Man struggling with addiction and mental health

Also known as comorbidity, the presence of another mental illness alongside addiction presents patients with a dual diagnosis. Substance use disorder, or SUD, can be used to refer to alcohol or drug dependence and abuse which can co-occur with other conditions such as PTSD and schizophrenia. While the abuse of drugs or alcohol can lead to the development of other mental health issues, it’s common for the latter to appear first. Individuals may start drinking or using drugs to mask the symptoms of their mental illness as a dangerous form of self-medicating.

Common Co-occurring Disorders

High levels of stress or an inability to regulate mood due to a diagnosable disorder are the most commonly found co-occuring conditions with substance abuse. Some of the most common co-occurring disorders related to mood and anxiety include:

  • Severe depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Panic attacks
  • Social anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD
  • PTSD
  • Persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia

Because many of these conditions share similar symptoms with substance use disorder, it can be hard to identify which behaviors are being fueled by which illness. This is where dual diagnosis treatment comes into play as skilled clinicians and psychologists can help address symptoms in order to start putting together a proper diagnosis for the underlying disorder.

Identifying the Presence of a Co-occurring Disorder

Even if someone knows they have high levels of stress or anxiety, they may not realize that it stems from an actual mental disorder that requires medical attention. One of the easiest signs of co-occurring disorders to spot is when mental health continues to decline even while making progress in treatment. When the unhealthy coping mechanism of drugs or alcohol is removed, the individual will lack the ability to properly navigate the feelings and emotions that come about in recovery.

Another identifying trait of a co-occurring disorder is relapse after successfully completing treatment. While not always the case, those with another mental health condition may quickly return to substance abuse to begin masking their symptoms again after rehab. It’s crucial that treatment centers offer comprehensive and individualized treatment that tackles both addiction and any other disorders present. Integrating mental health exercises and therapy into addiction treatment better equips individuals for a sober life without feeling the need to return to substances should their co-occurring disorder become more severe.

It All Comes Down To Finding the Right Treatment

No matter how you look at it, addiction is a lifelong disease that falls into the realm of mental disorders. Even the physical withdrawal symptoms felt during a medically-assisted detox are the byproduct of the brain being unable to properly process what’s happening when substances are removed. The connections between the brain’s chemical regulation and an individual’s behavior are altered during both addiction and other mental illnesses, making the treatment of both required in order to address the primary concern.

Understanding the need for dual diagnosis treatment, America’s Rehab Campuses leverages the practice and offers it to guests in need of specialized support. ARC is equipped to help anyone regardless of the severity of their addiction or co-occurring disorder. If you or a loved one are struggling to get out from under the weight of substance use and mental health disorders, reach out to our team of compassionate intake specialists to get started on the journey to recovery.