If you struggle with a substance use problem and a mental health disorder such as depression, bipolar, or anxiety, it is known as a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. Addressing substance abuse, alcoholism, and drug addiction can be extremely challenging, especially if you’re also dealing with mental health issues. Co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders are more common than people often realize.
It’s important to understand that substance abuse problems and mental illness don’t get any better when they go untreated. If left untreated, they often get much worse. There may be things you can do to overcome your illness and begin the journey toward recovery. You can overcome a co-occurring disorder and get your life on track with the proper support and treatment care.
Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorder Statistics
In the United States, 7.7 million adults have a co-occurring mental and substance use disorder. According to reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, nearly 50 percent of people diagnosed with a severe mental disorder are affected by substance abuse.
- Of the 20.3 million adults with substance use disorders, almost 40% also had a mental illness.
- Often, adults are not receiving the treatment needed for their co-occurring disorders. A little over 9 percent of American adults with co-occurring disorders received treatment for both mental health care and substance use treatment. Nearly 53 percent of adults received neither mental health care nor substance use treatment.
Identifying a Dual Diagnosis
It can be difficult for people to identify a dual diagnosis when they’re not familiar with the symptoms. It takes time to determine whether someone has a mental illness or a drug or alcohol problem, but it is important to seek help for either one.
Depending on the type of substances abused and the mental health disorder itself, the signs and symptoms of a dual diagnosis may vary. For example, someone with signs of a mood disorder and using cocaine may look different from someone with signs of PTSD and an alcohol problem. Nonetheless, there are some common signs and symptoms for assessing if you or your loved one may have a co-occurring disorder, also known as a dual diagnosis:
- Is there a common connection between your mental health and substance use?
- Do you feel depressed, anxious, or uneasy when you’re sober?
- Has someone in your family struggled with a mental health disorder or substance abuse?
- Have you been diagnosed with either a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety? Have you ever been treated for a substance use disorder and relapsed?
Screening for both mental health and substance use disorders is important. It’s often complicated to assess a co-occurring disorder due to the overlapping symptoms and similar risk factors. It’s important for people seeking help for a mental health disorder to also be assessed for a possible SUD and vice versa.
Common Co-Occurring Disorders: Signs and Symptoms
Co-occurring disorders have been studied by researchers for decades. They have determined that certain mental health disorders have been more often connected to substance use disorders. Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are more commonly connected to substance abuse.
Generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder are linked to an increased risk of having a dual diagnosis. Almost 18 percent of the American population have some type of anxiety disorder. Common signs and symptoms of anxiety include:
- Feeling restless or “on edge”
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble sleeping, such as falling or staying asleep
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry or fear
- Feeling weak, tired, or easily fatigued
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It is common for people suffering from a SUD to be diagnosed with mood disorders such as major depression or bipolar disorder. Approximately 20 percent of adults with a SUD have been diagnosed with a mood disorder. Below are some common signs and symptoms to observe based on the disorder.
Symptoms of Depression may include the following:
- Sleep changes
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Feelings of hopelessness and worthless
- Lack of energy
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Feeling sad most of the time
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder may include the following:
- Feeling jumpy or on edge for no reason
- Reckless, Risk-Taking behavior
- Feeling full of energy, constantly energized
- Rapid speech or movement
- Racing thoughts
- Trouble sleeping such as insomnia
Additionally, Personality Disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have been associated as mental health disorders commonly linked to SUDs. People who suffer from severe mental illness are at a greater risk of developing a co-occurring disorder.
Signs and Symptoms of Substance Use Disorders
Substance abuse can affect people from all walks of life. Understanding and identifying the signs and symptoms of possible drug or alcohol abuse is important. Addiction can change the way a person thinks, looks, and feels. There are often some general common physical and behavioral signs and symptoms to detect if you or your loved one is suffering from a SUD:
Common Physical Signs
- Change in appearance–Poor hygiene or change in complexion
- Sleep Problems–Insomnia or sleeping too much (hypersomnia)
- Sudden weight loss
- Bloodshot eyes
Common Behavioral Signs
- Poor decision making
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Financial trouble
- Irritability and/or mood swings
- Legal issues
Treatment for a Common Co-Occurring Disorder at Riverside Recovery of Tampa
An integrated approach is the best way to treat co-occurring disorders. Both the substance abuse problem and mental health issues need to be addressed at the same time during treatment. Long-term recovery from both mental health and substance abuse disorders requires getting treatment for both disorders by the same treatment provider or facility. Each situation is different though and therefore treatment for a co-occurring disorder is not the same for every individual.
At Riverside Recovery of Tampa, we provide our clients with individualized treatment plans to fit each unique need on their road to recovery. We know it’s important to treat both mental health and substance abuse disorders to fit the needs and conditions of each person.
Mental health treatment may include the following:
- individual and/or group therapy
- medication-assisted treatment
- cognitive behavioral therapy
- other therapeutic techniques proven effective in treating mental health disorders.
Substance abuse treatment may include:
- medically assisted detox for managing withdrawal symptoms
- residential or inpatient treatment
- outpatient programs
- support groups to help manage sobriety.
To learn more about Riverside Recovery of Tampa’s dual diagnosis programs, contact our admissions team today.
Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment–Co-occurring disorders in substance abuse treatment: Issues and prospects
National Institute on Drug Abuse–Comorbidity: Substance use disorders and other mental illnesses
National Library of Medicine–A Call for Standardized Definition of Dual Diagnosis.