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Co-occurring disorders are much more common than many people may think. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “7.7 million adults [had] co-occurring mental and substance use disorders” in 2017. Moreover, “Of the 20.3 million adults with substance use disorders, 37.9% also had mental illnesses.” Additionally, “Among the 42.1 million adults with mental illness, 18.2% also had substance use disorders.” Thus, as one can see, it can be difficult to gauge which came first; the addiction or the mental illness.

Better Understanding Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders can be dual-addictions, dual-mental illnesses, or comorbidities of addiction and mental illness. The reality of co-occurring disorders is that many people don’t realize that they are struggling with them because one issue often masks the other.

For example, many of the symptoms of anxiety and depression are also symptoms of alcohol use disorder (AUD). An overlap of symptoms can make it very difficult for an individual to obtain proper dual diagnoses from the start. On that note, this just shows how important it is to work with professionals who are capable of diagnosing both addiction and mental illness in tandem.

Co-Occurring Disorders: How Addiction Affects Mental Health

Many people struggling with mental illness choose to self-medicate with alcohol and substances as a means of coping with their symptoms. This can be particularly dangerous for several reasons.

First and foremost, alcohol and other drugs can elevate the negative symptoms of mental illness. Additionally, many people struggling with mental illness are on medications that can have adverse reactions when mixed with alcohol and other substances. Lastly, the prolonged use of alcohol and substances can lead to addiction and a whole series of new and complex issues to navigate.

When it comes to co-occurring disorders, many people ask the question, “Is addiction a mental health disorder?” The answer is yes, but it is more nuanced than that. Perhaps a better way to think about addiction and mental illness is that they are both chronic diseases. Just like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, both addiction and mental illness will almost always worsen without some type of intervention and recovery treatment.

The Importance of Treating Co-Occurring Disorders at the Same Time

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “When someone has a SUD and another mental health disorder, it is usually better to treat them at the same time rather than separately. People who need help for SUD and other mental disorders should see a healthcare provider for each disorder. It can be challenging to make an accurate diagnosis because some symptoms are the same for both disorders…” The good news is that at The Phoenix Recovery Center, we have professionals who can treat both addiction and mental illness at the same time.

Treating co-occurring disorders comes with its own set of complications. For example, one must be careful when using certain medications for mental illness because they could have the potential to trigger an addiction relapse. 

How to Best Treat Co-Occurring Disorders

Perhaps the most utilized psychotherapy for treating both addiction and mental illness is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This is because it has a history of efficacy in treating co-occurring disorders.

Other treatments that have also been shown to be highly effective are experiential therapies like art and nature immersion therapy and holistic healing options like yoga and meditation. Connecting with recovery communities can also be critical for helping people to heal in the long term.

There are many ways to connect to others with the shared experience of co-occurring disorders. One is via group therapy and recovery center alumni groups. The other involves connecting individuals to recovery groups away from the recovery center, such as 12-Step programs. Engaging with these communities helps people remember that they are not alone and build a “sober network” that they can rely upon when they are feeling triggered in day-to-day life.

Healing at the Cellular Level With The Phoenix Recovery Center

Whether it is addiction, mental illness, or co-occurring disorders, everyone has the right to a safe, secure, and healthy recovery. Also, the right to a recovery that is going to last long past one’s time at the recovery center.

Long-term recovery and healing at the cellular level is our goal at The Phoenix Recovery Center. We ensure this by treating all of our clients on an individual basis with unique, integrated, and comprehensive recovery plans. As the ancient Greek philosopher, Hippocrates, once famously said, “It’s far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.”

Choosing recovery is one of the most important choices a person may ever make; so make it count with The Phoenix Recovery Center.It is now widely accepted knowledge that mental illness can lead to addiction and vice versa. It is also widely understood that treating mental illness and addiction at the same time is crucial for successful long-term recovery. The good news is that there are many effective ways to treat both mental illness and addiction at the same time, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, and various experiential therapies. If you feel like you or a loved one are struggling with issues of addiction, mental illness, or both, we can help. For more information on how to treat co-occurring disorders, please reach out to The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT