Co-Occurring Disorders: What You Need to Know About Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Co-Occurring Disorders: What You Need to Know About Mental Health and Substance Abuse

A co-occurring disorder, also called a dual diagnosis, is when an individual has a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder that occur simultaneously. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 17 million adults over the age of 18 reported having both in 2020. 

For those struggling with mental illness and substance abuse, finding the right treatment program to address both greatly increases an individual’s chance of long-term recovery. Learn more about co-occurring disorders and integrated treatment options. 

What Causes Dual Diagnosis?

The exact cause of a dual diagnosis is different for everyone. For some, a substance abuse disorder leads to a mental health issue, such as depression following an alcohol addiction. For others, symptoms associated with severe mental illness may lead to using drugs or alcohol for self-medication. The National Institute of Mental Health has identified several risk factors associated with the development of a dual diagnosis: 

  • Biological factors: Like other diseases, co-occurring mental health disorders and substance use disorders are affected by heredity. Individuals whose immediate relatives suffered from a psychiatric disorder and substance abuse have a greater risk of developing a co-occurring disorder.
  • Physical factors: From conditions occurring in utero to chronic physical ailments, the presence of physical challenges can increase the probability of an individual developing simultaneous mental health and substance use disorders. 
  • Environmental factors: Circumstances such as income changes, housing issues and social or relational stressors can lead to mental health issues or a substance use disorder.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis Disorders?

Drug or alcohol use, like mental illness, affects an individual’s ability to use healthy coping skills to handle stressors and psychological pain. Treating someone with a dual diagnosis is complex because the signs and symptoms can be attributed to one or both types of disorders. Common symptoms include: 

  • Confused thinking 
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Personality changes
  • Social withdrawal
  • Poor performance at school or work
  • Increased risk-taking behavior
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Thoughts of self-harm

What Mental Disorders Are Associated With Dual Diagnosis?

While any diagnosed mental illness could be associated with drug abuse, the most common are mood disorders, thought disorders and eating disorders. Often individuals with specific disorders will either use substances to cope with mental health symptoms or will develop mental health issues as a result of their substance use. Drug addiction is commonly associated with:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia 
  • Anorexia and bulimia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

How Is Dual Diagnosis Treated?

For the best treatment outcome, co-occurring disorders need to be treated simultaneously. A good dual diagnosis treatment program focuses on finding the correct diagnosis and using a variety of therapeutic resources to tackle emotional pain and an individual’s behavioral response to it. Dual diagnosis treatment may include: 

The key to a successful recovery process lies in the individual being actively involved in all stages of treatment. During the treatment process, individuals practice relaxation techniques, learn to manage stress and develop positive coping skills. 

Get Help Today

Living with a dual diagnosis makes every day a struggle, but there’s no need to face the challenge alone. At Summit Detox in Boynton Beach, FL, we specialize in providing treatment programs tailored to the needs of individuals coping with substance abuse problems and mental illness. We work with major insurance plans and make the admissions process simple. Contact us online today or call 888-995-5265 to begin your recovery journey.

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