The Importance of Addressing Co-Occurring Addiction and Behavioral Health Disorders

Table of Contents

Not many people are aware of the importance of specialized treatment for co-occurring addiction disorders. Focusing on one isn’t as effective as treating them at the same time. Everyone should know what they are because anyone could suffer from it.

What Are Co-Occurring Addiction Disorders?

Also known as dual diagnosis and comorbidity, a co-occurring disorder is the affliction of an addiction to a substance and another mental health disorder. Although addiction used to come with a lot of stigma, it’s a mental health disorder, just as bipolar, borderline personality and major depressive disorders.

Risk Factors for Co-Occurring Addiction Disorders

Anyone could develop a co-occurring disorder, but there are risk factors that increase your odds.

Risk factors include:

• Genetic predisposition

• Being male

• Low self-esteem

• Chronic stress

• Trauma

• Abuse

Having a genetic predisposition doesn’t mean that you’ll develop a disorder. Genes could be turned on or off, based on environmental factors like your family, friends, coping strategies and stress levels. If you weren’t taught healthy ways of dealing with your emotions, then you’re at higher risk of a mental health disorder. For those who already have the gene for it, this risk is greater.

Co-occurring Addiction

What Happens If You Don’t Treat Co-occurring Disorders?

You won’t be able to recover from your addiction or your other mental health struggle without co-occurring disorder treatment. Even focusing on treating one of your disorders isn’t enough to resolve the other issue. Addiction may have similar symptoms as other mental health problems, but it’s still a separate diagnosis.

Having a second disorder on top of substance use disorder (SUD) makes it more challenging to overcome the SUD. Failing to treat both issues often results in worsening of your mental health, physical health and quality of life. You might find it hard to maintain or find employment. Relationships may be tumultuous.

Benefits of Co-Occurring Addiction Treatment

To meet the unique needs of people who have a dual diagnosis, some rehab facilities offer co-occurring treatment.

Integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders provides:

• Better outcomes

• Reduced hospitalizations

• Reduced legal problems

• Decreased substance use

• Higher chance of maintaining sobriety

• Greater quality of life

• Better improvement in symptoms

You are at a higher risk of hospitalization when you have a dual diagnosis. Specialized treatment of this condition treats all of your symptoms at the same time for better outcomes. Each type of mental illness comes with different symptoms and changes in the brain. This affects what type of treatment strategies are most effective.

How Can You Treat Co-Occurring Disorders?

Co-occurring treatment may consist of behavioral therapy, pharmacotherapy, recovery support or a combination of methods. It depends on what type of addiction you have, what type of other mental health issue you have and the severity of your conditions.

Common types of behavioral therapy for dual diagnosis are:

• Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

• Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

• Contingency management

• Assertive community treatment (ACT)

• Therapeutic communities (TC)

• Motivational enhancement therapy

• 12-step facilitation

Cognitive behavioral therapy works on retraining your brain to think in a healthier way to encourage you to make better choices. Negative thinking patterns contribute to behaviors that harm your quality of life.

DBT addresses struggles with intense emotions. It helps you learn how to stop yourself from blowing up at others or engaging in any other unhelpful behaviors when your emotions go haywire. DBT also reduces the intensity of your emotional reactions, making it easier for you to cope and remain in control of your actions.

Contingency management uses rewards to incentivize you to make positive behavioral changes. You may receive vouchers, the opportunity to win prizes or other types of rewards during contingency management therapy.

ACT centers around positive interactions in your community. Research has found that a consistent positive outreach reduces hospitalization, creates better outcomes and improves quality of life in people who have a dual diagnosis or a severe mental illness.

Common Challenges in Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

Lack of awareness is one of the main challenges in treatment for co-occurring disorders. Some healthcare providers still don’t know the importance of dual diagnosis treatment.

Differentiating between substance use disorder and dual diagnosis is difficult too because of the symptom overlap. Healthcare providers need to conduct a thorough mental health evaluation to determine which disorders you have.

It’s important to be honest about all of the drugs that you use and how you use them for an accurate diagnosis. Likewise, you shouldn’t hold back information on your symptoms whether they relate to your physical health, mental health or quality of life. Your treatment plan will be the most effective for you when your doctor knows all of this key information.

Latest Advancements in Treating Co-Occurring Mental Health Issues

Integrated treatment is one of the latest advancements. In the past, drug rehab facilities would treat each disorder separately. Looking at a person as a whole, however, is proving to be more effective. There is a push to provide more integrative training to workers in the drug rehab industry in order to meet the needs of people who have a dual diagnosis.

Specialized treatment for co-occurring disorders improves outcomes. Having another mental health issue in addition to substance use disorder makes it more challenging for you to recover from your addiction. However, it’s possible to overcome both disorders with integrated treatment, commitment and a support system. Mind Body Optimization specializes in treating co-occurring disorders as well as addiction and other mental health conditions. They take a holistic approach backed by evidence-based therapies to achieve a whole-body healing.