Co-Occurring Disorders

Client Family Experience

When you are suffering from mental illness and drug and alcohol addictions, you may struggle with not only the knowledge that something is wrong but also with the fear and worry brought on by this awareness.

These problems are often characterized by bizarre behavior and unhealthy thinking. Not knowing the cause of these overwhelming episodes can be extremely upsetting both for you and for those close to you. Fear and shame are common and often occur in conjunction with the awareness that your experience is different than that of others.

An individual in despair wishes to be like everyone else, and hopes that what makes him or her different will go away on its own.

Family members who recognize that a loved one is struggling with addiction may also sense there are multiple layers to that suffering but are unsure of their perceptions and reluctant to broach the subjectout of fear. Though challenging for both the individual and his or her family, acknowledgement of co-occurring addiction and psychiatric conditions is the first step in accurate assessment, treatment and successful recovery at a center like The Canyon.

The many different approaches to healing can make the treatment decision a confusing experience. Historically, co-occurring disorders have been treated separately in nonintegrated services. While 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 the recovery time. Stability and meaningful recovery for the individual committed to change and healing is also delayed while time, hope and money slowly fade.

Integrated treatment approaches for co-occurring disorders provide the greatest likelihood of success for an individual suffering from drug and alcohol addictions and mental and emotional problems.

Definitions and Implications

Diagnosis and treatment of co-occurring conditions focus on both addiction and the psychiatric conditions that interfere with an individual’s ability to function effectively and his or her physical, social, psychological and spiritual well-being. While the co-occurring conditions are separate and independent, interaction between the conditions makes treatment and recovery more complex.

Failure to address the co-occurring conditions may lead the individual to adopt unhealthy coping behaviors or lead to a worsening of the condition that is untreated.

Addiction and other disorders interact in a number of ways:1) Addiction and psychiatric symptoms can occur at the same time, but arise from independent conditions2) Addiction can increase the severity of psychiatric and/or medical conditions (substance-exacerbated conditions)3) Psychiatric conditions can increase the severity of the addiction (self-medicating)4) Addiction or withdrawal symptoms can mask or mimic a psychiatric disorder (substance-induced mood swings can mimic bipolar disorder, withdrawal can mimic psychosis).

When affected by both substance addiction and psychiatric or emotional conditions, you are defined as having co-occurring disorders. Other terms used to define this condition are “dual diagnosis” or “dual disorders.” The combination of addictive and psychiatric conditions may also be described as “co-morbidity” or “concurrent disorders.” The use of the term “co-occurring disorders” is preferred as it is not limited by the stage, recognition of treatment or the number of disorders present. It is important to note that medical or health conditions may also be co-occurring, and need to be treated concurrently; however, physical conditions are not included in the definition of co-occurring disorders for the purpose of this discussion.

The prevalence of co-occurring conditions is difficult to accurately capture; however, a well-designed study of addiction and psychiatric disorders* found a 79 percent rate of co-occurring disorders among individuals meeting diagnostic criteria for any single disorder.

These diagnoses included severe to mild-moderate psychiatric diagnoses such as severe conditions of schizophrenia to mild-moderate conditions of anxiety or panic, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder.

The Canyon Model of Care

It is The Canyon Mission to provide the best clinical practices to serve individuals and their families in the treatment of co-occurring conditions. Our model of care originates with our parent company, Foundations Associates, which is nationally recognized for federally-funded research studies on co-occurring disorders and treatment models which effectively support the recovery process. An outgrowth of Foundations Recovery Network’s dedication to advancing quality care is a workbook series that addresses motivating to engage in the healing process, outlines specific mental health and addiction issues, and guides you through the process of developing a mental health and addiction recovery plan.

Hope and Healing

Acknowledgement of co-occurring conditions allows for awareness, understanding and the opportunity for change. Education and research on conditions that affect the body, mind, and spirit provide hope to those who experience a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. If the dually diagnosed individual is not ready for change, acknowledgement of the conditions by loved ones will nonetheless help to create an environment conducive to future wellness and healing.

The professional staff of The Canyon stands ready to help those struggling with co-occurring disorders to devise a course of treatment that will best suit the individual’s and family’s needs. If you have questions call our call center 24 hours a day.