If you’re struggling with a co-occurring disorder in Scottsdale, you’re certainly not alone. Research suggests that about half of all addicts struggle with a secondary mental health condition. Though co-occurring disorders can complicate the treatment process, understanding these disorders can expedite the journey to sobriety while helping you remain sober even in the face of stress and temptation. Whether it’s crack, heroin, cocaine, prescription drugs such as Xanax or Ambien, marijuana, or some other drug altogether, understanding the interactions between your co-occurring disorder and your addiction can shed light on the mysteries of substance abuse.
What is a Co-Occurring Addiction Disorder?
A co-occurring disorder, as the name implies, is any disorder that complicates and occurs alongside your addiction. It doesn’t matter whether the addiction or the other disorder came first, and one does not have to cause the other. The simple presence of a substance abuse disorder and another condition constitutes a co-occurring disorder.
There’s some debate in the mental health community about which disorders “count” as co-occurring disorders. Virtually all addiction experts agree that mental health disorders such as depression, PTSD, ADHD, and generalized anxiety disorder are co-occurring disorders. However, there is an increasing push to recognize the connection between mind and body, so some doctors now consider physical health issues to be co-occurring disorders. These disorders can alter your mind, change the way you interact with the world, and expose you to potentially addictive drugs, the reasoning goes, so it makes sense to group them with other co-occurring disorders.
How Are Co-Occurring Disorders Treated?
If you’re struggling with two ore more disorders, it can be tempting to treat them separately. You might go to rehab with plans to pursue therapy for your depression after you get out, for example. But your co-occurring disorder directly interacts with your addiction by amplifying your feelings, adding to the challenges of withdrawal, and warping your judgment. Thus the best and most effective treatments focus on both disorders simultaneously. In rehab, you’ll get therapy to explore the roots of both disorders, medical assistance that can help you more effectively manage your symptoms, and group support that allows you to benefit from the wisdom and mistakes of other people struggling with issues similar to your own.
Can Co-Occurring Disorders Cause Addiction?
Co-occurring disorders don’t necessarily cause addiction, but there is a strong connection between substance abuse and other illnesses. Every situation is different. Some people have depression long before developing an addiction; others develop it while struggling with addiction. Some of the ways in which mental health issues and substance abuse interact include:
- The treatment for some conditions includes addictive drugs. If you take these drugs for long periods of tie, take more than the dosage recommended by your doctor, or don’t notify your doctor when you begin to experience symptoms of addiction, you can become addicted to these substances. Some people with co-occurring disorders begin doctor-shopping to get larger quantities of prescription drugs.
- Addiction itself can cause mental illness. First, drugs and alcohol change the way your brain function, potentially rendering you vulnerable to mental illness. But second, addiction wreaks havoc on your life, and that chaos can sometimes trigger mental illness. If your spouse divorces you, for instance, you may suffer from anxiety or depression.
- Mental illness makes you more vulnerable to addiction because it undermines your judgment.
- Some people self-medicate to cope with the symptoms of mental illness. A person experiencing anxiety might turn to depressants to quiet the racing thoughts of an anxious mind, while a person with depression might be attracted to the euphoric sensations some stimulants offer.
Signs of a Co-Occurring Disorder
Dozens of mental health disorders exist, so if you experience emotional challenges that don’t make sense or that seem to come out of nowhere, it could signal a co-occurring disorder. Some common symptoms of mental illness include:
- Chronic unpleasant feelings that don’t seem related to any specific thing. You might feel happy, anxious, or angry even when nothing specific has made you feel this way.
- Obsessive thoughts you can’t turn off.
- Always feeling bad.
- Difficulty enjoying activities you once embraced.
- Relying on drugs or alcohol to cope with painful emotions or experiences.
- A childhood history of trauma or abuse.
- Difficulty predicting the reactions of other people.
- Nightmares, night terrors, or recurring intrusive memories.
- Seeing or hearing things that aren’t actually there.
- A severely distorted perception of yourself. This is especially common among people with eating disorders.
- Difficulty feeling happy even when good things happen.
- An inability to effectively communicate with other people.
- Hearing from loved ones that your behavior has changed or seems out of character.
- Difficulty in your relationships with others. If your relationships seem to end for no reason, you often have severe conflict with loved ones, or you have difficulty maintaining relationships, this could indicate a problem.
- A family history of substance abuse or mental illness.
- Thoughts of harming yourself or others.
- Feeling like you can’t control your own emotions.
- Difficulty relating to others.
- Believing or thinking things that other people do not understand.
- Frequently feeling trapped inside your own head.
Co-occurring disorders don’t have to ruin your life, but if you want to get clean and sober for good, you need to tackle not just your addiction, but also any co-occurring issues.
Trust Springboard Recovery with your substance abuse treatment today