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What is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

Simply stated, a co-occurring disorder is the clinical diagnosis of an individual who has a mental health condition along with an alcohol or drug addiction.  It is a futile effort to determine which disease occurred first, though it is worthwhile for the patient to know and understand as much as they can about their Illness. Did the individual begin abusing substances and then a mental health issue arose or did the person have a mental health issue and then they abused drugs as a means to cope with their mental illness.

What is critical for both the patient and the treatment team to understand is that it is difficult to pinpoint which occurred first. Many people who suffer with mental illness are not aware of the issue initially and have begun to self-medicate the symptoms of their mental illness with either alcohol, illicit drugs or both. For many it has become a way of life.

Another reason that the diagnosis of a co-occurring disorder is not made earlier is because many people who have co-occurring conditions are not honest with themselves or others about the issues they struggle with. Either they are hiding one condition or the other or both. This is due in part to the stigma attached to both drug and alcohol addiction as well as mental illness.

Making the dual diagnosis of a mental health condition along with substance or alcohol abuse is a tremendous step forward in treating both illnesses.  In terms of treatment as long as the two occur at the same time, it is an accurate diagnosis. The River Source has a unique treatment plan that marries approaches for mental health treatment and alcohol and substance abuse rehabilitation together to help the dually diagnosed person. Stabilizing the mental health issue and teaching the addict not to rely on substances as a mechanism of coping.

Substance or Alcohol Abuse Coupled With ________Equals a Dual Diagnosis

Anxiety Disorders – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Generalized Anxiety, Social Anxiety, and Panic Disorder can occur when an individual’s body triggers natural responses to anxiety abnormally. These individuals may cope with these unnatural responses by limiting contact with people and situations resulting in a disorder.  When the individual begins to abuse substances or alcohol as a means to cope with their anxiety disorder they now have the co-occurring condition.

Personality Disorders – Schizophrenia, Anti-Social Personality Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder are the more intense mental health conditions since they have a greater impact on the individuals entire life. Personality disorders involve an individual’s thought patterns and behaviors that may not be socially accepted or based in reality. Each disorder is different and intense clinical intervention is required to assist. Again, individuals suffering with a personality disorder may self-medicate the symptomology by abusing substances or alcohol.

Mood Disorders – Major Depression, Dysthymia and Bi-Polar Disorder are mental illnesses that make the individual have abnormal moods. People who suffer with Major Depression and Dysthymia feel sadness and hopelessness for extended periods of time. Having Dysthymia doesn’t always mean the individual cannot engage in daily activities on a consistent basis since it is the less intense of the two. Major Depression can become debilitating if left untreated. Bi-Polar Disorder is categorized by extreme highs and extreme lows though some individuals may fall somewhere in between both. Individuals who abuse alcohol and substances in order to cope with their mood disorder may be making the condition worse by ingesting a substance that exacerbates the depression.

Get Help From An Experienced Team of Professionals

The medical and clinical team at The River Source has years of experience working with individuals who are dually diagnosed and are seeking treatment for both issues. We also work in conjunction with various treatment facilities in an attempt to combat these diseases and bring the sufferers to a place of balance, health and wellness. Please contact The River Source today as you begin the first leg of the journey back to the real you.