Why Recognizing Co-occurring Disorders Is Key to Addiction Recovery
Have you ever wondered why some people continually go in and out of rehab or repeatedly break their sobriety despite their best efforts and a good support system? Perhaps you even fit into one of these descriptions. Achieving recovery is challenging for many reasons, but one reason that is often overlooked is co-occurring disorders. When there are other factors at play in an addiction, treatment must address all these factors for you to avoid continual relapse.
What Are Co-occurring Disorders?
As the name suggests, co-occurring disorders are when multiple conditions are present at the same time. These conditions entail mental illnesses and substance abuse in varying degrees of severity. They may develop simultaneously, or one may come before the other.
For example, it is common for people who unknowingly (or even knowingly) have anxiety, depression, or PTSD to turn to addiction. They may not know how to respond to symptoms in a healthy way, so they use alcohol or another drug to calm nerves, numb emotions, or enjoy a moment of pleasure in an otherwise painful world.
Once the effects wear off, they are left feeling anxious and depressed again or even worse than before due to shame. This emotional state leads back to relying on a harmful source of relief, and the addiction cycle continues. Likewise, substance abuse can trigger or worsen psychiatric problems, also contributing to the cycle.
What Makes Co-occurring Disorders So Different?
The relationship of the two disorders makes them difficult to separate and diagnose, which is why those affected often don’t receive the help they need or stay sober of their own. Those with co-occurring disorders experience more severe symptoms, reactions, and health consequences than do people who have only one of these conditions. The risks of violence, suicide, financial struggles, relapse, and incarceration are also higher. With so much going on, recovery is a gradual process.
Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders
The good news is that there is no need to give up hope if you suspect or know you fit this diagnosis. Once the problem is recognized, the proper treatment can begin that will lead to lasting healing. Effective treatment involves taking an integrated approach, addressing the link between the disorders instead of each one on its own, along with other lifestyle changes for an all-encompassing plan. Examples of programs and tools include:
- Detoxification, medical care, and medication
- Mental health awareness classes
- Individual, group, and family therapy
- Employment education
- Nutrition and sleep improvement
- Goal setting
Programs usually happen in an outpatient setting, though inpatient services may be necessary first to handle emergency circumstances. The ultimate purpose is to help you understand your disorders and how to manage them in a way that will boost your health and success in life.