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What Are the Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders?
When entering a treatment center for drug or alcohol addiction, patients are often diagnosed with a mental health condition. An underlying condition that accompanies substance abuse is referred to as a co-occurring disorder, and the act of diagnosing this condition is known as dual diagnosis.
In some cases, a co-occurring disorder may appear at the same time as an addiction. In other cases, though, someone may develop a mental health condition either before or after their addiction begins. The relationship between mental illness and substance abuse is a complex one that can present various challenges during the recovery process.
To better understand the role that mental health plays in addiction, it’s important to be familiar with specific examples of co-occurring disorders. Below are five of the most common mental conditions that are often diagnosed alongside a substance use disorder.
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by severe, recurring anxiety that interferes with daily life. Signs and symptoms of GAD include:
- Excessive worry
- Restlessness or irritability
- Sleep disturbances
- Difficulty concentrating
There are also many subgroups of anxiety disorders that may be present in someone with generalized anxiety. For example, GAD can also overlap with social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Because the symptoms of anxiety can impede daily functioning, many individuals who are diagnosed with GAD seek out some kind of escape. Drug and alcohol use is a common coping mechanism for people with anxiety. Alternatively, repeated substance use can cause an anxiety disorder to develop, making it difficult to tell which problem occurred first.
Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that can distort a person’s perception of reality. Individuals with schizophrenia typically experience visual or auditory hallucinations, delusions, psychosis and distorted thought patterns. This severe mental health condition can hinder a person’s ability to form coherent thoughts, regulate their emotions properly and relate to other people.
The disturbing experiences caused by schizophrenia can put a person in significant distress. As a result, some individuals with schizophrenia seek refuge in drugs or alcohol to manage their symptoms. However, substance use often exacerbates the symptoms of schizophrenia, which can prevent someone from receiving the help that they need.
3. Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings. A person who suffers from bipolar disorder oscillates between emotional highs, also known as manic episodes, and emotional lows, also known as depressive episodes.
Symptoms of a manic episode include high energy levels, a decreased need for sleep, risk-taking behavior and an increased desire for sex. Depressive episodes, on the other hand, are marked by reduced energy, a lack of motivation and a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
Individuals with bipolar disorder are more likely to self-medicate. Many begin using substances to reduce the severity of manic and depressive episodes. However, this strategy tends to have the opposite effect, causing users to suffer more intense episodes as a result of substance use.
4. Eating Disorders
Anorexia and bulimia are commonly diagnosed with addiction. Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, excessive fear of gaining weight and a distorted view of one’s own body. People with anorexia often conflate their body image with their self-worth and take extreme measures to shed unwanted pounds, such as restricting food intake and overexercising.
Bulimia involves periods of binge eating followed by purging, which may take the form of vomiting, laxative use, exercise or fasting. Like anorexia, bulimia is marked by an excessive preoccupation with weight and a fear of gaining weight. If left untreated, bulimia can have many dangerous health effects and may even be life-threatening.
Drugs are often abused as a way to suppress appetite, further intensifying an eating disorder. People may also take substances in an effort to dissipate feelings of anxiety associated with their weight. As time goes on, this can cause an addiction to develop.
5. Borderline Personality Disorder
Personality disorders are also known to accompany substance use. One of the most common personality disorders seen in people with addiction is borderline personality disorder (BPD). Individuals with BPD struggle with severe mood swings, impulsive behavior, emotional instability and feelings of worthlessness. They also tend to have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships.
To cope with the symptoms of BPD, some people use alcohol or drugs as an outlet. Unfortunately, as with every other mental health condition, borderline personality disorder symptoms typically become more severe when a person self-medicates with toxic substances. In addition, this behavior can prevent them from receiving the proper help and support they need.
Find the Right Treatment for Your Needs
A wide range of mental health conditions may be diagnosed along with a substance use disorder. If you or someone close to you is struggling, it’s crucial to find a reputable addiction treatment center that you can trust. Topsail Addiction Treatment offers a vast selection of drug and alcohol treatment options to meet each patient’s specific needs and goals. To find out more about the services we offer, feel free to contact us today.
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