What Is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

Updated on 05/20/24

The coexistence of both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse use disorder is referred to as a co-occurring disorder. Any combination of mental health and addiction can be referred to as having a co-occuring disorder. The combinations can be seemingly endless, and can even include more than one of either a mental disorder or a person with substance use disorderion. Combinations may include depression and alcoholism, anorexia and cocaine addiction, bipolar disorder and heroin addiction and the list goes on. Surprisingly, as many as 6 in 10 substance abusers also have at least one other mental disorder.

There is the classic question – which came first, the chicken or the egg? There is no exact answer to which came first when it comes to mental health and addiction disorders. However, what we do know is that they do exacerbate each other. In some people, a mental health disorder may predate a person with substance use disorderion. This can include a person who has dealt with depression during their adolescence, has experienced trauma and now has PTSD, a person who has been diagnosed with ADHD in their childhood, or a person has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

However, sometimes addiction can come before being diagnosed with a mental health disorder. This is because since mental health and addiction disorders exacerbate each other, the symptoms can be triggered or made worse by addiction.

Mental Health Disorders

According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior, or a combination of these. Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.

Some mental health disorders can include:

Substance Use Disorders

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a substance use disorder (SUD), also known as a drug use disorder, is a condition in which the use of one or more substances leads to clinically significant impairment or distress.

Some examples of substance abuse disorders can include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Tobacco use
  • Marijuana
  • Stimulants
  • Hallucinogens
  • Opiates

Getting Help with Dual Diagnosis

The treatment of a mental disorder and addiction is available and can be very effective. Treatment should focus on both disorders simultaneously since they both work together. Treating one without treating the other will not be as successful, and the likelihood of both issues returning is almost certain.

During the initial stages of getting help for co-occurring mental health and addiction disorders, it is important for the patient to seek inpatient treatment. It can be seen as the best option, especially if the individual has had thoughts of suicide or a history of self-harm. While people may have the best of intentions when deciding to get help, it can still be a very difficult process in the beginning, and “giving up” or “abandoning” help may be extremely tempting.

Treatment can be uncomfortable in the beginning, especially if the patient has any withdrawal symptoms from their addiction, so being held accountable with an in-patient facility can help ensure a long-term recovery. It offers a 24/7 support system, even sometimes with medicated-assisted detox to help ensure comfort while beginning the process of treatment for their disorders.

Statistics have shown that addictions to drugs and alcohol is higher amongst those who also have depression. Mental illnesses and drug addictions require a an integrated treatment plan, that allows to both address their mental health needs and also the need to begin detoxification (detox) and rehabilitation. Professionals in the mental health field are a valuable asset for intervening in the process of someone with depression. With the advice and counsel of a therapist, families can also learn more about depression and develop a better understanding of how to relate to someone suffering depression.

About Cliffside Malibu

You don’t have to go through co-occurring disorders alone, and help for both is available. Our dedicated staff is here for you every step of the way to help pull you out of your co-occurring mental health and addiction disorders and give you the tools you need to sustain a healthy, happy life. Upon entering Cliffside Malibu, each patient is carefully assessed and a custom treatment plan is created for not only their immediate needs but for their treatment for long-lasting recovery as well.

Each patient is then matched with one of these five stages of the Transtheoretical Model: Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, and Maintenance. An individualized treatment plan is created based on their current stage of change. This process is in place to ensure that all our patients receive the best treatment path possible for their own specific needs. Our goal is to move individuals through their treatment by assessing their readiness for change and formulating stage-matched interventions in order to move them through their respective stages.

It is the policy of Cliffside Malibu to ensure that all individuals who present with chemical dependency issues are assessed for the appropriate level of care. We strive to provide a continuum of care including medically supervised detox, residential treatment, day treatment, and outpatient services. Services are provided to individuals with a primary diagnosis of substance abuse and/or alcohol addiction. Individuals seeking treatment are assessed by qualified staff to ensure program criteria are met and that each individual admitted is placed in the appropriate level of care for treatment. The program is designed and structured for individuals who are in need of a supportive environment in order to maintain sobriety.

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