Treating addiction is a challenge, but modern addiction science has given us a better handle of the illness than ever before. We understand the underlying causes of addiction, and also appreciate that long-term support and healthy social ties are key to overcoming it. Another important insight is the incidence of co-occurring disorders, which are a challenging combination of conditions that can make addiction treatment more difficult. However, understanding co-occurring disorders can also provide greater insight into an individual’s history of addiction and may aid their treatment.

What Are Co-Occurring Disorders?

Co-occurring disorders are what you call it when a person suffers from a substance use disorder as well as a mental health disorder. Without a background in studying addiction, there may not appear to be an obvious link between the two. However, mental illnesses and substance use are each risk factors for the other condition, and there are even common risk factors that may cause both.

Substance Use Disorders

Substance use disorder is a broad umbrella for any detrimental use of substances. If someone is having trouble functioning properly at work, school, or in their social life due to drugs or alcohol, that’s a substance use disorder. With time, this condition can become much worse and grow into a case of drug dependency. When a person is dependent upon a drug, it has a variety of negative effects on their brain chemistry. Furthermore, they don’t take the drug to get high and feel good; rather, they feel miserable while sober and use the drug to feel normal.

Mental Health Disorders

There are many different mental health disorders, but the most common conditions fall within a few broader groups. Social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder are all types of anxiety disorders, although very different ones. Then, there are mood disorders such as bipolar and depression. These and other mental illnesses tend to correspond to a heightened risk of substance use disorder, as well as increased chances of relapse.

Common Causes of Co-Occurring Disorders

There are a variety of events and conditions that increase someone’s chances of developing co-occurring disorders. For instance, childhood trauma is a risk factor for developing mental health problems, even in adulthood. It also increases your chances of developing a substance use disorder, even in the absence of a mental illness.

How Co-Occurring Disorders Interact

Co-occurring disorders pose a unique challenge for rehab facilities for various reasons. For instance, borderline personality disorder can produce out-of-control feelings of ecstasy during manic episodes. A person might not even remember what they do while manic, let alone be able to control it. It’s easy to see how uncontrollable mania could cause relapse, while apathetic depression or panic might drive someone back to drug abuse as a coping mechanism.

However, it’s often the case that co-occurring disorders feed into each other. Effectively treating one half of the condition is often able to help treat the other half, not to mention dramatically improve quality of life.

Learn More with Live Free SSL

Here at Live Free SSL, we’re dedicated to helping people overcome the destruction that addiction causes. If you or someone you know suffers from addiction with or without co-occurring disorders, get in touch with us. We’ll give you advice moving forward and help you understand your treatment options.