The Meaning of Co-Occurring Disorders

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Have you tried treatment for mental health issues or substance abuse and reached a point where you feel like you’re stuck and can’t make any more progress? There’s a chance you’re struggling with co-morbid disorders. In fact, it’s a pretty high chance.

In this article we’ll explain what it means to have two disorders at once, give co-occurring disorders examples and reassure you that addressing both issues is your best shot at full recovery.

Co-occurring disorders meaning

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the simultaneous existence of both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder is called co-occurring disorders.

A substance use disorder is defined as a disease that results in an uncontrollable impulse to use harmful drugs due to changes in brain functioning according to Mayo Clinic. Mental health disorders are classified by the American Psychological Association. Clinicians use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to diagnose illnesses like depression, anxiety, bipolar and schizophrenia. 

The term “co-occurring disorders” is often used interchangeably with “comorbid disorders.” Comorbidity tends to also imply that the two conditions interact on some level, generally exacerbating the symptoms of the other. This is often the case with addiction and mental health.

Co-occurring disorders statistics

The likelihood of experiencing both substance use and mental health is extremely high. In fact, the National Institute on Mental Health states that around 50 percent of those who struggle with substance use addiction are affected by a mental illness and vice versa

In other words, it’s just as common to struggle with both mental health and substance use as it is to struggle with only one disorder.

It’s clear that rates of co-occurring disorders are high. How many people are affected, though? The National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that around 9.2 million Americans struggle with both substance use and mental illness

Reasons for co-occurring disorders

Current literature on the topic suggests that neither addiction or mental illness directly causes the onset of the other condition. However, the symptoms of each may contribute to the other.

While mental illness and substance addiction don’t cause each other, they do share common risk factors including genetics, environmental factors, physical conditions (like chronic pain) and so on.

Co-occurring disorders examples

Sometimes co-occurring disorders and substance abuse are easiest to understand with examples. Here are some examples of common comorbid disorders:

  • Depression and alcohol addiction
  • Anxiety and cocaine use
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and marijuana addiction
  • Bipolar and opioid use disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Adderall addiction

When a person is struggling with mental health or substance use, it’s possible for more than one mental illness and more than one substance to be at play. For example, someone could be affected by anxiety, depression at the same time as both alcohol and opioid use disorder.

Co-occurring disorders and substance use treatment

A study in the journal Social Work in Public Health states that integrated treatment is the most effective approach to treating comorbid substance use disorders and mental health disorders. This holistic perspective includes using psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy to treat both conditions. Moreover, a collaborative care team is essential to long-term success in recovery.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often a large component of an integrated treatment approach. This type of therapy focuses on building coping mechanisms to deal with triggers to emotional distress or substance use. 

Treatment also includes building interpersonal skills like communication and setting boundaries, lifestyle support like occupational training and financial management and physical well-being through sleep, exercise and diet.

Your best shot at recovery

Because co-occurring disorders and substance abuse affect every area of life, integrated treatment aims to heal every area of life. Treatment that centers on only one condition leaves your recovery in jeopardy.

Don’t risk the progress you’ve made. Ensure that you’re getting support for both mental illness and substance abuse, or a relapse could cause double the damage. Your freedom is at stake.
If you’re struggling with co-occurring disorders, High Focus Centers can support you in your journey back to freedom. With personalized treatment catered to fit your needs, you’ll feel secure in the care you’re getting. Get in touch today.