CO- OCCURRING DISORDERS TREATMENT
What are Co-Occurring Disorders?
A co-occurring disorder is a condition in which a person has a co-existing mental illness and substance use disorder. It is commonly defined as the combination of substance use and other mental disorders. The other mental disorders could come in any other form such as intellectual disability, eating disorder, personality or trauma-related disorders.
Co-occurring disorder is also referred to as dual diagnosis or dual disorder. The term dual diagnosis has been more prevalent in the past. Dual diagnosis goes with the same definition – simultaneous diagnosis of both a drug abuse disorder and mental health disorder. Comorbidity is also a commonly used term to describe the co-occurring disorder.
About 4 million people struggle with a co-occurring drug or alcohol dependency and mental health disorder.
Co-occurring disorders are common. However, their cases differ in severity, and the severity of each case is likely to change over time. The challenge with dual-diagnosis is that the affected tend to experience more severe psychiatric and medical difficulties than those nursing a single disorder. They may also require a longer period of treatment to address both disorders.
Co-occurring disorders come in different combinations. It could be alcoholism and depression, anxiety disorder and opioid dependence, marijuana and bipolar disorder or meth and social anxiety disorder. For most cases of dual disorder, the symptoms and challenges connected to one can degenerate the issues of the other.
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What Are the Symptoms of a Co-Occurring Disorder?
It is difficult to pick out symptoms of co-occurring disorders because they manifest as either a mental disorder or substance abuse. The symptoms will also vary depending on the co-occurring conditions. Take for instance, a dual diagnosis for mood disorder and meth addiction will manifest differently from a combination of anxiety and alcohol addiction. These overlapping symptoms can be confusing for a loved one to identify.
However, there are general symptoms that you can pick with dual diagnosis patients. Experts recommend that these are the indicators you should look for first to identify presence of a co-occurring disorder.
Mental and Emotional Symptoms
Depression: If you feel like you can’t remember the last time you felt happy, or satisfied with life, this could be a sign of depression. Self medicating symptoms of depression using drugs or alcohol can be dangerous and lead to addiction.
Anxiety: Extreme stress and anxiety can cause a person to want desperately to find a solution for their suffering. This could lead the person to seek out drugs or alcohol to relieve their symptoms.
Trauma: Not everyone who experiences trauma will develop an addiction, however, trauma can be a major factor in developing an addiction. Trauma can have severe mental, emotional, and even physical side effects that could cause a person to seek relief through drugs and alcohol.
Changes in appetite or weight: depending on the substance of abuse, these fluctuations could go either way. Stimulant drugs would decrease appetite and cause weight loss, and where as marijuana could increase appetite, and alcohol can cause weight gain.
Changes in personal hygiene: it is not uncommon for mental health problems as well as drug abuse to cause poor hygiene habits. Either one could cause a drop in personal hygiene, but together they could be cause for a significant decline.
Health Issues: Abusing drugs and alcohol can severely impact the body. Alcohol can impair coordination, leading to falls, broken bones, or bruising. Using drugs intravenously can cause bruising on arms, and some drugs- such as stimulants- can lead to skin picking and scabbing.
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Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders
Partial Hospitalization Treatment
A Partial Hospitalization program will allow for intensive daily therapy that will be able to treat both substance abuse and a mental health condition. This involves supervision from a medical staff and daily therapeutic groups. During treatment, the individual will learn how to manage their mental health, while also staying sober from substances. They will also receive a transitional plan for after treatment.
Intensive Outpatient Treatment
In Intensive Outpatient Treatment, the individual will still receive daily therapeutic care, but they will receive fewer hours. Their therapy will help them to learn to stay sober while also balancing normal aspects of life- such as work, school, and family obligations. During this level of care the person can live at home, or couple the treatment with a sober living environment for more accountability.
A sober living environment provides a safe and sober place for an individual to stay while they attend treatment, as well as afterwords if they feel they need continued accountability. In a Sober Living environment the individual would undergo regular drug testing, and have certain expectations such as curfew and be required to attend outside recovery groups, such as AA or SMART recovery.