that each diagnosis is treated properly at the same time. This usually involves medications for substance use disorder and the diagnosed mental health disorder and therapy options. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is useful in substance use disorders and mental health disorders. Integrated plans allow for medical teams to communicate and ensure the individual is getting the proper treatment all around. A fully integrated treatment plan allows for reduced or discontinued substance use, increases the chances for a successful recovery for both disorders, can improve the overall quality of life, decreases hospitalization, reduces any risks for medication interactions, improves psychiatric symptoms, and can boost overall self-confidence. In addition to your medical team’s treatment, you can do things for yourself to ensure a successful recovery.
Knowing When It Is Time To Seek Help
At Evoke Wellness, we offer a comprehensive, evidence-based dual diagnosis (co-occurring disorder) program. We understand the importance of a fully integrated treatment program, and our highly trained and compassionate medical team is ready to help you start your recovery journey. We focus on healing overall, using both medication and therapy techniques for our clients. In addition, each client is assigned a psychiatrist, who will help enhance your overall emotional well-being. Evoke Wellness utilizes cognitive behavioral therapy and a holistic approach to ensure each client’s needs are met. To learn more about our Dual-Diagnosis program and begin your journey to recovery, call us today.