Mental Health and Co-occurring Disorders

co-occurring disorders

In many cases, a person who is dealing with a substance use issue may also suffer from a mental health disorder. When this happens, it means that the individual is living with co-occurring disorders (multiple disorders that affect a person at the same time). A member will have to go through detox before they begin treatment of their co-occurring disorder.

About Common Co-Occurring Disorders

Unfortunately, those who are suffering from mental health disorders often develop substance abuse problems as well. In fact, according to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 9 million adults experienced AMI (any mental illness) and addiction in 2018. That is equal to 3.7% of the adult population.

The same study states that about 3.2 million adults had suffered from a serious mental illness (SMI) and addiction in the past year. This equates to 1.3% of the adult population.

However, despite the fact that millions of people were struggling with addiction in addition to other mental health disorders, only thousands of people received treatment that dealt with their co-occurring disorders. The Survey states that approximately 50% of the adults who suffered from AMI and addiction received treatment for their disorders. A little over 69% of adults with SMI and substance use disorders received treatment.

One common misunderstanding when it comes to addiction treatment is that it’s only meant to help people become free from substance use. But, the truth is that treatment should help individuals work through every element and contributing factor, including any co-occurring disorders.

We understand this truth here at Sana Lake Recovery Center. That’s why we provide treatment that deals with addiction as well as any accompanying disorders. Our clients receive care that helps them to work through each disorder and find total healing!

Everyone who enters our center will be assigned a Substance Use Counselor and a mental health therapist who will work together to develop an individualized plan that will address all underlying issues that may be contributing to the substance use disorder.

Additionally, we will provide a peer support specialist to help facilitate relationships within the treatment community, guide each person on their individual treatment plan while encouraging them after treatment to help them stay motivated for long-term sobriety.

Why Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment is Important

In many instances, struggling mental health may lead individuals to become addicted to medications, alcohol, or illicit drugs. This is why treatment should work to deal with both mental health disorders and substance use disorders.

When it comes to getting treatment for co-occurring disorders, it’s important to gain an understanding of various disorders and how they can affect people who are also dealing with substance abuse and addiction.

It’s also important to note that addiction develops as a result of several different factors. Sometimes, addiction develops because of genetics or certain environmental influences. Often, though, mental health disorders are actually partially responsible for addiction in people’s lives.

Depression

One disorder that commonly accompanies substance abuse is depressive disorder. This mental health disorder affects millions of people every year.

Most people feel sad, lonely, or hopeless at some point or another. We all experience these emotions and thought patterns throughout our lives. But, depression is different from the natural emotional response to unfortunate situations we may face.

Major depressive disorder, also called clinical depression, is more than the occasional and circumstantial sadness everyone feels from time to time. It’s a mental health disorder that impacts many different aspects of life for those who suffer from it.

For some people, those emotions persist for days, weeks, months, and even years. This is definitely a sign that they are actually dealing with clinical depression.

Here are some of the signs and symptoms of major depression:

  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of motivation
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Intense and extreme sadness
  • Isolation and social withdrawal
  • Lack of interest in social and family activities

The effects of depression can be very challenging. In some cases, the symptoms and effects of depression can become so overwhelming that individuals may turn to substance use in order to find relief.

Some people use alcohol in order to escape from depression’s symptoms. Others may use medication to treat their symptoms and, eventually, become dependent on the prescription drugs they’re using.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a term that many people use to describe the nervous feeling they experience from time to time. Individuals tend to feel this anxiety before important meetings, during difficult tests, and while meeting a new person. But, this is not what an anxiety disorder is.

Sometimes, people who are suffering from addiction are also living with an anxiety disorder. This means that they suffer from consistent and sometimes unprompted anxiety. Often, people who have an anxiety disorder feel anxious without really understanding why.

There are multiple types of anxiety disorders, each one having particular effects and symptoms.

Social Anxiety

Individuals who live with this disorder suffer from anxiety when they encounter a social setting or situation. The thought of spending time with a large group may cause symptoms of anxiety. These symptoms might include nausea, excessive sweating, and increased heart rate.

Social Anxiety often causes people to feel uncomfortable at school, work, and social gatherings or events.

General Anxiety Disorder

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that general anxiety disorder (GAD) “affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, in any given year”.

People who suffer from this particular anxiety disorder may feel extremely concerned and worried about various matters. They may experience persistent anxiety regarding their jobs, health, and finances.

Panic Disorder

This mental health disorder is characterized by panic attacks. These are bouts of horror and terror that affect those who suffer from panic disorder. Individuals who experience panic attacks feel sudden and unexpected episodes in which they feel symptoms such as dizziness, heart palpitations, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Individuals may begin to shake or tremble as a result of a panic attack. 

These attacks can also cause people to feel a sense of doom or intense fear. Some individuals may even feel as though they are choking or being smothered. Panic attacks can cause a person’s heart rate to accelerate and may cause excessive sweating, as well. 

What Are Some Other Common Co-Occurring Disorders?

There are multiple disorders that might occur alongside addiction. As you begin to seek treatment for addiction and any accompanying disorders, it will be helpful to have as much information about these co-occurring disorders as possible.

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a severe mental health disorder that impacts a person’s behaviors, feelings, and cognition. The way a person thinks and feels can be seriously affected by schizophrenia. In most cases of this disorder, individuals seem to lose touch with what is real as they experience symptoms such as:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusional thinking
  • Dysfunctional thinking

Those who suffer from schizophrenia may often have difficulty with decision-making. They may have trouble experiencing genuine pleasure and may have reduced emotional responses. Schizophrenia can have negative effects on a person’s memory and ability to process and utilize information. Finally, schizophrenia can cause people to struggle in the areas of focus and concentration.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

This disorder is commonly known as PTSD. People experience this disorder as a result of traumatic experiences. Some individuals who deal with PTSD have been through violent and abusive domestic situations. Others may be veterans who have been in a war zone.

PTSD also affects people who have witnessed an unsettling event, such as a car accident. Some of the symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, avoidance of people or places related to the traumatic event, insomnia, agitation, and nightmares.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Commonly known as OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by compulsions and obsessions. Those who have OCD experience compulsive behaviors as well as obsessive behaviors.

Some commonly occurring compulsive behaviors might include:

  • Excessive handwashing
  • Excessive cleaning
  • Repetitive checking (i.e. constantly checking that a door is locked)
  • Counting, organizing, ordering, and re-ordering objects, etc.

Some of the obsessive behaviors that often affect those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder include the following:

  • Intense fear of germs
  • Severe fear of contamination
  • Recurring and unwanted “forbidden” thoughts
  • Aggressive or negative thoughts towards oneself or others
  • Obsession with symmetry, order, or organization

These obsessions and compulsions are uncontrollable for the individual who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Codependency 

Individuals who struggle with codependency often exhibit behaviors that are harmful in relationships with others. Codependent people may struggle to focus on their own needs, constantly and excessively placing another person’s needs before their own. They may constantly make sacrifices in order to make someone else happy, even if it means never truly experiencing happiness themselves.

Codependent individuals may enable the harmful behaviors of others. These behaviors might include physical abuse, mental abuse, drug misuse, and alcoholism. Often, people who are codependent feel afraid of losing a relationship, so they continue to enable harmful behaviors and focus solely on the other individual’s wants and needs. 

Those who suffer from codependency may have low self-esteem and have a poor sense of boundary-setting. They may show signs of “people-pleasing” as they constantly consider others above themselves in unhealthy ways. Codependent individuals may also try to control the people around them in order to feel a sense of safety or security.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that affects the way people feel and behave. It affects people’s energy levels and ability to concentrate or focus. Bipolar disorder often causes people to struggle to complete daily activities and function normally.

While there are multiple types of bipolar disorder, each one is characterized by changes in mood and energy. Those who have bipolar disorder may experience “high” moods in which they are extremely energized and elated. These are known as manic episodes. Other times, people may experience “low” periods in which they feel depressed or indifferent. They may feel extremely sad or hopeless. These are known as depressive episodes.

The three main types of bipolar disorder are as follows:

  • Cyclothymic Disorder
  • Bipolar I Disorder
  • Bipolar II Disorder

Racing thoughts, reckless behaviors, fast speech, decreases in appetite, jumpiness, irritability, and grandiose thoughts may all occur in manic episodes.

Restlessness, appetite increases, hopelessness, forgetfulness, slow speech, lack of concentration, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal thoughts may all occur in depressive episodes.

Personality Disorders

A personality disorder is defined as a way of thinking or behaving that is different from what is deemed as “normal” and acceptable. In other words, a person who has a personality disorder may think, act, or feel significantly different than most others.

There are many types of personality disorders. These include:

Each disorder is characterized by different symptoms and behaviors. But those who suffer from personality disorders generally think of themselves or others in a way that is drastically different than what is usually accepted in society. They may also have very complex or unusual emotional responses and physical behaviors.

Getting Treatment at Sana Lake Recovery Center

If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction and a co-occurring disorder such as depression or PTSD, there is hope. Peace and healing are available through the professional treatment programs here at Sana Lake Recovery Center.

We are dedicated to making sure each of our clients finds freedom from addiction. So, there is no need to wait any longer; you can get the help you need today! Contact Sana Lake Recovery Center for information on getting help for yourself or your loved one today.

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.