With May being Mental Health Month, we couldn’t think of a better time to go over the relationship between mental health and substance use disorders. Today, we’re talking about co-occurring disorders. Let’s start from the top, shall we?

What is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

Co-occurring disorders involve the co-existence of a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. Also known as dual diagnosis, co-occurring disorders require professional evaluation and treatment. Common co-occurring disorders include depression disorder and alcoholism, panic disorder and sedative abuse, and methamphetamine-induced psychosis. Treatment for dual diagnosis conditions depends greatly on the substance of abuse and mental illness in question, with pharmacotherapeutic and psychotherapeutic treatments both used in different cases.

Correct diagnosis is always the first step, so let’s take a look at five signs pointing towards a co-occurring disorder.

You Use Drugs as a Form of Self-Medication

People with pre-existing mental health disorders often use drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication. For example, someone living with depression disorder may start to abuse prescription opioids or alcohol as a way to relieve stress and access certain emotional states. While drugs can provide a sense of temporary relief from some mental health conditions, long-term drug abuse is only likely to exacerbate existing problems.

You Experience Depression or Anxiety as a Result of Drug Use

Dual diagnosis is a broad term used to describe a wide range of problematic interactions. While some people start abusing drugs as a form of self-medication, others may develop mental illness as a result of existing drug addictions. For example, drug addicts often become depressed as a result of their addiction, with others developing anxiety-related conditions as a result of drug addiction or withdrawal. If you or anyone you know is experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of drug use, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible.

You Rely on Drugs to Feel Normal

People with drug problems often feel like they need to keep using drugs just to feel normal. This is especially the case for dual diagnosis patients, many of whom are consuming psychoactive substances as a way to numb the symptoms of mental illness. Extensive psychotherapy is often needed to break the psychological bonds of drug addiction, including family therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

You Have a Family History of Mental Illness

People with a family history of mental illness are much more likely to develop co-occurring disorders. While some people are able to use drugs without developing mental health problems, others are not so lucky. While it’s always important to be aware of the warning signs, people with a family history of mental illness should be extra vigilant.

You Take Drugs to Help Manage Past Trauma

Drug addictions often develop in response to past traumatic events. For example, people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety-related conditions often turn to drugs or alcohol to help them through tough times. While this form of self-medication may seem effective in the early stages, substance abuse will only ever make existing problems worse.

Disclaimer: This article is not to be taken as medical advice. If you or anyone you know is struggling with any kind of co-occurring disorder, it’s important to reach out to a specialized treatment center as soon as you can.

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