What are Co-occurring Disorders?

January 21, 2022

3 "mins"

Mental illnesses and substance use disorders are very common in the United States and have been on the rise. While they can occur on their own, they often co-occur together. Approximately 7.7 million Americans are diagnosed with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Of the 20.3 million adults with substance use disorders, 37.9% of them also had a mental illness. Of the 42.1 million adults with mental illness, 18.2% of them also had a substance use disorder. Unfortunately, people rarely get treatment for both disorders, known as dual diagnosis treatment. Only 9.1% received both mental health and substance use treatment. Over half of those with mental illness and substance use disorders received no treatment at all. 

What are Co-occurring Disorders?

Co-occurring disorders is a name for the presence of a set of diagnoses from two different diagnostic categories, specifically mental illness and substance use disorders. Mental disorders that commonly co-occur with substance use disorders include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. The most common substances abused that coincide with these mental illnesses include alcohol, tobacco, opioids, stimulants, marijuana, hallucinogens, and prescription drugs. It is challenging to say whether one diagnosis triggered or caused the other. There is not a clear-cut answer. However, we do know that the symptoms from one diagnosis can exacerbate the symptoms in the other diagnoses. 

How are Co-Occurring Disorders Best Treated? 

Because the symptoms of both disorders exacerbate each other, it’s important to treat both diagnoses at the same time. It is not helpful to the individual to focus on one at a time. Skills learned in treatment can be applied to managing symptoms of both diagnoses. Therefore, research has found that integrated treatment works best for individuals with co-occurring disorders. The benefits of treatment both the mental illness and addiction on the same treatment plan include reduced use or total abstinence from substance use, improvement in mental health symptoms, increased chance of successful treatment and long term recovery for both disorders, improved quality of life, decreased episodes of hospitalization, decreased medication interactions, increased housing stability, and fewer arrests.

Treatment programs that offer this beneficial integrated treatment are often known as dual diagnosis programs. These programs usually include medication management to stabilize mental health symptoms and provide medication-assisted treatment if it’s necessary for the individual. Additionally, individuals also receive individual therapy and group therapy that use behavioral techniques that have been found to be successful when working with mental illness and substance use disorder. Common treatment modalities that are frequently used in dual diagnosis programs include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Assertive Community Treatment, Therapeutic Communities, and Motivational Interviewing. 

How to Find Co-occurring Disorder Treatment

Despite integrated treatment being the best intervention for co-occurring disorders, many treatment programs, unfortunately, don’t have the means to offer dual diagnosis programming. Therefore, if you or a loved one struggle with co-occurring disorders, it’s important to find a treatment center that offers the following: 

  • Integrated treatment, otherwise known as a dual diagnosis program for substance use disorders and mental illness 
  • Individualized treatment planning 
  • Use of evidence-based practices, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and others listed above
  • Any other options you feel will be important on your treatment plan, such as medication-assisted treatment, family therapy, recovery coaching, support groups, and more. 

Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment at West Valley Detox

West Valley Detox offers state-of-the-art treatment in a beautiful location. You will be able to receive quality treatment for your substance use and mental health concerns while being comfortable and healthy. Once you arrive, we offer medically assisted detox and residential treatment. We provide round-the-clock care with experienced and highly trained staff who are excited to provide you with one on one treatment. Our clinician-to-patient ratio of 3:1 allows this. In addition to therapy for addiction and mental health, we also offer help with nutrition, art therapy, grief counseling, yoga, life skills, and more. We will work alongside you to tailor an individualized treatment plan with our client-focused and highly customizable curriculum. 
There are over 14,000 drug rehab centers in the United States. But there’s only one West Valley Detox. Contact us today with a confidential and free call to start your journey to recovery.


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