Co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis, refer to when a person suffers from a mental health issue (such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder) and a substance use disorder (such as alcoholism or drug addiction).
This scenario can be difficult to navigate because it requires an integrated treatment plan that addresses both mental health and substance use disorder. Here’s what you need to know about co-occurring disorders and available treatments.
Studies suggest that there may be genetic factors involved in developing co-occurring disorders. A person’s genes could potentially make them more vulnerable to developing mental health issues or substance use disorders due to their biological makeup. Researchers are still exploring this idea further, but genetics may play a role in creating an environment where someone may be more likely to develop comorbid conditions.
As with many medical conditions, environmental factors could also contribute to the development of co-occurring disorders. These environmental factors may include traumatic events such as abuse or neglect, poverty, and social isolation, among other things.
For example, suppose an individual is living in unsafe surroundings or is exposed to violence on a regular basis. In that case, this could cause them to feel overwhelmed and have difficulty managing their emotions – leading them to turn to drugs or alcohol as coping mechanisms, eventually leading to addiction.
Another potential factor in the development of comorbid conditions is brain chemistry abnormalities. Research has suggested that individuals who suffer from mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety tend to have imbalances in certain neurotransmitters like serotonin or dopamine, which can affect mood and behavior.
When these neurotransmitters are not balanced properly, it can make it difficult for individuals to manage their emotions leading them to turn towards substances as a form of self-medication which can lead to addiction and even more mental health issues down the line.
Treating co-occurring disorders requires an integrated approach that considers both the mental health issue and the substance use disorder. This means that the patient must have access to professionals who are skilled in treating both types of issues for them to receive comprehensive care.
Treatment plans should include psychotherapy, medications (if necessary), lifestyle changes, and support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. It is also important for patients with co-occurring disorders to have ongoing support from family members or other caregivers for them to maintain long-term recovery.
In addition to traditional treatments, alternative treatments such as yoga, meditation, art therapy, music therapy, and more can be beneficial in helping patients manage their symptoms. These alternative therapies can help patients gain better insight into their feelings and behaviors while providing an opportunity for relaxation and stress relief which can improve overall moods and functioning levels.
Co-occurring disorders are complex conditions that require professional treatment for individuals to effectively manage their symptoms over time. While there is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to treating these conditions, there are evidence-based treatments available, including psychotherapy, medications (if necessary), lifestyle changes, support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, and alternative therapies such as yoga or meditation which can help individuals achieve long term recovery success when combined with ongoing support from family members or other caregivers.
Suppose you believe you may be suffering from a co-occurring disorder. In that case, it is important that you speak with your doctor so they can provide you with an appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan tailored specifically to your needs.