The co-occurring disorder also known as dual diagnosis refers to combined mental disorder and substance use disorders. People who have substance use disorders, as well as mental health disorders, are diagnosed as having co-occurring disorders, or dual disorder.

Fig. 1.1: A pictorial chart showing Co-occurring disorder from drug Addiction and Mental illness (source:kaksoisdiagnoosi.blogspot.com)

Common Co-occurring disorders include;

  1. Anxiety disorder
  2. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  3. Autism spectrum disorder
  4. Depression
  5. Eating disorder
  6. Personality disorder
  7. Schizophrenia

Co-occurring disorders can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms of substance abuse or addiction can mask symptoms of mental illness, and symptoms of mental illness can be confused with symptoms of addiction.

Signs to show the presence of co-occurring disorder include;

  1. Drug or alcohol withdrawal symptoms like cravings and withdrawals
  2. Depression, anxiety, grief, anger and so on that intrude on everyday living
  3. High tolerance for the substance being used
  4. Risky behavior to maintain the addictive habit
  5. Extreme changes in behavior
  6. Perceived inability to function without alcohol or drugs
  7. Difficulties in relationships at home, in the community and at work or school caused by symptoms.
  8. Physical and mental health problems.

Historically, Co-occurring Disorders were treated separately in non-integrated services. While the singular focus in treatment is beneficial for an individual with one condition, the failure to treat the co-occurring disorder in those with more than one condition may exacerbate the problem and prolong recovery time. some treatment plans for co-occurring disorder include:

  1. Assessment
  2. Detox
  3. Residential Inpatient
  4. Partial Hospitalization
  5. Intensive Outpatient
  6. Outpatient therapy
  7. Addiction and other disorders interact in a number of ways.

The co-occurring disorder involves the interaction of addiction and other disorders in a number of ways. The following are examples of co-occurring disorders;

  1. Addiction and psychiatric symptoms occurring at the same time, but arising from independent conditions.
  2. Addiction increasing the severity of psychiatric and/or medical conditions (substance-exacerbated conditions).
  • Psychiatric conditions increasing the severity of the addiction (through self-medicating).
  1. Addiction or withdrawal symptoms can mask or mimic a psychiatric disorder (for example, substance-induced mood swings can mimic bipolar disorder, withdrawal can mimic psychosis).

In conclusion, a co-occurring disorder which is a combination of an addiction and a mental disorder affects individuals and arise from various conditions. Self-medication is one of the factors influencing the increase of co-occurring disorder, as the victim may self-medicate to treat symptoms of a mental illness and end up addicted to the particular substance. Right diagnosis and psychotherapies are useful treatments for effective recovery from co-occurring disorders.

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