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Managing Co-Occurring Disorders

Managing Co-Occurring Disorders

If you or a loved one suffer from addiction and mental health disorder we have ways of managing your co-occurring disorders.

When an individual has two or more disorders, they have co-occurring disorders (CODs). These disorders can be anything health-related. One common co-occurring disorder sequence is that of mental health and substance use. Statistics estimate that “7.7 million adults have co-occurring mental and substance use disorders”. ( That is a grossly large number of individuals that have this comorbidity. Co-occurring disorders are sometimes known as dual-diagnosis when there are only two disorders. Having a dual diagnosis can cause setbacks in getting treatment for one or both of the disorders and staying on a healthy pathway. An individual with a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders must receive treatment from a qualified healthcare team. It is also vital that these individuals develop a solid set of lifestyle skills to help them maintain and manage their co-occurring disorders and diagnosis. Managing Co-Occurring Disorders

What Causes this Common Comorbidity?

While the exact cause of co-occurring disorders is not known, various factors may play a part in developing each disorder or the disorders together. Many individuals with a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. It cannot be determined if one caused the other or if the individual could have one disorder without the other. What this means is it is unknown if an individual had one or the other disorder first. Certain factors can be linked to each category of disorders, however.

  • Genetics
  • Neurologic disruptions
  • Environmental circumstances
  • Family history of one or the other disorder
  • Prenatal exposures
  • Low self-esteem
  • Gender- men are more likely to have a co-occurring disorder diagnosis than women

The fact is it is often impossible to determine the cause of an individual’s mental health and substance use disorders. The most important thing is that the symptoms are recognized, a diagnosis is made, and treatment is started. It is important to discuss any concerns regarding your medical history and family history with your medical team to diagnose accurately. Some symptoms may help medical providers determine if a co-occurring disorder diagnosis is warranted.

What are the Symptoms of Having Disorders in Tandem?

The symptoms of co-occurring disorders may be different depending on what disorders are present and how severe each one is. However, many symptoms may be similar, and common symptoms may occur across the board. These symptoms can be behavioral, physical, or cognitive.

  • Behavioral symptoms
    • Changes in personality, withdrawal from family or friends, loss of interest in once enjoyable hobbies, intense bursts of energy, intense bouts of depression, aggressive behaviors, violent outbursts, fidgeting, feeling invincible, hostility, suicidal ideation
  • Physical symptoms
    • Weight loss, insomnia, extreme fatigue, poor hygiene, dental issues, sores, itching
  • Cognitive
    • Paranoia, anxiety, disorientation, loss of consciousness, forgetfulness, slowed or impaired thought process

Any symptoms must be discussed with a team of trained medical professionals. A proper diagnosis is essential in establishing an integrated treatment plan for recovery.

The Dangers of Multiple Disorder Diagnoses

Potential dangers could be involved when an individual has a co-occurring disorder diagnosis involving mental health and substance use. The majority of these dangers come with untreated disorders. Many individuals with one or more untreated diagnoses have a higher risk of developing severe depression, anxiety, and suicidal behaviors. They may feel guilty, confused, or in addition, they burden their family or those around them. These individuals are more likely to relapse if their mental health disorder is not treated in unison with their substance use disorder. Several studies have been conducted to unmask the risks associated with co-occurring disorders and non-integrated treatment programs:

Researchers not only found a link between substance abuse and mental illness, but they also found the dramatic impact the complicating presence of substance abuse may have on the course of treatment for mental illness. One study of 121 clients with psychoses found that those with substance abuse problems (36 percent) spent twice as many days in the hospital over the two years before treatment as clients without substance abuse problems (Crome 1999; Menezes et al. 1996). These clients often have poorer outcomes, such as higher rates of HIV infection, relapse, rehospitalization, depression, and suicide risk (

Individuals that have a co-occurring disorder and either receive treatment for only one disorder or no treatment at all may turn to self-medication to try to help. They may also turn to other methods of coping and maladaptive behaviors (gambling, self-harm, avoidance, anger outbursts) to get relief from their symptoms. Unfortunately, this can cause an even bigger issue or possibly another addiction. Other ways an untreated or undiagnosed co-occurring disorder sequence can be dangerous include an overall decline in physical and psychological health, decline in relationships, decline in work performance, financial distress, and more.

The Importance of Comprehensive, Integrated Treatment

Historically, individuals did not receive treatment for co-occurring disorders together. Until recent years, many individuals received treatment for each specific disorder from different medical providers or only received treatment for one diagnosis. Research has shown that an integrated treatment plan that completely encompasses all co-occurring disorders provides better results. Having this foundation for recovery can help an individual not only succeed in their recovery, but it can pave the way for an overall healthier, happier life. When all disorders are treated appropriately, it allows for a reduction in relapse, mood instabilities, and a reduction in destructive behaviors. These better outcomes set an individual up for lifelong recovery. Integrated treatment can also reduce medication interactions, decrease the risk of hospitalization, reduce legal issues, increase financial stability, increase mental stability, and improve the overall quality of life.

Steps to Help You Succeed With Your Diagnosis

Individuals who have a co-occurring disorder diagnosis, and are receiving treatment for both, can establish routines and use strategies to help them succeed in all aspects of life. These strategies and habits can help individuals manage their co-occurring disorder diagnosis and live a more rounded, successful life.

  • Establish a routine.
  • Get ongoing support
  • Take your medications as prescribed
  • Exercise
  • Eat Healthily
  • Find a support system
  • Meditate
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Develop healthy relationships
  • Go to your appointments

The diagnosis of A co-occurring disorder does not mean you cannot be successful in your recovery. With the right treatment and mindset, anyone can learn to manage and live with this diagnosis. It is never too late to get the help you need. By integrating a daily routine and sticking to it, as well as finding other ways that help you feel happy and whole, you can learn to live life healthy and sober.

Find the Best Treatment Option for Co-Occurring Disorders

Here at Evoke Waltham, we are available to help no matter what time of the day or night. Our focus is centered on patient values and always adhering to the best practices in recovery. We understand that each patient requires an individualized approach to achieving their recovery goals; that is why we offer several therapy options and medication-assisted treatment. Our staff of highly trained, highly qualified individuals is here for you every day, all day. But, you don’t have to do this alone. Call us today to start your journey to recovery now.