What are Co-Occurring Disorders?

During treatment for substance dependence, you will frequently hear the term “co-occurring”. This refers to the presence of multiple disorders, including substance dependence as well as one or more mental health disorders. Some of the mental health disorders which often co-occur with substance use disorder include: 

Those who suffer from co-occurring disorders have what is known as a dual diagnosis. Specific and individualized treatment is critical to a successful recovery from substance use disorder. So, if you or someone you know is suffering from the effects of a mood or mental health disorder along with alcoholism or drug misuse, it’s best to learn as much as possible about dual diagnosis cases. 

Here at Discovery Institute, we work to provide you with information about how to best identify and treat co-occurring disorders. 

Statistics: The Prevalence of Co-Occurring Disorders

The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that about 20.2 million people were struggling with a substance use disorder. The same report stated that around 7.9 million people were suffering from a mental health disorder in addition to substance misuse in the United States. Although most of those who reported having co-occurring disorders were men, many women also suffer from mental health and substance use disorders.

People who have co-occurring disorders (also known as comorbidity or dual diagnosis) may either have an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or a substance use disorder (SUD). Some individuals may be struggling with both of these disorders. 

One of the main questions that come up in regards to dual diagnosis cases is whether the mental health disorder or the substance use problem occurred first. The truth of the matter is that the order of occurrence varies from person to person. In other words, sometimes substance dependence comes first and leads to the development of a mood disorder or mental illness. In other cases, it’s the other way around.

Sometimes, individuals who are dependent on alcohol or drugs may develop disorders such as anxiety or depression. There are also situations in which people who have disorders like OCD or PTSD turn to alcohol or drugs for relief from the symptoms they’re experiencing.

Many people also develop addictions as a result of the medications they use in order to treat the symptoms of their mental health or mood disorders. 

An Overview of Some Common Co-Occurring Disorders

Some of the disorders which are commonly seen with addiction include various anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Anxiety: There are varying kinds of anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder. Anxiety is generally characterized by consistent and excessive worry or fear. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Also known as PTSD, this disorder often affects people who have gone through a traumatic experience. This includes individuals who have been physically abused, witnessed a crime, been involved in combat, or experienced a serious incident such as a car crash.

Bipolar Disorder: People who have bipolar disorder often experience a combination of mania and depression. The episodes of mania may involve symptoms such as hyperactivity and racing thoughts. Episodes of depression may be characterized by extreme sadness and feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, or hopelessness.

Depression: This disorder is often characterized by feelings of sadness and uselessness. Individuals may also lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and become more pessimistic. 

Dual Diagnosis Program: Treating Substance Dependence and Mental Health Disorders

Many times, people who have mental health disorders in addition to substance use problems feel unsure about how to get the best help for their journey to recovery. It can be difficult to determine which treatment centers can offer the right kind of assistance, especially when both mental health and physical health are involved. 

There are also many instances in which treatment centers overlook or do not recognize the signs of mental illness in the lives of their clients. As a result, they often treat the addiction problems that exist in their patients without properly addressing co-occurring disorders. 

This can be very problematic. If individuals receive treatment for substance use without getting help in addressing their mental health needs, they are put at risk for relapse since they were not equipped with the skills they need in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the symptoms of their mental health disorders.

Discovery Institute’s Approach to Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Here at Discovery Institute, we are committed to making sure that our clients receive the treatment and help that they need in order to successfully overcome substance dependence in their lives. Our specialists are trained to recognize the symptoms of these disorders. We understand that, for many people in our co-occurring dual diagnosis program, the symptoms of mental health disorders are contributing factors of addiction. So, we work to identify and address them. 

At our treatment facility, we treat mood disorders, if they are diagnosed, as part of our addiction treatment program. Symptoms of anxiety and depression can range from minor to severe enough to impact a person’s day-to-day life. When severe symptoms are unmanaged, many people begin to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, which leads to addiction. When symptoms are managed through medication and therapy, the likelihood of turning to drugs and alcohol greatly decreases.

Substance dependence and mood disorders often go hand-in-hand, but still need two different treatment approaches, which is why it is called co-occurring. Discovery Institute works with each client to come up with a unique co-occurring program based on their specific needs. While we work to wean our clients off of the drugs or alcohol they were dependent upon, we also treat their secondary mood disorder with appropriate, non-habit forming medication and therapy. 

We work to provide alternatives to drugs and alcohol to prevent relapse in the future. A client’s co-occurring issues are re-assessed throughout treatment to determine if medication and therapy need to be altered. Our goal is to have our client’s mood disorder correctly managed by the time they leave treatment and to provide healthy alternatives and tools to combat addiction.

Getting Treatment at Discovery Institute

If you or someone you know is suffering from substance dependence as well as a mental health disorder, there is hope! Here at Discovery Institute, we are dedicated to bringing people into the light of freedom from addiction. We are also committed to helping individuals develop healthy coping methods and learn how to best approach their mental health challenges.

You don’t have to fight substance use disorder by yourself; our understanding and compassionate team is here to help you on your journey to recovery. Through a professional detox process, you can end alcohol or drug use in your life. Then, through our effective and individualized therapy approaches, you can gain the skills you need in order to remain free. 

For more information about our services here at Discovery, please contact us today. Allow us to walk with you as you pursue the addiction-free life you truly deserve!

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Joseph N. Ranieris D.O.

Dr. Joseph Ranieri D.O. earned his BS in Pharmacy at Temple University School of Pharmacy in 1981 and His Doctorate Degree in Osteopathic Medicine at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1991. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and a Diplomate of the American Board of Preventive Medicine Addiction Certification.