There’s a strong connection between substance abuse and mental illness. Usually, an underlying psychological condition can lead individuals to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to relieve their symptoms. Resultantly, with long term use, these substances can instigate severe mental health conditions.
Due to this connection, it is not unusual for people to struggle with substance use disorder (SUD) and mental illness at the same time. Generally, there are three words used to define this occurrence: dual diagnosis, comorbidity, and co-occurring disorders.
These terms are often used interchangeably when referring to somebody who has both, a mental health condition and an addiction to alcohol or drugs. However, there are some trivial differences between the three. Therefore, it is essential to know how they vary, particularly if you are or someone you know is seeking treatment for a mental illness and substance use disorder (SUD).
This IOT Chicago guide will provide you an overview of co-occurring disorders, dual diagnosis treatment, and learn how intensive outpatient treatment can help battle these conditions.
The Disease of Addiction
First and foremost, it is essential to recognize and acknowledge that drug addiction is a mental ailment. Alcohol and drug use can alter your brain’s function and structure. Changes transpire on some of the brain’s mutual areas impacted by other psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia.
Substance use disorder (SUD) or disease of addiction is categorized by compulsive and usually uncontrollable cravings. Despite the overwhelming consequences of alcohol or drug use, an addicted person may continue to search for addicted substances unless they receive professional help and treatment.
What Does ‘Comorbidity’ Mean?
Comorbidity is one way to describe a person who has both a psychological disorder and addiction. Nevertheless, the term also has a broader meaning – comorbidity can be used to define any circumstance where two diseases or disorders occur in the same individual. While this word can be applied to mental illnesses and substance use disorder (SUD), it can also define somebody who has anxiety and Parkinson’s disease, for example.
A person with comorbidity does not need to have both disorders simultaneously. Sometimes, one ailment can initiate once the other seems resolved. Comorbidity insinuates that there’s some form of connection between the two conditions affecting both, how they progress, and their treatment.
Is Dual Diagnosis the Same as Co-Occurring Disorders?
The short answer is no.
Dual diagnosis is a more general word for two or more conditions that ensue in one person at the same time, whether psychological or physical. The presence of diabetes and heart disease could be considered a dual diagnosis. However, today, dual diagnosis treatment is most often used to define how people who have both, an addiction and psychological illness, are treated.
On the other hand, co-occurring disorders define a variety of diseases that usually occur along with substance use disorder (SUD). This term is almost exclusively used to refer to somebody who has a psychological disorder that contributes to, or is a result of, alcohol or drug addiction. Nonetheless, an addicted person’s co-occurring disorder can also be cancer, HIV, hepatitis C or another disease.
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What is a Co-Occurring Disorder?
In 2019, 9.5 million U.S adults between the ages of eighteen to twenty-five were diagnosed with at least one co-occurring disorder together with a substance use disorder (SUD). Amid this population, only 742,000 individuals (7.8%) acquired treatment for both, mental health disorder and substance use disorder simultaneously.
A co-occurring disorder refers to a person who has two or more psychological health disorders or medical illnesses. These co-occurring ailments may overlap and commence at the same time, or one may appear before or after the other.
Moreover, there’s a strong relation between SUDs and other psychological health disorders. In fact, about half of the individuals with one disorder will eventually cultivate at least one more co-occurring psychological health condition in their lifetime. Additionally, co-occurring disorders can also aggravate each other’s level of severity.
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Common Examples of Co-Occurring Disorders
While there are many exclusive examples to list – any single substance addiction related to any individual psychological health condition – a few of the most common forms of co-occurring disorders include:
- Opioid addiction with PTSD
- Polydrug addiction with schizophrenia
- Cocaine addiction & panic/anxiety disorders
Many more examples can amplify this list, but these are a few of the most common illustrations of co-occurring disorders.