Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders (also known as comorbidities) refer to experiencing addiction and mental health conditions simultaneously. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately 38 percent of people with addiction also suffer from co-occurring mental illnesses. However, many addiction treatment specialists, like those at New Paradigm Recovery, may suggest that the percentage of people living with addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions is even higher than the NIDA estimate.

Co-Occurring Disorders and Addiction are Strongly Connected

Mental health and addictive disorders are highly related. Living with untreated mental health disorders can cause the development of substance use disorders and addiction. Similarly, living with active addiction can cause mental health disorders. While the biological, social, and psychological factors that cause people to develop these conditions vary widely, many people seeking addiction treatment present with a range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, mood disorders, disordered eating, and more. One reason for the high correlation between substance use and mental health disorders is that people impacted by the adverse effects of disorders like anxiety and depression can attempt to self-medicate using alcohol, drugs, and processes (like gambling, sex, and other compulsive behaviors). A use disorder can develop when people find relief from their mental health symptoms through substance and process misuse.

Diagnosing Comorbidities Improves Treatment Outcomes

Effective behavioral healthcare uses thorough assessment and diagnosis to identify any co-occurring disorders so that they may be understood and treated. It is common for skilled clinicians to discover that clients are experiencing previously unknown or undisclosed comorbidities during treatment — a main reason that extended time in treatment can make a vital difference. Unless underlying mental health conditions, traumas, or other issues are addressed at the root level, it is unlikely that people will feel the relief necessary to stop misusing substances and maintain recovery. Ensuring that co-occurring disorders are identified and treated significantly increases long-term client outcomes.

Comprehensive Treatment Approaches and Clinical Sophistication Help

Comprehensive and holistic treatment approaches that consider a client’s physical, mental, relational, and spiritual health are important when treating co-occurring disorders. Clinicians with the experience and time to get to know clients and develop a rounded view of their lives and the adverse conditions affecting their well-being can address more issues and recommend more and better therapies.

New Paradigm Recovery Clinical Director Cindy Sample, Ph.D., LCSW, has over twenty years of experience diagnosing and treating clients with substance use and mental health disorders.

People experiencing dual-diagnosis conditions, or addiction and mental health disorders, require a specialized approach. We need to understand the core issues that are making them feel the need to seek solace from substances and create a welcoming and safe place for them to feel receptive to help and engaged in the process.

Cindy Sample, Ph.D., LCSW