Living With A Co-Occurring Disorder - Sovereign Health Group
Articles / Blog
10-30-13 Category: Dual Diagnosis

Living with a substance abuse disorder, a mental illness, or an eating disorder alone is difficult, so when two of the three, or all three, disorders are affecting one person’s life, the impact can be debilitating.

The number of people with two or more disorders that can be clinically diagnosed is increasing. The terms co-occurring disorders and dual diagnosis are applied to these cases, and treatment efforts have been steadily improving.

Co-Occurring Disorders/Dual Diagnosis

When the symptoms a person is experiencing are not all explained by one disorder, the individual is experiencing two or more possible diagnoses.

There are a couple ways multiple disorders can develop in one person:

1. A person can feel the symptoms of a mental illness and seek relief in substances. Ongoing self-medication progresses to substance abuse, dependence, and addiction. This is referred to as a pre-existing mental illness.

2. A person who has been abusing drugs and alcohol for some time can then develop a mental illness, called a substance-induced mental illness. Stimulants, like cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamines, and prescription pills (Adderall, Ritalin) can induce psychotic disorders like schizophrenia; alcohol abuse can induce mood disorders like depression; and marijuana and psychedelic abuse can induce delirium with hallucinations and delusions.

Living with Co-Occurring Disorders

As the world becomes more familiar with co-occurring disorders, and the stigma surrounding addiction and mental illness decreases a bit, people living with two or more diagnoses can get the help they need. Advances in how dual diagnosis clients are treated in rehab centers are changing the way millions of people experience life each day.

Let’s explore some case examples to illustrate how co-occurring disorders show up in real life, and how treatment best addresses all symptoms of two or more diagnosed disorders.

Case Example #1:

A young woman has been drinking heavily and abusing prescription drugs for years. When her family stages an intervention, and this young woman makes the decision to go to rehab, she stops all drinking and drug use. After detoxification and a bit of abstinence, she is no longer experiencing the symptoms of active substance abuse. She is no longer intoxicated, numbing out, or dulling pain, but she still feels hopeless and sad.

The rehab’s treatment team needed to wait until this young woman was sober to diagnose any other disorder because ongoing alcohol and prescription drug abuse can create the feelings of hopelessness and sadness. When the substances went away and the symptoms of depression were still present, the treatment team could then diagnose and treat this young woman’s pre-existing major depressive disorder.

Over the course of several months, this young woman received specific treatment for addiction and mental illness at the same time, from the same rehab facility.

Case Example #2:

A man in his mid-thirties is rushed to the hospital after being observed having a psychotic episode. When he eventually calmed and became coherent, he told hospital staff that had been abusing stimulants, mainly in the form of smokable crack, but he would mix that with any form of speed he got his hands on (amphetamines, prescription pills like Adderall, etc.).

This man disclosed that he had been up for 12 days straight, he was paranoid, and had been living this way for months. His body would eventually crash, but once he recuperated, he was back to using. Gradually he was seeing and hearing things that weren’t really there, but he just kept using.

After weeks in the psychiatric unit of the hospital, this man decided to participate in a formal rehab program. A treatment team determined that this man’s symptoms were not present before he abused stimulants. He did not have a pre-existing mental illness; instead, he was diagnosed with a stimulant-induced psychotic disorder. He was also treated for each disorder concurrently.

In some cases, continued abstinence from all mind-altering substances can gradually allow the brain to regain chemistry balance and the individual never experiences the symptoms of psychosis again. In other cases, the brain chemistry has been altered to a point where symptoms of a mental illness may still be present.

Living with co-occurring disorders is doable with the right treatment and the right plan for recovery.

The treatment team at Sovereign Health Group of California has a program specially designed for those suffering from two or more disorders. Whether mental illness has been caused by substance abuse, or drugs and alcohol were used as self-medication for an existing mental illness, the staff is able and ready to create an individualized treatment plan that address all of your needs.

Find out more by contacting Sovereign Health Group today. Help yourself, or someone you love, take back hope, health, and happiness today!

Post by: Marissa Maldonado

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