People who actually have mental health disorders as well as substance abuse disorders or addiction are known to have co-occurring disorders. This can also be called dual diagnosis. These can be difficult to diagnose. Sometimes they can be blurred together, and sometimes people with mental disorders ignore their addictions because they don’t feel they are real disorders. Also, people with substance abuse disorders may ignore their mental illnesses, believing them not to be real disorders.

Are co-occurring disorders common?

Studies show that co-occurring disorders are far more common than we may realize. According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 4 million people in America struggle with co-occurring disorders.

What is a mental health disorder?

There are many different types of mental illnesses. There are mood-related disorders. These would be depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder. There are also anxiety-related disorders like social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. And there are severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

What are typical patterns associated with co-occurring disorders?

The substance abuse and the mental illnesses feed each other. People with mental illnesses may want to use substances to feel better. For example, people with anxiety disorders may take substances to feel calm whereas people with depression may take a substance to feel more uplifted.

Patients who don’t treat both disorders will not have effective treatment. Mental illness patients who do not address their substance abuse will only have a temporary fix of their mental health issues. Whereas patients with substance abuse that do not address their mental illness are more likely to relapse.

What is the importance of integrated care?

It’s important if you have a co-occurring disorder or a dual diagnosis that you end up in a rehabilitation facility or a mental health institution that can address both issues. This is what is known as integrated care. All qualified rehabilitation facilities will offer care for dual diagnosis patients.

When the patient is addressing both mental health issues and substance abuse issues at the same time with the help of the same staff, there will be one set of goals, one treatment plan, and one plan for aftercare. This will definitely be something that is useful to the patient’s long-term plan.

It is helpful to keep in mind that people with a dual diagnosis will have multiple needs and may require more time to recover. It is important that everyone is allowed the space they need to recover on their own time.

The bottom line

Co-occurring disorders are very serious in the fields of addiction and mental health. They must be addressed at the same time at the same facility. There are a lot of benefits to addressing both disorders at once, and this gives the patient the best chance for recovery.