It can be difficult for your doctor to diagnose co-occurring disorders and all the challenges you might face with this type of condition. Read on to learn more about co-occurring disorders and the kind of treatment that’s best for your recovery when you go to a rehab facility.

What is a Co-Occurring Disorder (Dual Diagnosis)?


A person who is suffering from a co-occurring disorder has a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder. Another term for this is a dual diagnosis. Those with a co-occurring disorder usually have a mental health disorder initially. It’s very common for a person who has a substance abuse problem to have a mood or anxiety disorder. This could include depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or anxiety disorder. Those with a mood or anxiety disorder might think doing drugs or alcohol can numb their feelings or help them cope with their PTSD issues. They believe the effects of alcohol or drugs is the solution to their problems and will make their emotional pain or struggles go away.

Ignoring the issues of a mental health disorder and using drugs isn’t the solution to anyone’s problems. In fact, as reported by Behavioral Health Evolution, using drugs and alcohol will only make your particular mental health disorder worse. Therefore, people who are suffering from a mental health disorder should seek professional help before they develop an addiction to drugs. Therapy and prescription medications will help you live a healthier lifestyle.

However, this doesn’t always end in proper treatment for your mental health. People could end up abusing and becoming dependent on those drugs and alcohol substances to get through a rough day at work. According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 50 percent of people have a severe mental disorder and also suffer from a substance abuse disorder. People around you could be silently suffering from a mental illness because they are ashamed or don’t realize how much their anxiety disorder is impacting their drug abuse.

Why are Co-Occurring Disorders Hard to Diagnose?

It can be hard for a doctor to accurately diagnose their patient who has a co-occurring disorder. A person who is experiencing symptoms of a substance abuse disorder can have similar mental health disorder symptoms and vice versa. Those who have depression can portray interchangeable symptoms from drugs they’ve become hooked on. Having issues in the workplace, a quick decline in physical health, or unusual changes in weight are all signs of an alcohol abuse problem. However, the same could be said for depression being the primary cause of these erratic behaviors. Only you can help reveal the truth behind your actions on whether an underlying mental health disorder is an additional cause for the events unraveling in your life.

Your family members might see the alcohol or drug abuse and automatically assume it’s a substance abuse issue. Having a mental health issue is easier to hide from your loved ones so you might think that it is better than being vulnerable to them. Some people might not like expressing their mental health issues to others. However, hiding those mental health disorders from yourself and others can prevent you from fully recovering from your co-occurring disorder. You might also be in the dark on what type of mental illness you have, especially if you’ve never been to the doctor for it. Being honest with your doctor can allow them to diagnose you accurately.

Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

If you have a co-occurring disorder, researching rehab treatment centers and treatment plans they offer before going to one can be very beneficial for your overall recovery. You could end up facing several challenges when you seek professional help, so it’s always best to know what to expect when you are trying to get your life back.

Challenges in Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

Many people who have a mental health disorder interrupting their life think they can self-medicate with drugs and alcohol and not have to face having to get a professional therapist to diagnose their PTSD or bipolar disorder.

Of course, a person might also deny they have a drug or alcohol addiction since they can excuse it as their own sense of treatment for their mental health disorder. This type of reasoning could prevent them from accepting their drug addiction and cause them to refuse any rehab treatment.

Those who have co-occurring disorders might not always get a correct diagnosis from their doctor or at a rehab facility. Most people aren’t treated the way they should since rehab centers might only address one of the disorders they are suffering from instead of both. By just treating the substance abuse disorder, you will likely end up relapsing in the future since your anxiety or depression will cause you to go back to your old habits of using drugs and alcohol.

It can also make your mental state much worse as a result. When a person stops using drugs and alcohol, it can aggravate those mental health issues more than usual. Your body is used to those drugs affecting your mental state, so lack of drugs can wreak havoc when you are no longer under the influence of those drugs. As a result, you won’t be able to entirely recover from your dual diagnosis.

Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

So, you might be wondering: what type of treatment plan is more effective and the best one for you? An integrated treatment plan can be beneficial in treating people who have co-occurring disorders. According to Behavioral Health Evolution, an effective treatment plan involves both disorders being treated at the same time, place, and by the same treatment team. If your doctor decides only to treat one disorder, the other one will grow worse as time progresses.

This co-occurring disorder treatment allows your doctor to diagnose and treat both disorders. Having a qualified therapist for dual diagnosis treatment is essential in making sure that both of them are being handled properly. An inexperienced therapist might not be able to differentiate between your drug addiction and your mental health disorder.

Of course, this could also take some time when you go to rehab, so be prepared for a lengthy time to recover. As stated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, you need to have a long-term treatment plan to fully recover and prevent future relapses from happening. Everyone is different for their recovery time but having a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder can take more time to heal than if you just had one of those disorders plaguing your health.

Do you suspect you have a co-occurring disorder? You might face difficult challenges along the way to recovery but having the best treatment by a qualified therapist will allow you to get your life back on track once again. There’s always hope in fighting your dual diagnosis, so don’t start thinking this is going to be too hard to get through.