Mental Health and Substance Abuse: Comorbid Disorders

Mental Health and Substance Abuse: Comorbid Disorders cover

People who experience mental health problems or substance use disorders often have one or more additional diagnoses. These comorbid conditions are secondary issues that a person struggles with in addition to their primary diagnosis. For example, a person who has an anxiety disorder and experiences stressors such as work, school, family, relationships, finances and other factors may develop an alcohol use disorder as a way of coping with the stressors in their life. An individual can have both a mental health condition and a substance use disorder at the same time. These two types of disorders are very different from one another but often go hand in hand. Here is more information about co-existing mental health disorders and substance abuse conditions—and how they impact each other’s treatment success.

How do mental health disorders affect addicts?

Certain mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression and PTSD, can make it more difficult for an individual to break their addiction. They may find it more challenging to get clean, stay clean and fully recover from substance abuse. For example, an addict with depression may have a harder time getting out of bed every morning, going to work and holding down a job. They may lose their motivation to stay sober. Depression also increases the risk of relapse. Addiction and mental health disorders often go hand in hand—and can even fuel each other. Depression and anxiety often make it harder to tolerate cravings, manage anxiety and feel good in sobriety. Anxiety and depression can be so severe that it’s difficult to stay clean. Medications are often prescribed to treat these co-occurring disorders. Medication can help manage cravings, anxiety and depression, which can make it easier to stay clean and in recovery. Medications can also help reduce the side effects of substance abuse treatment medications, making it easier to feel better in recovery.

How does substance abuse affect mental health problems?

Substance abuse affects mental health problems in a few different ways. Substance abuse can trigger or worsen mental health disorders. For example, people who have a preexisting mood or anxiety disorder are more likely to experience a substance use disorder. Substance abuse can also make it harder to treat mental health disorders. Individuals with a mental health disorder may have a harder time finding a treatment program that works for them. Certain treatments may have more side effects, be less effective or even cause mental health to worsen while using them. Substance abuse problems can also make it harder to follow through with a mental health treatment program. Having both disorders at the same time is more likely to be challenging to treat and may take longer to treat. Treatments may not work as well and may cause more side effects.

What are the most common co-occurring disorders?

Some of the most common co-occurring disorders include:

Depression and anxiety: Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand. People who misuse drugs and/or alcohol may have higher rates of anxiety disorders, such as PTSD and panic disorders.

Personality disorders: People with borderline personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and others may have a higher risk of addiction.

PTSD: People with PTSD may also have an increased risk of addiction. OCD and PTSD are among the most commonly co-occurring disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder happens when a person is exposed to a traumatic event and their body responds as if they are still in danger. People with PTSD have trouble managing their emotions, concentrating, sleeping and other symptoms. Researchers suggest PTSD and addiction are linked to various factors, including genetics and environment.

Eating disorders: Eating disorders often go hand in hand with substance abuse. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that eating disorders are more likely to occur in individuals with substance abuse disorders.

Special Dangers of Comorbidity

Mental health disorders and substance use disorders commonly occur together. This is called a comorbid condition, meaning two or more illnesses are present at the same time. Patients with multiple conditions are known as dual diagnosis patients. Both types of conditions can impact quality of life and recovery in those who have them. Persons with comorbid disorders face unique challenges that require specialized treatment by trained professionals who know how to address both conditions simultaneously.

Many people who have a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder do not receive proper treatment for either. They may be diagnosed with both disorders but receive only a mental health or substance abuse treatment program. This means the person is only getting partial care for their disorders, which often does not work. Comorbid disorders are more likely to be chronic and last for many years. It’s also more likely that these disorders will negatively affect a person’s future. Substance abuse disorders make it more likely that a person will develop a mental health disorder. Mental health disorders make it more likely that a person will develop a substance use disorder. People with co-occurring disorders often have worse outcomes than those who only have one disorder. The outcomes are worse because they are less likely to receive proper care and treatment.

How Sober Livings Help Dual Diagnosis People

Sober livings like Sober Living East can help people with both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder. Quality sober livings such as Sober Living East accept residents with comorbid disorders. At our sober living in Los Angeles, we strive to offer special resources for people with co-occurring disorders. Sober livings can help clients with both disorders get the treatment, tools and resources they need to live a healthy, sober life. Having a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder is challenging. It’s important to get help from a sober living that understands the unique needs of dual diagnosis clients. Working with staff members at Sober Living East who understand how these disorders impact each other can make it easier for a person to recover from both conditions.

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