People with substance abuse disorder (SUD) are usually diagnosed with a co-occurring mental health disorder. When this happens, the person is said to have a dual diagnosis. This means that a person with dual diagnosis must be given an integrated treatment plan that addresses both their substance abuse disorder and underlying mental health issue. 

According to studies by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 45% of people who abuse substances also have co-occurring mental health disorders. In order to properly treat this condition, individuals must seek treatment for their addiction AND their co-occurring mental health disorder. That being said, it is of great value to know what these co-occurring mental health issues that addicts face. Doing so will give you or someone you know a chance at life before it is destroyed by both conditions. Here are the most common mental health issues that addicts suffer from:

Mental Health Issues Affiliated with Addiction

  1. Attention-deficit Hyperactive Disorder or ADHD – is characterized by abnormal hyperactivity. People with ADHD are more prone to abusing substances as their way to cope with their condition. Oftentimes they are prescribed stimulants, which can be habit-forming and can lead to substance abuse in the long run.
  2. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) – addiction often goes hand-in-hand with borderline personality disorder and about 2/3 of addicts suffer from this condition.
  3. Bipolar disorder – it is believed that about half of the people suffering from this condition also suffer from addiction. Many substance abusers use drugs and alcohol as their means to achieve temporary relief from their emotional struggles and manic episodes. 
  4. Depression – is one of the most common mental health issues that a lot of people struggle with in the United States. People diagnosed with this condition often resolve to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, which makes the problem even worse. 
  5. Eating disorders – one of the main reasons why eating disorders happen comes from having strong feelings of inferiority. This condition worsens when the patient takes more drugs to suppress their appetite.
  6. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States. This condition affects 18% of the adult population and may actually be made worse by drugs and alcohol that they take to manage the symptoms. Abuse of benzodiazepines, usually seen on prescribed medications for anxiety, can also be addicting. 
  7. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – is caused by a lot of unwanted compulsions and obsessions. Patients usually have irrational fears and may also suffer from depression and anxiety due to their involuntary behavior, something that could also cause them to abuse drugs and alcohol. 
  8. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – commonly known as PTSD, a person develops this condition after a traumatic experience. This makes their brain produce less endorphins than a healthy brain should. Because of this, the patient usually turns to drugs and alcohol to make them feel happy. 
  9. Schizophrenia – is usually characterized by delusions and hallucinations. Diagnosing a person with schizophrenia may be difficult because they share the same behaviors as that of a drug or alcohol addict. If a person with underlying schizophrenia abuses drugs and alcohol, it will only put them further in harm’s way. 

Signs and Symptoms of a Co-Occurring Disorder

Some co-occurring disorders may not show any symptoms, which is why diagnoses vary from person to person. Generally, these symptoms will also depend on the type of substance they abuse, as well as the length of time they have been abusing these substances and severity of the underlying disorder. This is also one of the main reasons why you must watch out for the signs and symptoms and to seek medical help immediately. Among these symptoms include the following:

  • There is sudden change of behavior in general.
  • The individual has difficulty managing simple tasks and daily responsibilities.
  • Suddenly avoiding social events or activities that they once enjoyed doing.
  • They have delusional thinking and problems understanding.
  • Neglecting their health and hygiene. They are usually seen as unkempt. 
  • Does not want to comply with treatment or seek one.
  • They have suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
  • Cannot handle their finances properly. 
  • Displays impulsive and erratic behaviors.
  • Does not perform well in school or at work.

Finding the Right Program for Co-Occurring Disorders

Some people become addicted and develop these mental health disorders while others already have an underlying mental health disorder before they became addicted to substances. Knowing which condition manifested first is necessary to find a treatment plan tailored to meet the needs of both conditions simultaneously, rather than treating both separately. So how can you find such a program then?

First of all, you must make sure that the program you choose is licensed and accredited. Know if the treatment methods they use are backed up by research and the aftercare program should be able to prevent patients from relapsing. In addition to that, make sure also to see if the program has experience with the particular mental health issue you or someone you know have. 

There are plenty of approaches to choose from, but among the basics that you should look into must be the following:

  • The treatment should address both the substance abuse and the mental health disorder problem at hand.
  • You must share in the decision-making process and must be included in setting goals and strategies for the change you need to accomplish.
  • The program must include basic education about the disorder you have and related problems involved in it.
  • They must teach healthy coping skills and strategies to help minimize substance abuse.
  • They must also teach you how to strengthen relationships, beat any challenges and cope with everyday stressors. 

Dealing with substance abuse and co-occurring mental health issues is like double jeopardy. If you don’t seek help right away, it could mean death for you or your loved ones. If you know anyone who is going through this or if you are going through the same issue then you must remember to:

Make sure you have the emotional support you need to cope or talk to someone you trust about what you are going through. 

You must also set boundaries and be realistic about the amount of care you can provide. Set limits on yourself or your loved ones who are going through the same issue. This way, you will prevent the disorder from taking over your lives. 

Do educate yourself and learn all you can about mental health disorders and substance abuse treatment programs. The more you know, the more you will understand what you are going through and the better you can provide support for their recovery. 

Be extra patient because recovering from this condition does not happen overnight. Relapse is common and the road to recovery is a long process. Always remember to support each other as you work towards recovery. Over time, you can get through it and once again take control of your life. 

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center® holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.