Millions of people struggle with addiction across the United States every year. At the same time, an even greater number deal with mental health disorders. Unfortunately, it is common for a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder to be present simultaneously. Answering the question, “What is a co-occurring disorder?” is really as simple as that. When someone has both an addiction and a mental health disorder, they are said to suffer from a co-occurring disorder. Both issues are treatable. Even more importantly, both are treatable at the same time.
What Is a Co-Occurring Disorder?
As previously mentioned, a co-occurring disorder is when a person presents as having a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder simultaneously. In fact, people who begin with a mental health disorder are more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder compared to the general population.
But what explains why they so often go together? It primarily comes down to risk factors and how many people deal with their disorder. Mental health and addiction share many of the same risk factors. These include family history, genetics, and the environment. Having one or more of these risk factors naturally predisposes someone to mental health and substance abuse problems. In the case of family history, simply having a close relative who struggles with addiction increases your chance of also having an addiction at some point in life.
The other major thing to consider is how people respond to their struggles, particularly when they cannot access proper treatment. Unfortunately, many people fail to get the help they need and deserve. Stigma and lack of access to timely interventions remain all-too-common. Self-medication becomes their primary outlet. One common example is how depression may result in someone drinking to alleviate symptoms. This can lead to depression being accompanied by alcoholism. The opposite can occur too, where alcoholism causes depression or anxiety.
Common Co-Occurring Disorders
Co-occurring disorders are considered present whenever a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder appear. However, some mental health disorders are more common for people struggling with addiction than others. Examples of common mental health disorders that play a role in co-occurring disorders include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Those mental health concerns match up with the most common addictions, such as alcoholism, opioid addiction, or stimulant addiction. As referenced earlier, one common co-occurring disorder is depression and alcoholism. Another is post-traumatic stress disorder and opioid addiction.
The Connection Between Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Mental health and substance abuse share many connections and similar risk factors. Leaving either issue untreated leaves people more open to developing a co-occurring disorder.
This is because substance abuse often results in mental health problems stemming directly from the substance in question. For instance, the symptoms of alcohol abuse include mental health problems and mood swings. Over time, those symptoms can become a full-blown mental health disorder.
Another way that mental health and substance abuse are related is how substance abuse changes the brain. Substances like cocaine and opioids fundamentally change brain function in severe, prolonged addictions. Those changes make developing a mental health disorder more likely. It serves to deepen addiction’s hold in many ways because the brain has come to rely on the substance for anything approaching normal functioning.
Contact Northpoint Nebraska Today
Addiction treatment providers like Northpoint Nebraska often provide specialized programs to treat co-occurring disorders. This type of intervention is also referred to as dual diagnosis treatment. Find out more about how this method comprehensively addresses mental health and substance abuse simultaneously by dialing 402.698.3475.