Understanding Co-occurring Disorders and Their Treatment Option

Understanding Co-occurring Disorders and Their Treatment Option

When a person experiences a mental health disorder like depression and substance abuse disorder simultaneously, they are said to suffer from co-occurring disorders. Life for those living with co-occurring mental disorders is challenging. According to studies in the UK, 20–37% of people across all mental health settings experience co-occurring mental disorders. These disorders are not to be taken lightly, as the likelihood of hospitalization is far greater than in any single disorder. 

Co-occurring disorders are often confused with dual disorders, but they are slightly different. While dual disorders are more about mental health problems like anxiety and depression happening simultaneously, co-occurring disorders combine mental health issues with substance abuse. 

Difficult Diagnosis of Co-occurring Disorders

Due to compound symptoms, co-occurring disorders are more complicated to diagnose than other disorders. Therefore, the best way to diagnose these disorders is by using evidence-based resources that are proven to work medically. 

As a matter of reference, people with these mental disorders have a higher risk of substance abuse:

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder: 1.4 times
  • Borderline Personality Disorder: 1.8 times
  • Bipolar Disorder: 1.5 times
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: 1.6 times
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder: 1.5 times

Although it is possible to find the likelihood of future substance abuse by analysing existing mental disorders, you cannot use these numbers with any certainty. It takes the skills and experience of a seasoned mental health professional to diagnose co-occurring disorders convincingly.

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Identifying Co-occurring Disorders by Identifying Symptoms

A person suffering from co-occurring disorders exhibits the following symptoms:

  • Abrupt behaviour change
  • Social isolation
  • Using substances even during dangerous situations
  • Risky behaviour
  • Unrestricted substance use or alcohol consumption
  • Growing tolerance towards substance
  • Displaying intense and painful withdrawal symptoms

Apart from these symptoms, a patient experiences a lot of confusion in daily life. They also struggle to concentrate on simple tasks and are unable complete them. 

Development of Co-occurring Disorders

When people start suffering from a mental disorder, they are often provided medication. But sometimes, they can get hooked on the drug and take more than prescribed. Over a while, an addiction might develop. When a newly developed addiction is combined with an existing mental disorder, it leads to co-occurring disorders. For example, apart from regular drugs, a person might start taking banned substances like marijuana, cocaine, heroin etc. or start abusing alcohol to temporarily get rid of mental disorders like anxiety and depression. 

The development of co-occurring disorders can cause tremendous chaos in a person’s personal, professional and social life. In addition, it can lead to severe physical illnesses and, in some cases, require hospitalization.

Sometimes it can be hard to identify which came first: the mental illness or substance abuse problem. Sometimes, a person who excessively consumes drugs can develop brain function issues that can trigger a mental health disorder.

Co-occurring disorder Rehab and Treatment

As co-occurring disorders can be life-threatening in some cases, it is important to treat them effectively at a rehab. Therapy under the supervision of an experienced doctor can be fruitful and help a person get back to their normal life. Below are some therapies that are used for the treatment at a co-occurring disorder rehab:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing negative thinking and behaviour patterns. It underpins the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are all connected with each other. So, by changing how we think and behave, we can improve our emotional well-being.
  • Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) was originally developed to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD), but it has been found to be very useful in treating a range of other mental health conditions, including co-occurring disorders. It combines traditional cognitive-behavioural techniques with mindfulness-based techniques, such as cognitive restructuring and behaviour modification.
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Integrated Co-occurring Disorders Treatment: The Best Treatment

Integrated co-occurring disorders treatment, where both mental health and substance use disorders are treated together, has been found to be the most effective approach for individuals with co-occurring disorders. This may involve a team of healthcare professionals, such as psychiatrists, addiction specialists, and therapists, who work together to provide comprehensive care.

Final Thoughts

Co-occurring disorders can be debilitating for a person in the long run and even cause hospitalizations due to the development of compound symptoms of both mental illness and substance abuse. Therefore, it is essential to spot the signs early and get the co-occurring disorders treatment done at a rehab.

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