A co-occurring disorder occurs when an individual is simultaneously struggling with a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder. 

These disorders can interact with each other in various ways, sometimes instigating the development of the other, exacerbating the symptoms or leading to the development of additional health issues. It’s a vicious cycle that usually requires professional help to heal from.

Facing co-occurring disorders, either in yourself or in a loved one can feel overwhelming, but there are plenty of treatments available to help you recover from both conditions. 

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the relationship between addiction and mental health conditions by delving into the nature of co-occurring disorders.

What are co-occurring disorders?

The simplest co-occurring disorders definition is that it refers to the simultaneous presence of multiple medical conditions in an individual.

In most cases, one condition is a mental health disorder and the other condition is a substance use disorder. There are other combinations that are recognized within the medical field, but we’re going to stick with this one for this article because it’s the most common.

Co-occurring disorder examples can look like major depressive disorder and an alcohol use disorder; an anxiety disorder and tobacco use; obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and marijuana abuse. These are among the most frequently diagnosed, but there are many different possible disorder combinations.

Addiction and mental health

Nearly 15 percent of young adults struggle with substance abuse and mental illness simultaneously.

Mental health conditions, co-occurring disorders and substance abuse all take a significant toll on the overall health and well-being of a person. While individual disorders are challenging enough on their own, co-occurring disorders carry a higher level of risk to health and life due to the joint effects of both conditions. 

Whenever co-occurring disorders are suspected to be present in an individual, it’s important to reach out and receive counsel about what your next steps should be. Seeking and receiving treatment can mean all the difference in saving someone’s life.

Co-occurring disorder treatments

An efficient treatment for co-occurring disorders must include a focus on both conditions, being sure not to overlook the mental or the physical aspect. One of the biggest mistakes many recovery centers make is separating treatments, or prioritizing one disorder over the other. 

A truly effective treatment, one that will help you achieve a successful recovery in the short and long term, will address the various areas of your life in order to ensure full-spectrum healing. Mental health and substance use disorders are not random; they develop over time, as a result of multiple contributing factors, like your environment, relationships, overall health and more.

Some of the best treatments for co-occurring disorders include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Support groups or group therapy
  • Holistic modalities (nature therapy, diet changes, consistent exercise)
  • Medication-assisted treatment (if necessary)

Ultimately, the best treatment plan will take into account your personal history, lifestyle, needs and goals. No two people are alike, so neither should two treatment plans be.

If you or someone you love is struggling with co-occurring disorders, we’re here to help.

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Real Recovery is a top provider of substance use disorder treatment in North Carolina. 

Mental health disorders and substance use disorders are both multidimensional conditions, but when paired together, become even more complex. We recognize the need for a multifaceted approach to treating co-occurring disorders, so we offer varying levels of care that are each customized to meet the needs of every individual client.

Reaching out can feel intimidating, but don’t let fear prevent you from living your fullest, most meaningful life. Whether you’re ready to enroll in one of our programs or not, we’re here for you.