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What Is a Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment Program?

Co-occurring disorders are more common than many think. Read on to learn more about their signs and symptoms.

What Are Co-Occurring Disorders?

Co-occurring disorders are pretty common in mental health-related issues; however, a lot of people seem to be unaware of just how common and how much effect this condition can have on treatment efficacy. Co-occurring disorders, also known as comorbidity disorders, refer to health conditions where at least two different yet related medical health conditions occur simultaneously in an individual. [1]

In specific relation to mental health conditions, a co-occurring disorder refers to a condition where an individual suffers from any combination of at least two of the substance use disorders and mental health conditions listed in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).[2]

co-occurring disorders

Scope of Co-Occurring Disorders

It is important to note that while co-occurring conditions are prevalent with mental health conditions, they are not limited to just mental health disorders. For example, a typical co-occurring disorder solution could look something like diabetes and high blood pressure co-occurring together in the same patient.

Nevertheless, these co-occurring conditions are more commonly observed in mental health cases, and they can make mental health intervention attempts complicated in certain cases. 

How Common Are Co-Occurring Disorders?

Many people often downplay or are unaware of how many currently suffer from a co-occurring disorder condition. According to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health carried out by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2018, over nine million adults in the United States currently suffer from a co-occurring disorder. This statistic alone already hints at potentially devastating results if this particular survey were carried out on a global scale. [3]

What Is the Difference Between Co-Occurring Disorders and Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis and co-occurring conditions are two somewhat similar yet very different medical conditions. The major difference between a co-occurring disorder and dual diagnosis is the nature of the diagnosis. For dual diagnosis, the substance abuse disorder and the mental health disorder are entirely different diagnoses; one is not necessarily caused by the other, although both conditions are present.

In the case of a co-occurring disorder, however, the mental disorder prompts an individual to engage in substance abuse, thereby leading to substance use disorder. In this case, both conditions must be treated simultaneously as against one after the other because they are closely linked or entangled.

The Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders

You should know that there is no specific combination of substance use disorder and mental health disorder for co-occurring disorders, as a co-occurring disorder can include any combination of substance use and mental disorders. Nevertheless, some mental health conditions have been observed to occur with substance use disorders commonly. They include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Personality and mood disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Causes and Risk Factors of Co-Occurring Disorders

There is still a lot that needs to be understood about co-occurring disorders; however, it is known that one condition (substance use disorder or mental health disorder) is usually what results in the other.

An individual with a mental health disorder like depression or anxiety may begin “experimenting” with drugs to relieve the symptoms of the mental health disorder. Over time this causes drug dependency, thereby leading to the development of a substance use disorder. 

Risk Factors for Co-Occurring Disorders

Beyond the causes of comorbidity, several risk factors increase the likelihood of an individual developing a co-occurring disorder. These risk factors for co-occurring disorders can include the following: [4]

  • Sex
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Age
  • Type of disorder
  • Access to healthcare
  • Congenital or early life diseases

Which Develops First: Addiction or Mental Illness?

Usually, the mental health condition occurs first before the substance abuse disorder. The substance use disorder more or less occurs as a result of people using drugs and other substances for their effects as a sort of coping mechanism with the symptoms of the mental health disorder.

However, it eventually might get out of hand and becomes a disorder on its own. However, note that comorbidity can also occur the other way: a substance abuse condition resulting in a mental disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Co-Occurring Disorders

The signs and symptoms observed for co-occurring disorders usually depend on the particular mental disorder and substance use condition present.  

Common Signs of Substance Use Disorders

These signs and symptoms can include: [5]

  • Compulsive drug use
  • Appetite changes leading to drastic weight gain or weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Reduced or lack of motivation
  • Sleep pattern alterations
  • Tremors
  • Impaired coordination

Common Signs of Mental Health Disorders

The common signs of mental health disorders include: [6]

  • Anxiety
  • Mood imbalances
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Difficulties in relating with others
  • Substance abuse
  • Alterations in eating habits
  • Sleep pattern changes

As stated, co-occurring disorders generally result from the mental health disorder first, but if you or a loved one are noticing any of these signs or symptoms, it’s important to reach out to a treatment center or medical facility to get the care you deserve.

Integrated Treatment Program for Co-Occurring Disorders

Now that you know what co-occurring disorders are and some of their symptoms, you should also know that despite their effects and treatment complications, co-occurring disorders are very treatable. In fact, there are several co-occurring disorders treatment programs

Treatment Programs

Currently, the acceptable and recommended treatment for co-occurring disorders is integrated treatment. Integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders is a unique approach that usually seeks to take care of a patient’s mental disorder while simultaneously providing effective treatment for the co-occurring mental illness condition.

This co-occurring disorders treatment approach is evidence-based and multidisciplinary, meaning treatment usually involves a team of different healthcare professionals working in tandem to ensure effective and sustained treatment results. Co-occurring disorders treatment usually takes place in specific co-occurring disorders treatment centers.7 

What Are the Benefits of Integrated Treatment?

There are several benefits to treating co-occurring disorders with the integrated treatment approach. Some of these include:

  • Comprehensive treatment for both substance use disorder and mental health disorder
  • Recovery support
  • Patient motivation and empowerment
  • Better treatment success chances
Co-occurring Disorders

Integrated Treatment Program

An integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders involves a combination of several treatment approaches to ensure comprehensive treatment and therapy results.

Treatment Opportunities

Substance use disorder treatment options in co-occurring disorders include:

  • Medically-supervised detox
  • Inpatient treatment
  • Outpatient treatment

Therapy Opportunities

Different forms of therapy are also employed in co-occurring disorders to treat and manage mental health conditions. They include: 

Integrated treatment also involves including support groups and aftercare programs to ensure patients can enjoy a full recovery and reduce the risk and occurrence of relapse after treatment.

Find Help Now at Genesis Recovery

Are you or a loved one currently in search of effective and comprehensive treatment for co-occurring disorders? If you are, then Genesis Recovery is the perfect place for you. At Genesis Recovery, we understand that no two co-occurring disorder conditions are the same. As such, we offer specialized, and individualized integrated treatment approaches perfectly designed to ensure optimum treatment recovery.

Contact us today if you or a loved one need help managing co-occurring disorders.


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