Co-occurring disorders, also referred to as dual diagnosis, is a term for when mental illness and substance use disorder occur at the same time. According to a 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 7.9 million Americans experience co-occurring disorders.

Either disorder can develop first. People struggling with a mental health condition may self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to improve their symptoms, but research shows that this only exacerbates those symptoms. But because addiction doesn’t occur on its own, it’s vital to address the underlying causes, such as mental illness.

Symptoms of Co-Occurring Disorders

Given the seemingly infinite combinations of co-occurring disorders, symptoms vary widely. Still, there are some common symptoms of substance use disorder, including:

  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Using substances in high-risk situations
  • Engaging in risky behavior
  • “Needing” a drug to function
  • Increased tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms

Symptoms of mental illness vary widely, but there are some common signs:

  • Extreme mood changes
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Confused thinking
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of suicide

Common Co-Occurring Mental Illnesses

Co-occurring disorders can occur with a range of mental illnesses. Illnesses most commonly associated with substance use disorder include:

  • Bipolar I disorder. Bipolar I disorder is characterized by relatively short “up” states, known as mania, and more extended periods of major depression. Symptoms of mania include increased energy, reduced need for sleep, unusual talkativeness and poor decision-making. Symptoms of depression include depressed mood, loss of interest, weight loss, insomnia or sleeping too much, or loss of energy.
  • Bipolar II disorder. People with bipolar II disorder experience hypomania, an “up” state that is less severe than mania, and more prolonged bouts of depression that can cause significant impairment.
  • Schizophrenia. Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia vary but usually include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking, abnormal changes to body movement and a lack of ability to function normally, such as neglecting personal hygiene or not changing facial expressions.
  • Major depression. This mood disorder is known for a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Depression symptoms include lack of energy, reduced appetite, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and thoughts of suicide.

Treatment for co-occurring disorders requires an integrated approach. Since each condition affects the other, it’s important that a treatment plan takes that into consideration. The exact methods of treatment vary from person to person, but typically includes a combination of detox, inpatient and outpatient treatment, support groups, psychotherapy and medication.

Immersion Recovery Center’s clinical team is guided by the framework of the 12-step program and how it complements evidence-based psychotherapy. Our immersive program allows clients to focus entirely on recovery and getting well. Contact Immersion at 561.419.3349 to learn more about our addiction treatment services.