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Co-Occurring Disorders

Mental health issues and addiction frequently go hand-in-hand. Discover why it’s critically important to address both.

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Caron Treatment Centers accepts patients aged 13 years or older. For more information on services available to those 12 and under, please learn more about Caron's Student Assistance Program.
The importance of thorough diagnosis.

Mental health issues and addiction frequently go hand-in-hand. People who abuse drugs and alcohol commonly suffer from conditions such as anxiety, bipolar, eating disorders and more at the same time. Correctly and thoroughly diagnosing addicts is a necessary precursor to effective treatment.

What are co-occurring disorders?

The term co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis, describes the diagnosis of individuals who simultaneously suffer from mental illness and substance abuse problems. Alcohol and drug problems commonly co-occur with depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and/or personality disorders.

The complicated nature of co-occurring disorders.

The concept of dual-diagnosis can be used broadly. In fact, many debate the suitability of this term, because it applies to a heterogeneous group of individuals with complex needs and a varied range of problems. For example, all of the following combinations could be considered co-occurring disorders:

  • Depression & alcoholism
  • Severe mental illness (psychosis, schizophrenia) & substance misuse disorder (marijuana abuse)
  • Mild mental (panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder) & drug dependency
  • Intellectual disability & mental illness

Making a dual diagnosis in substance abusers is difficult, as drug abuse often induces psychiatric symptoms. It is necessary to differentiate between substance induced and pre-existing mental illness.

Treating co-occurring disorders.

To improve, individuals with co-occurring disorders must be treated for both conditions. First, the person must go through detoxification, the process of ridding the body of substances by abstaining from alcohol or drugs. The next step involves rehabilitation for the substance problem and treatment for the mental disorder. This might include medicines, support groups and one-on-one therapy.