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Co-occurring disorders, or the existence of both a mental health condition and substance abuse disorder simultaneously, are quite common. Sometimes you are unaware that you have a co-occurring disorder, causing it to go unchecked for some time. If you think you might be suffering from a co-occurring disorder, you should seek the right treatment that specializes in those needs.

What Is a Co-occurring Disorder?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the coexistence of both a mental illness and a substance use disorder is known as a co-occurring disorder. Co-occurring disorders can include any type of mental health disorder like;

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

The combination of a mental health and substance use disorder is considered a dual diagnosis, and either disorder can develop first.

Why Are Co-occurring Disorders So Common?

Co-occurring disorders are a lot more common than you may think. SAMHSA’s 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that approximately 17 million adults in the United States have a co-occurring disorder.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, mental health problems and substance use disorders sometimes occur together for at least three reasons:

#1. Certain illegal drugs can cause you to experience one or more symptoms of a mental health problem.

#2. Mental health problems can sometimes lead to alcohol or drug use, causing you to misuse substances as a form of self-medication.

#3. Mental and substance use disorders share some underlying causes, including changes in brain composition, genetic vulnerabilities, and early exposure to stress or trauma.

Using Substances to Cope With Mental Health Conditions

When you are suffering from a mental health condition, you might sometimes use substances as a means of self-medicating. Substances like alcohol and opioids can provide a temporary euphoric feeling if you feel sad or depressed. Various substances can also dull other mental health conditions like anxiety, making it easier to cope in the short term.

When you use substances to cope with a mental health condition, you are only masking the problem. Relief may come, but it will only be temporary, and you are hurting yourself in the long run. Another reason why it is dangerous to self-medicate is because continued substance use can make your current mental health condition even worse. When any condition goes unchecked, it can lead to dangerous consequences.

Mental Health Issues Triggered by Substance Use

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drugs interfere with the way neurons in the brain send, receive, and process signals via neurotransmitters, leading to abnormal messages being sent through your body’s chemical network.

Substance use can also cause surges of dopamine, creating abnormally large amounts of this “feel good” neurotransmitter. NIDA states that, while misusing these drugs, your brain adjusts for this abnormal surge by reducing the number of receptors in your brain that can receive signals. This is why, when you misuse drugs, you may eventually feel flat, depressed, and unable to enjoy things that were previously pleasurable.

Withdrawal symptoms can also trigger mental health conditions. When a drug is leaving your system, the brain starts missing that surge of dopamine, and this can lead to anxious feelings, hallucinations, seizures, and even death.

How Do I Know if I Have a Co-occurring Disorder?

While using substances, you might be unaware that you have a co-occurring disorder. If you are aware, you may be unsure of how to get help, thus continuing the negative cycle. 

In order to truly know if you are suffering from a co-occurring disorder, you should seek out professional guidance. According to SAMSHA’s Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) 42, addiction counselors encounter clients with co-occurring disorders as a rule, not an exception. The same is true for addiction psychiatrists and other specialists, who are trained to diagnose and treat co-occurring disorders. 

In order to live the happy and healthy life you deserve, it is a good idea to seek out help if you are suffering from a co-occurring disorder.

Treatment Options for Co-occurring Disorders

When it comes to mental health issues and substance use disorders, it is imperative that both issues are treated, not just one or the other. According to SAMSHA’s TIP 42, co-occurring disorders are treatable conditions, and a range of treatment modalities exist that can be implemented across numerous inpatient and outpatient settings.

Treatment for co-occurring disorders should be comprehensive, incorporating various modalities like talk therapy, medication-assisted treatment, counseling, support groups, and holistic care.

Treatment Options at Quality Outpatient Programs

If you are seeking outpatient treatment for a co-occurring disorder, it is important to find the right program that is customized to your unique needs. You should find a program that takes an integrated care approach to treat dual diagnoses.

Integrated care should include group therapy, a necessary component of any quality outpatient program. Group support can help you can find sobriety and confidence in your treatment through the shared experiences of you and your peers.

A quality outpatient program will also have professionally trained clinicians who can help diagnose a dual disorder, which is the first step to recovery. Individual counseling sessions are an integral part of any addiction treatment program, along with psychiatric care.

Another thing to look for in a quality treatment program is the presence of holistic care modalities. Holistic care works along with clinical treatment to give you the right tools and skills you need to overcome your addiction and live a happy and fulfilled life.

No matter what your dual diagnosis may be, you should have faith in knowing that it can be treated with the right tools, knowledge, and quality treatment.

Co-occurring disorders, or co-existence of both a mental illness and a substance use disorder, are quite common. This co-existence can occur together for a variety of reasons. Sometimes those who already suffer from a mental health disorder will use substances to cope; other times, substance use can create a mental health condition. Substance use, in general, can greatly impact your brain chemistry, and in order to live the happy and healthy life you deserve, it’s a good idea to seek help if you are suffering from a co-occurring disorder. At Lighthouse Recovery Texas, we utilize comprehensive treatment plans in our outpatient programs to identify and treat mental health conditions and substance use disorders simultaneously. Dual diagnosis requires integrated care that includes clinical treatment and holistic modalities to ensure you are treated fully and completely. For a free evaluation, give us a call today at (214) 396-0259.