Have you ever wondered why some people continually go in and out of rehab or repeatedly break sobriety despite their best efforts and a good support system? Perhaps you find yourself seeking the answer to this question after your own struggle with an addiction relapse.
Achieving and maintaining sobriety is challenging for many reasons, including one in particular that is often overlooked: a co-occurring mental disorder.
What are co-occurring disorders?
As the name suggests, co-occurring disorders (also known as a dual diagnosis), occur when multiple conditions present themselves at the same time. These conditions entail mental illnesses in addition to substance abuse at varying degrees of severity. They may develop simultaneously, or occur as the result of one or the other.
For example, it is common for people who unknowingly (or even knowingly) have anxiety, depression or PTSD to turn to substances to help cope with the negative emotions these mental disorders present. However, as drugs or alcohol are used more frequently to numb these feelings, an addiction may begin to develop as a result.
On the other hand, if you are battling a substance use disorder, you might feel frustrated at being unable to quit on your own, anxious about the addiction developing or worsening or depressed as a side effect caused by many different substances. All of this, and more, can result in the development of a mental health disorder than co-occurs alongside the substance addiction.
Which comes first – addiction or mental health disorder?
Every case is different and it isn’t possible to pinpoint whether the substance use disorder or the mental health condition will come first.
Additionally, just because a client has a mental health condition doesn’t guarantee they will develop a co-occurring addiction, and vice versa. Some people combat depression their entire lives and never show a tendency towards substance use.
However, addiction and co-occurring disorders do remain quite common. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about half of people diagnosed with a substance use disorder or mental illness will have another disorder manifest at some point in their lives. This is why the proper treatment for a dual diagnosis is crucial to the success of recovery.
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 to stay sober on 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.
What this means is that finding a treatment center specialized in handling dual diagnosis becomes key. Co-occurring mental disorders and addiction cannot be treated with two different treatment plans, one for the substance use and one for the mental illness. Rather, a comprehensive, holistic plan that promises to address both conditions simultaneously is needed.
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 sustained recovery. Effective treatment involves taking an integrated approach, addressing the link between the disorders instead of each one on its own.
Examples of programs and tools used to treat a dual diagnosis include:
- Detoxification, medical care and medication-assisted treatment;
- Mental health awareness classes;
- Individual, group and family therapy;
- Employment education;
- Nutrition and sleep improvement;
- Goal setting.
Dual diagnosis programs, including those offered through Rehab After Work, usually happen in an outpatient setting, though inpatient services may be necessary first to handle emergency or severe 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.
Life with a dual diagnosis
No matter if you’ve been living with co-occurring disorders for a long period of time or are just recently coming to terms with the diagnosis, help is available to you and recovery is possible. The right treatment team will teach you the proper coping mechanisms you need to live with and/or overcome a mental illness, in addition to helping break the cycle of substance use addiction to give you the best chance at lasting sobriety.