Many rehabilitation centres offer treatment for co-occurring disorders, which are mental illnesses that occur along with substance abuse. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reports that at least 20% of individuals with a mental illness also struggle with a substance-use disorder, highlighting the importance of seeking treatment from experienced rehabilitation professionals. Co-occurring disorders, which are sometimes referred to as concurrent disorders or dual diagnosis, are even more common in people with mood disorders and schizophrenia. Keep reading to learn more about concurrent disorders and discover how they can affect the recovery process.
Types of Concurrent Disorders
Any mental illness that occurs with a substance-use disorder qualifies as a co-occurring disorder, but some conditions are more common than others. These conditions include social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is characterized by extreme stress when confronted with ordinary social situations. It’s normal to be nervous about giving a speech or meeting someone new for the first time, but people with social anxiety disorder tend to experience extreme levels of worry when they think about attending parties or other gatherings. This disorder can also cause physical symptoms, including dry mouth, shaking, rapid heart rate, upset stomach and sweating.
Panic disorder causes panic attacks, which are repeated bouts of intense fear. This intense fear may be accompanied by a racing heart, sweating, dizziness and other physical symptoms, all of which can make you worry about what’s going to happen in the future. Approximately 4% of Canadians develop panic disorder at some point in their lives.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is similar to social anxiety disorder, except an individual with GAD experiences excessive anxiety over more than just social situations. The anxiety is excessive, “occurring more days than not for a period of at least six months,” according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. An individual with GAD may worry about relationships, school performance, work performance or other situations.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a stress disorder that develops in response to a significant trauma. Possible triggers include sexual assault, domestic violence, life-threatening illness or the unexpected death of a family member or close friend. PTSD can even develop after a car accident or natural disaster. Individuals with PTSD may experience panic attacks, have frequent nightmares or replay the traumatic event over and over in their minds.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is a mental illness that causes an individual to experience obsessions or compulsions; in some cases, an individual experiences both. Obsessions are anxiety-producing thoughts that won’t go away. An individual with OCD may obsess over anything from developing cancer to becoming contaminated with germs. Compulsions are obsessive behaviors an individual uses to manage the obsessions. For example, someone who has an obsession related to germs may feel compelled to wash their hands dozens of times per day. Obsessions and compulsions can cause extreme stress for someone with OCD.
A strong link exists between mental illness and substance use, which means that a co-occurring disorder can make an existing substance-use disorder even worse. In some cases, substance use can mask the symptoms of a mental illness, making it difficult to get an accurate diagnosis. If you have an existing diagnosis, it may be tempting to drink or use drugs to avoid thinking about your illness or to escape the relationship problems that can develop as a result of substance use. Substance use can also interfere with the treatment of co-occurring disorders; for example, alcohol can make some medications less effective. If you have a substance-use disorder, you may also forget to attend therapy appointments or participate in other treatment programs.
If you have a co-occurring disorder, it’s important to receive treatment for the mental illness and the substance use at the same time. Treating the co-occurring disorders together can make the treatment more effective, improving your chances of recovery and ensuring you have the support you need to stay sober. This is known as integrated treatment. Treating both conditions at once can also prevent one condition from making the other condition worse, leading to better outcomes.
Integrated treatment may involve medications, therapy and participation in programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs and other therapeutic medications may be used to treat the co-occurring disorder, helping you keep your symptoms under control as you work to address your substance use. Individual therapy is helpful for learning how to cope without alcohol and drugs, finding the motivation needed to stay on the road to recovery and identifying triggers that lead to unhealthy behaviors.
Participating in a support group can help you develop a strong network of peers who understand what it’s like to have a substance-use disorder. Fellow group members can help you stay accountable as you work to address the underlying issues that have been contributing to your addiction. Participating in a support group can also keep you from feeling alone during the recovery process.
Choosing a Treatment Centre
If you’re ready to address your co-occurring disorders, look for a rehabilitation centre that offers integrated treatment. Although outpatient programs are helpful, inpatient rehabilitation gives you around-the-clock access to treatment professionals and peer support. It can also help you avoid the negative influences that may be contributing to your substance-use disorder. Choosing a treatment centre that offers medical detox services can help with safe withdrawal from alcohol or other substances. It’s also helpful to look for a facility that offers family therapy because family problems can make substance-use disorders and other mental illnesses more difficult to manage. If you are interested in seeking treatment for yourself or a loved one, contact Recovery Works today at 778-430-1212.