What Are Co-Occurring Disorders and How Are They Treated?

The concept of co-occurring disorders is not new. However, it was not fully embraced by many in the addiction treatment field until recently. This concept is also known as dual diagnosis. It is the understanding that people who experience addiction are, in many cases, also suffering from a mental health issue as well.

It is often difficult for people suffering from addiction to find treatment for both of these issues at the same time. In the past, people who needed help in breaking free from addiction would visit a drug treatment center. People who needed help with their mental health issues would see a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor. It was difficult to find a provider that could or would treat both of these issues together.

Today, more and more drug and alcohol treatment centers are beginning to recognize co-occurring disorders. They are developing ways to treat these issues at the same time. As a result, these clients find greater and longer-lasting success in their battles against both obstacles.

Read on to learn more about co-occurring disorders and the ways that they are being treated today.

Are Co-Occurring Disorders Common?

Co-occurring disorders are very common. Numerous national studies have found that about half of the people diagnosed with a mental illness also experience addiction in their lifetimes. The same is true for the opposite. About half of the people diagnosed with addiction experience some type of mental illness at some point in their lives.

Although the majority of addictions that people experience are to drugs and alcohol. However, there are other non-drug and alcohol addictions that people may experience as well. These include gambling addiction, food addiction, or sex addiction. Often, people who experience one type of addiction may suffer from several at once.

There are also a wide range of types of mental illnesses. Conditions that fall into this category can include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. More common conditions such as depression or anxiety are also in this realm.

The combination of mental illness and addiction of any kind can be very difficult to live with.  Further, these combinations can be difficult to treat. However, addiction recovery and mental health professionals are making great strides in this realm today.

Why Are Co-Occurring Disorders So Common?

It makes sense that these two issues go hand in hand. Many people who experience mental health conditions use drugs, alcohol, or other addictions as a form of self-medication. This is especially common when these individuals are not receiving treatment for their mental illness.

Research shows that substance abuse only worsens the symptoms of mental illness. People use substances like drugs and alcohol in an attempt to find relief. In the end, substance abuse only ends up causing more suffering.

How Can Co-Occurring Disorders Be Treated Effectively?

Fortunately, there are ways that co-occurring disorders can be treated in an effective manner.

In the past, these two separate issues were often treated sequentially. When an individual sought help, often either the addiction or the mental health issue was treated first, and then the secondary issue was treated later on. Often, the two issues were treated by two separate providers. This resulted in little continuity. As a result, some individuals found that they returned to old habits before overcoming both problems in a lasting way.

Not long ago, people with addiction diagnoses were often treated in a rather confrontational manner. Today, a more supportive approach is more common.

As a result, the way that co-occurring disorders were treated began to evolve as well. Many drug and alcohol treatment centers began to understand that the old way of treating dual diagnoses was not effective. They realized that they should treat the two issues together as one.

Addiction and mental health professionals began to understand that both mental health issues and addictions are often caused by deeply rooted issues in one’s past. By integrating the treatment offered for both problems, it became much easier to get to the root of these problems and to help the individual.

A Multi-Faceted Approach

Today, co-occurring disorders are treated using a multi-faceted approach. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, many people who suffer find success by moving through six steps.

First, detoxification helps the individual break free of his or her active addiction. Then, inpatient rehabilitation helps them to become strong in their addiction recovery.

Next, supportive housing gives them the support and resolve that they need to continue moving forward on a clean and sober path.

Psychotherapy and medications help them to work on their mental illness and aids in getting it under control.

Finally, self-help and support groups give them ongoing support to keep working on both problems for the rest of their lives.

This approach is a good one for people who are suffering from addiction. It is also helpful for people who are struggling with mental health issues.

The approach helps people even if they are only experiencing one or the other. If they are diagnosed with both co-occurring disorders, a plan like the one outlined above can help them to break free of these issues. Then, they can begin moving forward with a healthier and more productive life.

Integrated Treatment Works

People who suffer from substance abuse disorders and addiction and people who have mental health issues only want relief from their pain. Fortunately, thanks to the evolution of integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders, today they can pursue the freedom from pain that they seek.

The development of treatment programs that treat mental health issues and substance abuse disorders and addictions simultaneously has already saved many lives. They will continue to improve people’s lives moving forward. Today, it seems so obvious that professionals should treat these two problems together. That was not so clear just a few decades ago.

If you would like to learn more about addiction, please check out the rest of our site for more addiction answers. We offer many answers to your questions about substance abuse disorders and their treatment.

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