Treating Co-occurring Disorders: What You Need to Know

Drug addiction and alcohol abuse are already difficult things for one to go through. However, when it occurs at the same time as mental issues, it becomes even worse. This is what is referred to as a co-occurring disorder. When one has this condition, they have to undergo treatment covering mental illness and substance abuse. If you or your loved one has this condition and is seeking treatment, you should choose a drug rehab center that focuses on these two. A well-equipped rehabilitation center will provide treatment options depending on the substance abused and the mental condition. 

Common Reasons Contributing to Co-occurrence Disorders

  • Self-Medication- Most people with mental conditions like anxiety disorders and depression try to self-medicate by abusing drugs. Initially, it started as a way to relieve sadness, ease anxiety or escape reality temporarily. With time and continuous use of substances, one becomes an addict. And since the mental condition is yet to be treated, then this leads to co-occurring disorder.
  • Extending risk portions- environmental circumstances such as one experiencing trauma can also contribute to mental health disorders and substance abuse.
  • Drug-induced brain alteration- Scientific evidence has proved that continuous substance and alcohol abuse disrupts regular brain function. Some parts of the brain are correlated with substance abuse, and other regions correspond with behavioral impulses, anxiety problems, and mood disorders. 

Symptoms of co-occurring Disorders

Substance abuse and mental conditions have many similar symptoms, making it hard for one to differentiate them. Therefore, to differentiate, it is best to analyze one’s mental health, especially if a person has not taken any prescription medication or drugs. However, common signs to watch out for include,

  • Heightened irritability.
  • Altered eating and sleeping patterns
  • Neglected personal hygiene
  • Difficulty with thinking clearly or focusing
  • Lower or higher libido
  • Constant fear for no reason
  • Lack of interest in hobbies 
  • Feeling ill for no reason
  • Hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions
  • Thinking about or attempting suicide


Until recently, most people believed that you could separate treating mental disorders and drug and alcohol abuse. This led to inadequate treatment, or one doing one and leaving the other. Today, holistic treatment can be offered in a single facility addressing both conditions. Some treatment methods used in rehab facilities are discussed below.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This type of treatment aims to teach patients how to change their reactions and behaviors by focusing on how their attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs affect their behavior. By changing how one thinks, one can change behavior and recover from addictions. When undergoing this treatment, patients work with counselors and behavioral therapists. 

One-on-One Counselling 

During one-on-one counseling, one works with a professional to identify what are the causes of one abusing drugs. This also includes discovering any mental health condition and what causes it. So if, for instance, one started using drugs as a way to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, the counselor will also have to address what led to the PTSD. They then help the patients find healthier ways to deal with it. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment

There are some instances where a client will need medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The use of certain medications can help a patient manage symptoms of mental health disorders. The medication helps patients manage various issues without abusing substances or drinking alcohol. MAT can also be used to manage withdrawal symptoms in certain circumstances. 

Support Groups 

Support groups are critical when one is recovering from a co-occurring disorder. It is part of aftercare. When a patient spends time with people going through the same challenges, they get motivated to continue with their recovery journey. 

There is no one treatment method for co-occurring disorders. All these methods are incorporated to provide suitable treatment for a patient. If someone in your life is dealing with a co-occurring disorder, then ensure they get treatment. Most people have managed to recover and resume a normal life. 

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