Co-Occurring Disorder

photo of a young man deep in thought - co-occurring disorder - breakaway hired powerThe diagnosis of co-occurring disorder means that a person has an addiction to drugs or alcohol and also has some other mental health condition. Other mental health conditions can include things like clinical depression, bipolar disorder and mood disorders, among many others.

Having a mental health condition significantly increases a person’s risk of having problems with drugs or alcohol. The two conditions often go hand-in-hand. Both conditions in a co-occurring disorder will lead to problems in one’s life if they are not addressed.

Co-Occurring Disorder Facts

  • The conditions involved in a person’s co-occurring disorder were not caused by the person. The person did not choose to have either of the problems and did not cause the problems to exist
  • The conditions involved in co-occurring disorder are two separate conditions. Addiction involves a preoccupation with drugs or alcohol, cravings, compulsive use and loss of control over the substance. The other mental health condition (depression, mood problems, etc) affects the person’s moods, thoughts and behaviors thereby creating problems and interfering with the person’s effectiveness and success in life
  • One condition in a co-occurring disorder did not cause the other one to develop or continue. Although they do interact, the conditions are independent of each other. Having major depression does not cause alcoholism, for example; just as having a drug addiction does not cause bi-polar disorder and so on
  • Having a co-occurring disorder means that one must seek specialized treatment in order to recover from it. The interaction that occurs between the two conditions makes treating each of them more challenging. Each condition must be treated by professionals who understand the condition and have experience working with people who have a co-occurring disorder. Again, it is imperative that the conditions are treated at the same time

Recovery Strategies for Co-Occurring Disorder

Having a Treatment Team
A co-occurring disorder cannot be “fixed” by the person with the disorder. Many people with co-occurring disorder try to handle the problems on their own, but they are never successful. It’s important for someone wanting to recover from a co-occurring disorder to have a treatment team made up of various specialists such as a therapist, a psychiatrist, a doctor, a pharmacist, supportive family members, a mentor and other friends or acquaintances who are supportive and can offer helpful assistance. Timely communication among a person and his treatment team is the key to a successful team.

Taking Medications
Not everyone with a co-occurring disorder is comfortable with the idea of taking medications. Mood-altering substances are questionable when a person is in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. However, someone with a co-occurring disorder might very well need medications in order to maintain a stable life, a stable recovery from drugs or alcohol and a stable recovery from the other mental health condition he has. With guidance from his qualified treatment team, a person must do what is appropriate for his own special situation.

Recovery Does Happen
Recovery from a co-occurring disorder is possible. Thousands of people are successfully recovering from addiction and another mental health disorder. With the right treatment professionals, persistence and a desire to recover, a person with a co-occurring disorder will learn to live a full, healthy life of sobriety and emotional and mental stability.