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The Transition House Blog

What is a co-occurring disorder?

Posted by Jennifer Dellasanta on Jan 11, 2019 10:29:20 AM

what is a co-occurring disorder

A person with a mental health diagnosis is at higher risk of experiencing an alcohol or substance use disorder. When this happens, it is called a co-occurring disorder. Even so, SAMHSA estimates that nearly 8 million adults in the US struggle with co-occurring disorders. Finding the right treatment that treats both mental health and addiction symptoms is crucial to achieving recovery.

How mental health and addiction are related

People who are struggling with alcohol or substance abuse often have an underlying mental health condition. Alternatively, someone who is experiencing symptoms of depression, for example, might turn to drugs or alcohol to avoid coping with their thoughts and emotions. Drug and alcohol addiction can exacerbate a mental health condition and vice versa, which is why it’s important to find an integrated treatment plan that addresses both disorders.

Diagnosing a co-occurring disorder

The side effects of alcohol and substance abuse are both physical and behavioral. Symptoms of a diagnosable mental illness can be similar to the behavioral side effects of alcohol or drug use, which can make diagnosis difficult. Both mental health disorders and substance use disorders are complex, so receiving a dual diagnosis can take time. Whether or not you are diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder, you should still seek treatment if you are struggling with either substance abuse or mental illness.

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Finding the right treatment

An addiction treatment program like medication assisted treatment (MAT) combines medication for addiction with behavioral therapy. MAT is a whole-patient approach, which makes it the ideal treatment for co-occurring disorders.

If you have a primary care physician, you can ask them for a referral for a psychiatric evaluation or addiction treatment. Be honest with them about the symptoms you’re experiencing so that they can make the right recommendation for you.

If you are in treatment for a mental health disorder and are concerned about alcohol or substance use, speak with your therapist. Your therapist can work with you to find the right treatment.

Remember, it’s okay to seek a second opinion if you need more information.

If you are uninsured or don’t have a primary care physician or therapist, you can still find help. TTHI Counseling Center provides medication assisted treatment (MAT) for uninsured and underinsured patients. To find out if you qualify, you can contact one of our counseling centers. We have locations in Florida and Tennessee and are here to help you.


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