What is a co-occurring disorder?

Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 1:46 pm in
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Co-occurring disorder, or dual diagnosis, refers to the existence of both a substance use disorder (alcohol or other drug addiction) and a mental health disorder. Mental health disorders may include depression or bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, among others.

As many as 65% of people with alcohol and other drug addictions suffer from co-occurring mental health disorders.

A common indicator of a co-occurring disorder can include using alcohol or other drugs to reduce problems or pain associated with mental health issues, or worsening mental health issues because of alcohol or drug use. People who have a mental health disorder are at much higher risk of also having a substance use disorder and, conversely, people who have a substance use disorder are at much greater risk of developing a mental health disorder.

Often times there is a genetic risk factor for both substance use and certain mental health disorders, but genes alone usually don't explain all causes of co-occurring disorders. Other factors include family, environment, and traumatic life events, among other stresses. It is possible that people with mental health disorders may be more biologically sensitive to the effects of alcohol and other drugs, and they may use to cope with mental health symptoms or to counter their anxiety.

When seeking treatment for substance abuse when a co-occurring disorder is present, it is important to find treatment centers with personnel who are trained and experienced in treating co-occurring disorders using an integrated model, rather than having two parallel treatment processes going on at the same time. For example, if a depression disorder is co-occurring with alcoholism, it’s important to treat the depression and alcoholism based on the ways they reinforce each other in order to have a better chance at resolving both. Without treating depression as an aspect of alcoholism, the depression may not be resolved, and the alcoholism may then be more likely to recur.

Treatment for co-occurring disorders involves many of the same therapy types as treatment for substance abuse alone. However, treatments are adjusted to meet the needs of the individual, and may include:

  • Education to help the person understand how the substance abuse and mental health disorders contribute to one another, and how they affect the person's behaviors.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help a person recognize triggers and change behavioral responses to more positive behaviors.
  • Family therapy to help family members understand how relationships and dynamics may affect the person’s condition and to help them provide the person with a supportive environment.
  • Medications to reduce the symptoms.

With commitment and willingness to adhere to treatment plans, many people achieve long-lasting recovery from both substance abuse and mental health disorders, and can live sober productive lives.

Valor Recovery Center offers Co-occurring Disorder Treatment through our Trauma Informed Curriculum. Our Masters Level Therapists work with clients to address all symptoms to begin the healing process.

If you or anyone you love is struggling, please call us at 330-330-8777.