What Are Co-occurring Disorders?

What Are Co-occurring Disorders?

Many of us deal with multiple mental health issues. For example, people undergoing addiction treatment may be struggling with co-occurring disorders. Someone with one or more mental health disorders may also need to seek addiction treatment. Substance or alcohol dependence and mental health issues can and do co-exist, more often than not. 

Fortunately, treatment is becoming more inclusive of the many disorders, and treating them concurrently is a positive progression. For example, alcohol addiction and depression are commonly found to exist simultaneously, with each issue exacerbating the other. By treating both together, outcomes are more likely to be successful.

How Do You Know if You Have Co-occurring Disorders?

If you have a substance dependence, experiencing anxiety, stress, or depression is not unusual. Still, instead of assuming, you want to seek a professional to help pinpoint your needs for treatment and therapy. Your therapist or a family practitioner can help you sort things out and get you headed in the right direction. Of course, if you are already in treatment, communicate fully with your therapist to get the assistance you truly need. 

Some of the most common disorders and behaviors that may present alongside others are listed below, and we will discuss some of them throughout this article:

  • Anxiety disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Depressive disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Alcohol use disorder (AUD) 
  • Substance use disorder (SUD)
  • Prescription drug abuse
  • Eating disorders

Co-occurring Disorders and AUD

Drinking and some mental health disorders seem to go hand-in-hand. It is difficult to discern whether alcohol dependence causes depression or depression causes a person to abuse alcohol. Only through a careful study of an individual case could a person discover the answers. Most of the time, however, both assumptions hold some truth, solidifying that both must be treated together.

According to the National Library of Medicine, AUD is a psychiatric disorder that encompasses alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. Co-occurrences of other disorders along with AUD can exacerbate chronic alcohol dependence. Withdrawals may become more intensive and lengthy, increasing the potential for relapse. Treatment for the co-occurrence presents unique and complex challenges. Discovering the disorders and how they interact with alcohol dependence and other disorders is crucial for pinpointing the most effective treatment plan.

Mental Health Disorders and SUD

Co-occurring mental health and SUDs impact one another, and the treatment should be simultaneous. Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorders globally. Research indicates a high co-occurrence rate with anxiety and substance use disorders. These disorders, when presenting together, result in more severe symptoms and increased levels of disability than either disorder alone. Treating only one disorder will not improve the other; an integrated treatment plan is needed to treat both disorders effectively.

Furthermore, it is well-known that anxiety disorders can feed into depressive disorders. SUD can exist with several mental health disorders at the same time. An integrated treatment plan becomes paramount to tackling several disorders effectively and concurrently. The core reasoning for concurrent treatment is a higher chance for success and a faster recovery.

How Can Family Members and Loved Ones Help?

The existence of family and loved ones desiring to help a person struggling with co-occurring disorders constitutes hope and a significant step in the right direction. Your loved one needs you from day one, even if they do not recognize it yet. 

What can you do to help? Suppose you observe your loved one exhibiting mental health issues that are not serving them well. Your first action should be to talk with them. If talking is not an option or does not produce clarity for them, suggest seeking professional help. Offer to assist them in finding help and let them know they will not have to go through it alone. 

Common Signs to Look For

Below is a list of some signs that a person may possess co-occurring disorders. Remember that you may be aware of their alcohol or substance dependence and not be aware of a depressive disorder or other mental health disorders. Conversely, you may realize your loved one has extreme anxiety but are unaware of their overuse of opioids.

Some signs to look for include the following:

  • Personality changes
  • Appetite changes
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Behavioral outbursts
  • Alcohol or substance abuse increases
  • Irritability
  • Sleeplessness or sleepiness

Therapy and Treatments

Treatments for mental health disorders run concurrently with those treatments for alcohol or substance abuse or other mental health disorders. They typically encompass integrated strategies and therapies that treat the whole person. 

Therapies may include: 

  • Talk therapy
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Plant-based eating
  • Yoga
  • Exercise,
  • Medications

Most importantly, they include the education and support you need for your recovery, well-being, and quality of life. Imagine living without fear, anxiety, depression, and pain; imagine being in control of your life again. You can do this.

At SoCal Mental Health, mental health and well-being are our top priorities. Sometimes our health involves more than one issue, and it is vital to treat the whole person. We understand that co-occurring disorders can be associated with addictive disorders. Alcohol and substance abuse treatments and programs are included with our mental health programs. If you feel overwhelmed or out of control due to mental health issues associated with alcohol or substance dependence, please know that we can help. Our programs are designed for your needs, whether for mental health, substance abuse recovery, relapse, or other addictive struggles. You do not have to go through this alone. Please call us at (949) 502-2041 for more information.

Call Now Button