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5 Fast Answers About Co-occurring Disorders

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When two or more disorders exist within the same patient, it’s termed a “co-occurring disorder.” Once called “dual diagnosis,” this condition is common and treatable with a proper assessment and treatment plan, by experienced mental health professionals who have expertise in such conditions.

What are Co-occurring Disorders?

When two or more mental disorders (such as a substance use disorder and depression) occur alongside one another, the person is diagnosed as having co-occurring disorders. Because they occur simultaneously, they can often be challenging to diagnose.

Remember the Rubik’s Cube where the goal was to configure sides of the cube all in the same color? That’s often how complex a co-occurring disorder may appear to a person who has it or those who are close to that person. The right professionals can decipher, simplify and help treat co-occurring disorders.

Co-occurring disorders? Dual diagnosis? Comorbidity?

At one time, the condition was referred to as dual-diagnosis or comorbidity. Essentially the condition is the same and the new term is widely accepted through professional circles, including those who treat substance use disorders. Which is important because it’s common to those who suffer from alcoholism and drug addiction. It typically entails alcoholism, and drug addiction, and one other condition mental health disorder.

“A [patient] can be described as having co-occurring disorders when at least one disorder of each type can be established independent of the other and is not simply a cluster of symptoms resulting from another disorder.

What are Common Co-occurring Disorders?

When a patient is diagnosed with both a substance use disorder and a mental health issue, then it is termed co-occurring. Accompanying a dependence on alcohol and drugs may also be one of the following conditions:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Moderate to severe depression
  • Personality disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Schizophrenia

Which Do You Treat First?

You should treat both at the same time. And immediately. With every medical and clinical resource possible. No matter which disorder develops first, alcoholism or drug addiction and the mental health disorder should be treated simultaneously by immensely qualified treatment professionals. Because the symptoms and effects of one disorder often impact and drive the other disorder, both issues must be addressed through comprehensive treatment. That comprehensive treatment means teams of professionals who’re working in tandem with one another constantly and consistently.

Is a Co-occurring Disorder Uncommon with Addiction?

No. Not at all. In fact, it’s probably more common than uncommon. Typically, people with mental health disorders are more likely than people without mental health disorders to experience an alcohol or substance use disorder.

The first step is an accurate assessment and evaluation of the patient’s condition so the course of action is the right one from the outset. Evaluating whether a person has alcoholism or addiction relies largely upon the patient themselves. “Can you quit? Can you control?” Those are the first two questions that they are often asked. A full assessment is more complex and requires the expertise of people who’re trained to lead the patient through uncharted territory.

Once that evaluation is made, and agreed upon with medical and clinical teams, as well as spiritual guidance from those who’ve face substance use disorders first-hand, then the treatment can begin.

SAMSHA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration) states. “People with co-occurring disorders are best served through integrated treatment. With integrated treatment, practitioners can address mental and substance use disorders at the same time, often lowering costs and creating better outcomes. Increasing awareness and building capacity in service systems are important in helping identify and treat co-occurring disorders. Early detection and treatment can improve treatment outcomes and the quality of life for those who need these services.”

Questions about Co-occuring disorders and treatment? Call 844-843-8935.