Mental Health And Addiction – How A Co-Occurring Disorder Is Treated

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The Definition Of A Co-Occurring Disorder

When someone has a mental health diagnosis and a substance abuse problem simultaneously, they are considered to have a co-occurring disorder, also known as a dual-diagnosis. A person has to have a mental health disorder and be abusing alcohol or drugs like alcohol, cocaine, heroin, opioids, or methamphetamines to receive a dual-diagnosis. According to the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that more than 7.9 million people had a co-occurring disorder in the United States in 2014. Undoubtedly, that number has increased since then, but this is the most current data available.

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Common Mental Health Diagnoses

There are a number of mental health disorders that can complicate the problem of substance abuse. Bipolar, anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, and schizophrenia are among the most common. Let’s explain these disorders to give you a better understanding of how they affect an individual.

Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias are all classified as anxiety disorders. When someone has an anxiety disorder, they have a heightened sense of fear and dread about the future. They respond to life with an overwhelming feeling of concern that things are not okay or that something bad is about to happen. They may demonstrate physical signs of anxiety like sweating, shaking, and an increased heartbeat. If someone has a phobia, they are terrified of a particular object or experience. For instance, someone might have a phobia about leaving the house.

Bi-Polar Disorder

Bi-polar is characterized by extreme mood swings that range from extreme depression to feelings of being elated and high on life, also known as “mania.” When someone is manic, they can be a danger to themselves or others because they hold irrational beliefs and demonstrate bizarre behavior. Someone with bipolar has a chemical imbalance in their brain that causes these mood swings to be beyond their control.

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When someone has been diagnosed with clinical depression, it means they consistently experience very low lows that make them feel very sad and even suicidal. This is caused by a depletion of Serotonin and Dopamine, which are the feel-good chemicals in the brain. Someone who has depression finds it difficult to enjoy life or find pleasure in even the most exciting activities. People with depression experience a loss of concentration, difficulty with mental focus, and uncontrollable crying.

Eating Disorders

If someone has an eating disorder, they have an unhealthy relationship with their body which causes them to have an unhealthy relationship with food. For example, someone with Anorexia may starve themselves and refuse to eat. Bulimia happens when someone consumes large amounts of food and then makes themselves vomit so they don’t process the calories they have consumed. Those who have eating disorders say their mind bombards them with incredible negative messages about themselves and brings about feelings of self-hatred.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that results when someone experiences a trauma, usually a life-threatening event. PTSD causes someone to believe they are in a constant state of danger where they continue to mentally relive the trauma they experienced. Sexual assault, physical assault, a car accident, a combat zone, extreme weather events like earthquakes, and the sudden death of a loved one can bring about PTSD.


Schizophrenia is a complicated mental disorder that causes someone to lose touch with reality. Like other mental disorders, it is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Hallucinations, delusions, bizarre thoughts, and irrational behavior are common for those who struggle with this disorder. difficult.      

Getting Diagnosed With A Mental Health Disorder

If you think you have a mental health disorder, you should see a psychiatrist or psychologist to get diagnosed. You should not make the mistake of thinking you can diagnose yourself using Google or mental health websites. When you see a mental health professional, you will answer an in-depth questionnaire and answer a series of questions from the doctor. This will help assess your symptoms and give you a proper diagnosis. It is important to have a proper diagnosis before you can get the treatment you need for your individual problem. It is also important that you be honest with the doctor about your drug and alcohol use. The doctor needs to determine if you meet the criteria for a dual-diagnosis. Just because you have been using drugs or alcohol does not necessarily mean you have a co-occurring disorder. ” column_min_width=”[object Object]” column_spacing=”[object Object]” rule_style=”[object Object]” rule_size=”[object Object]” rule_color=”[object Object]” hide_on_mobile=”[object Object]” class=”[object Object]” id=”[object Object]”][object Object]

Why People With Mental Health Issues Abuse Drugs And Alcohol

People who have mental health disorders often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to find relief from their symptoms. If you can imagine what it would be like to have no control over your own mind or your own mood, you can get a good idea why people who have a mental health disorder abuse chemicals to cope. Usually, a mental disorder is present before the substance abuse begins – although the person may have not yet been diagnosed when they start using drugs or alcohol. While drugs or alcohol may provide temporarily relief for those who suffer from mental health issues, substance abuse actually prolongs symptoms and makes them worse. Furthermore, having a co-occurring disorder complicates matters. It can be difficult for a healthcare provider to determine which symptoms are caused by the addiction and which ones are brought on by the mental health disorder. Also, someone with a dual-diagnosis will have to battle their addiction and overcome the complications of their illness.

Detoxification Is The First Step To Treating A Co-Occurring Disorder

The first step to treating a dual-diagnosis is detoxification. When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol and they have a co-occurring disorder, they need to get the substances out of their system before they can be treated for their mental health disorder. Someone who has been abusing addictive substances like opioids, heroin, or benzodiazepines like Xanax should undergo a professional medical detoxification. This happens in a medical facility, detox center, or in-patient rehab. With a professional medical detox, someone will be given medication to lessen cravings and withdrawal symptoms so they can detox comfortably. Plus, their progress will be monitored and evaluated around-the-clock to make sure they safely withdrawal from whatever drugs they have been taking. Only once someone has detoxed can they receive the treatment they need for their mental health disorder. You simply cannot effectively provide mental health services to someone while they are under the influence of addictive chemicals.

In-Patient Rehabs That Specialize In Dual-Diagnosis Are Recommended For People With a Co-Occurring Disorder

Those who have a co-occurring disorder should go to a rehab that specializes in this condition. People with a dual-diagnosis do not respond to traditional treatment the way someone would if they simply have a problem with addiction. This is because someone with a co-occurring disorder has special needs. Not only do they need to detox from the drugs or alcohol and learn the necessary tools to stay clean and sober, someone with a mental disorder needs to learn how to manage the symptoms of their illness. This can be complicated and requires ongoing treatment.

Someone With A Mental Disorder May Require Medication

Someone who has a substance abuse problem can stop using drugs or alcohol and get into recovery immediately. This is not necessarily true for someone with a mental disorder. Medication is often needed for those with bipolar, depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia. Medication therapy is usually an integral part of the treatment involved for those who have a dual-diagnosis because it helps the addicted person manage their symptoms. By managing symptoms, someone is less likely to relapse and return to drugs or alcohol for relief. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) or mood stabilizers are common for those who have a mental health disorder. SSRIs work on the brain by blocking the body’s absorption of Serotonin. This allows more of the feel-good chemicals to remain in the body to boost mood. Mood-stabilizers help stabilize mood and fight depression and anxiety.

Ongoing Counseling is Recommended For Those With A Dual-Diagnosis

Someone who has a problem with addiction can go to 12-Step meetings and work a program of recovery. However; someone who also has a mental disorder needs to go to meetings and pursue counseling. While 12-Step meetings are an effective means for addressing issues of addiction, they are not a proper place to work through bipolar, depression, and anxiety. Someone with a mental health disorder should talk to a licensed therapist who specializes in the treatment of co-occurring disorders. This way, they can learn tools needed to manage the problems that arise from their individual situation.

Support Groups Are Especially Effective In Treating Those With Mental Health Disorders

There are support groups happening all over the country for people who have certain mental health disorders. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) is an excellent resource to find groups in your area. In these groups, people are able to connect with peers who also have the same mental health diagnosis in a loving, non-judgmental environment. This allows people to share their experience with one another and offer tools to each other learn to cope with their specific disorder. There are also dual-diagnosis groups so that people who are struggling to recover from addiction and learning to manage mental health symptoms can support each other.

Getting Help For A Co-Occurring Disorder

If you have a co-occurring disorder and you want to get help for your substance abuse problem, you should choose a treatment facility that specializes in the treatment of mental health disorders and chemical dependency. You simply cannot treat one aspect of this condition and not treat the other. Rehabilitation facilities that simply treat chemical dependency and do not address the mental health disorder are only dealing with half the problem. Here are some dual-diagnosis treatment centers in Idaho.