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What are Co-Occurring Disorders: A Guide to Mental Health

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You may be wondering, “What are co-occurring disorders?” Well, a person can have two mental illnesses at one time. For instance, someone with alcohol addiction can also have an anxiety disorder. Treating both diseases at a co-occurring disorder treatment center at the same time is crucial for the recovery of a person with a co-occurring disorder.

What Are Co-Occurring Disorders?

You probably already have a vague idea as to what co-occurring disorders are. This term refers to a health condition in which the person has both a substance use disorder and mental illness simultaneously. Co-occurring diseases are also known as dual diagnosis, dual disorder, or comorbidity.

Commonly, people use the term when talking about the combination of substance use and mental illness. However, it may also refer to just about any combination of disorders—for instance, a person who has an intellectual disability and a mental disorder.

The severity of the diseases in co-occurring disorders varies, and they may change over time. The problem with dual diagnosis is there are more challenges in the process of recovery. As such, the treatment at a mental health and substance abuse treatment center may take a longer time than ordinary substance use disorder.

Signs and Causes of Co-occurring Disorders

The symptoms of co-occurring disorders are those associated with the particular mental illness and substance abuse affecting the person. They vary based on the individual’s life circumstances, the mental illness, and the type of substance they use. However, the most common symptoms include:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Unexplained mood swings
  • Hygiene and health problems
  • Lost concentration
  • Noncompliance to treatment
  • Isolation
  • Violent behavior

Some people with co-occurring disorders may also have suicidal thoughts. Their housing and employment situations tend to be unstable and may be facing legal problems. It’s challenging to find out whether mental illness is the side effect of addiction or vice versa. Thus, seeking professional help at a Tennessee mental health treatment center is vital.

As for the causes, co-occurring disorders result from certain risk factors, such as genetics and the environment. Those with mental health disorders are highly likely to have a substance abuse disorder compared to those who don’t.

Also, the risk for alcohol abuse disorder is higher when associated with conditions such as antisocial personality disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorders. Alcohol use disorder is also related to some depressive and anxiety disorders.

In any case, the four leading causes of co-occurring disorders include:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Environmental triggers such as trauma and stress
  • Brain system functions may be affected by mental illness or substance abuse
  • Early exposure to alcohol or other drugs that make them more susceptible to mental illness

The Stigma Involving Co-Occurring Disorders

So what are co-occurring disorders? You know already that it’s when you have two health conditions to deal with at the same time. But the truth is you don’t only have two health challenges, but you also must face the associated stigma and a lot of other issues.

It is the stigma that is the greatest challenge for many people with mental illness. It is the barrier that keeps them from getting help at a mental health and substance treatment center because of the fear of what others will think. There are many misunderstandings about mental illness, including that individuals with mental illness are dangerous or have moral failings.

The truth is that most people struggling with mental disorders are harmless. It is only that addiction damages their health and social function. But because of the misinterpretation surrounding co-occurring disorders, people with the condition live in fear and shame.

They isolate themselves or deny treatment to avoid embarrassment. As a result, those who need help do not receive it. The worst thing is the cultural rejection that results in a person with a dual diagnosis who cannot provide for themselves.

Get Help from Encore Recovery

If you think you are suffering from substance abuse and mental illness, don’t hesitate to seek help. You’re here because you likely already see the signs of a co-occurring disorder. With proper guidance and treatment from a health professional, you will be on the way to recovery. Contact Encore Health Group for more information.