Co-occurring disorders treatment

Substance abuseWhen a person is living with both a substance abuse disorder and a co-occurring mental health disorder, the best possible path for recovery begins with comprehensive treatment for both disorders. A co-occurring disorders treatment program should have all the resources the individual needs to build a foundation of recovery for both disorders. Here’s what you need to know.

FAQs

A mental health disorder is defined as any disorder that causes a person to experience an altered mood, pattern of thinking, or behaviors. When these issues cause high levels of distress in the person or decreases his ability to function in the world and maintain healthy, positive relationships, treatment is necessary.According to Medline Plus, types of mental health disorders are extremely varied and include:

When a person is diagnosed with or exhibits the symptoms of a mental health disorder and also struggles with abuse of alcohol or other substances, they are living with co-occurring disorders, also known as a dual diagnosis. Often, the symptoms of one disorder spawn or worsen the symptoms of the other. Thus, it is important for individuals to seek treatment for both disorders simultaneously in order to make real and sustainable progress in recovery on both fronts.
What are the root causes for mental health disorders?

There is no one cause of any mental health disorder. In most cases, a combination of issues contribute to the development of a mental health disorder, including:

  • Family history: If you have a parent or sibling diagnosed with a mental health disorder, the chances that you will develop the same or similar mental health issues increase as compared to the general public. Similarly, if a grandparent was diagnosed with a certain mental illness, you may be more likely to develop that disorder as well, though the rate of risk is lower than if it were a closer relative.
  • Trauma: The experience of a traumatic event, like sexual abuse, physical assault, wartime experience, or a natural disaster, may contribute to the development of a mental health disorder as well.
  • Biology: Lack of oxygen at birth, prenatal exposure to toxins or chemicals, a serious accident, or brain injury – all of these and more can contribute to the development of a mental health disorder.
  • Experiences: In some cases, the use of illicit substances or the development of a chronic and/or terminal illness like cancer may cause intrusive mental health symptoms.
Each person’s situation is different. For some, mental health symptoms come first, growing more and more intrusive until the person begins to feel like use of drugs and alcohol is the only way to escape. Over time, when substance abuse doesn’t work to mitigate the symptoms for the long-term and in fact ends up making them worse, the person may drink more or use more and more drugs in an attempt to combat the problem. Unfortunately, addiction can develop as a result.In other cases, drug and alcohol abuse comes first. One of the hallmarks of addiction is a tolerance for the drug of choice; over time, the person needs to drink more and more, or take larger and larger doses, in order to feel the euphoric effects. In such large doses and/or in certain combinations, heavy drug and alcohol use can cause mental health issues. Depending upon the drug of choice or combination of substances, these mental health issues may include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors
  • Erratic behavior

In most cases, if mental health symptoms persist after drug use stops, which disorder came first does not heavily impact treatment. Both disorders will require treatment as the person learns how to manage the effects of both issues in order to avoid relapse in recovery.

Co-occurring disorders can be diagnosed by a physician who recognizes the signs of one disorder (either substance abuse or the mental health issue) and does the due diligence to determine whether or not a dual diagnosis is an issue.The diagnosis of a mental health disorder will vary depending upon the symptoms that the person presents with. Symptoms of anxiety, depression, mood swings, or erratic or aggressive behavior may be investigated using any one of a number of psychiatric behavior tests to identify whether or not the symptom is being caused by a mental health disorder.Similarly, there are a number of different diagnostic criteria that will define different disorders that fall on the spectrum of alcohol or substance use disorders. Binge drinking is an alcohol use disorder, for example, that is defined by drinking more than four or five alcoholic beverages in a two-hour period multiple times per month while regular or chronic drinking may indicate an alcohol abuse problem or alcoholism. In general, the criteria for the diagnosis of a substance abuse problem includes:

  • Inability to maintain commitments at home, work, or school (e.g., often late for work, missing school, forgetting to follow through on obligations or assignments, poor performance, and neglect of responsibilities including childcare or budgetary concerns)
  • Use of drugs or alcohol in situations where it may be physically dangerous to both the user and bystanders (e.g., driving a car while under the influence)
  • Legal issues caused by choices made under the influence or purchasing and/or using illegal drugs
  • Continuing use of drugs and alcohol despite ongoing negative consequences (e.g., fights over drug use with a partner or boss, physical altercations or poor choices under the influence, etc.)

Addiction, however, is often diagnosed when the following issues are present:

  • A tolerance for the drug of choice defined by a need to take more and more of the drug (or combine it with use of other substances) in order to achieve a high
  • Physical withdrawal symptoms that occur when the person is without the drug of choice
  • Inability to limit use of drugs or alcohol during a use session or over a period of days
  • Inability to stop drinking or using drugs or limit use despite a genuine desire to do so
  • Unwavering focus on getting more of the drug of choice and/or staying high or drunk that often requires poor choices and chronic damaging behaviors
  • Giving up hobbies, friendships, interests, or commitments in order to better pursue drug and alcohol use
  • Ongoing use and abuse of drugs and alcohol despite the increasingly negative physical and/or psychological issues that result
Neither. The first order of business in some cases defined by a dual diagnosis is to stabilize the person so that she is not a harm to herself or to those around her. Once this is accomplished, the next order of business is to establish a safe detox plan. Treatment of any kind will be ineffective as long as the person is continuing to use drugs or alcohol so it is imperative that she stop drinking and getting high immediately.For some people, however, withdrawal symptoms become intrusive; thus, a medical plan may be necessary in order to help them get through the worst of it before they begin working on the underlying psychiatric issues that drive addictive use of drugs and alcohol as well as the co-occurring disorder.Once free from physical dependence, the goal is to begin working on the psychological and emotional issues that define the mental health disorder as well as the cravings for drugs and alcohol. The treatments and therapies used to address those issues will be chosen based on:

  • The person’s mental health diagnosis
  • The health and social needs of the person (e.g., family relationships, health status, etc.)
  • The goals of the person for recovery and beyond (e.g., independent living, a return to a former career, etc.)
  • The potential situational threats to the person’s ability to remain sober (e.g., underlying behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, chronic disorders, etc.)

Essentially, each person’s treatment plan should be highly personalized and include a range of treatment options that speak to both the mental health disorder diagnosis and the substance abuse problem.

Co-occurring disorders should be treated not by a single person but by a team of treatment professionals, all of whom are not only specialists in their own fields. This team should work closely together to create the treatment plan and then to continually assess the progress of the individual to ensure that all the therapies and treatments chosen are not only helping the individual to move forward and accomplish recovery goals but also that none of the treatments are potentially holding up progress in other areas.If, for example, the person is diagnosed with alcoholism and depression, then his therapeutic team should include professionals who are well-versed in the medication, behavioral therapy, and holistic treatment options that not only serve to help the person stop drinking safely and stay sober but also to manage depression symptoms healthfully.
No. Though there is ongoing research around the world to identify a cure for every diagnosable mental illness and addiction, there have been no successes as yet. However, this deep and rich field of research has uncovered a wealth of information identifying medications, therapies, and specific combinations of treatments that are evidence-based in their abilities to help individuals safely and effectively overcome addiction and learn how to manage mental health symptoms while enjoying a more balanced and higher quality of life.
When a person has co-occurring disorders, she may take medications to treat the withdrawal symptoms associated with drug and alcohol use, and/or she may take medications to aid in the management of mental health symptoms caused by her disorder.Detox medications are only available for certain drugs of abuse. For example, if the person is addicted to opiate drugs (e.g., heroin, prescription painkillers like OxyContin, Percocet, and others) then she might be able to take medications like Suboxone or methadone in order to help her experience less intense withdrawal symptoms and more quickly begin therapeutic recovery. Over the next few months or years, she will slowly step down, or decrease, her dose of the detox medication until she is completely drug-free and solidly living a new life that is drug-free.In other cases, especially in the case of recovery alcoholics, medications may be used to help deal with cravings or to create a negative physical response should the person attempt to drink during treatment.Depending upon the mental health diagnosis, different types of medications may be helpful to the person. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, stimulant drugs, anti-anxiety medications, and/or beta blockers may be a good choice to help individuals manage symptoms.

  • Schizophrenia: Typical antipsychotic medications are usually used to treat schizophrenia (e.g., thorazine, Haldol, perphenazine, and fluphenazine).
  • Depression: Antidepressants are used to treat moderate to severe depression. The most popularly prescribed antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) (e.g., fluoxetine, citalopram, sertraline, paroxetine, and escitalopram).
  • Bipolar disorder: Any combination of antipsychotics, antidepressants, and/or mood stabilizers may be appropriate in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Anticonvulsant medications that help to stabilize mood like divalproex sodium (Depakote), lamotrigine (Lamictal), oxcarbazepine (Trileptal), and carbamazepine (Tegretol) are often used in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Additionally, atypical antipsychotic medications like olanzapine, aripiprazole, risperidone, ziprasidone, and others are often prescribed alongside other meds. In some cases, antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), or sertraline (Zoloft) are also prescribed.
  • Anxiety disorders: Depending upon what is causing the issues with anxiety and the specific symptoms experienced, beta blockers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics may be appropriate. Specifically, tricyclic antidepressants like imipramine are often prescribed for those diagnosed with general anxiety disorder or panic disorder while clomipramine is often prescribed to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder. Additionally, benzodiazepines are specific to the disorder as well. For example, lorazepam is often prescribed for panic disorder while clonazepam is commonly prescribed for general anxiety disorder or social phobia. Propranolol, a beta blocker, is only prescribed for those who experience significant physical anxiety symptoms.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Stimulants are the medication of choice for most diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, especially methylphenidate, amphetamine, and dextroamphetamine.

It should be noted, however, that even though medications are an important part of treatment for many, they are only part of a comprehensive treatment program that will be able to give the patient the best opportunity to succeed in recovery for the long-term. Behavioral therapy, holistic treatments, and more ensure that people have an arsenal of positive coping skills to turn to in recovery.

Family members who are supportive of their loved one’s recovery and not dealing with untreated mental health symptoms or an ongoing substance abuse or addiction problem themselves can be an important part of the individual’s recovery process. They are encouraged to:

  • Attend family therapy/couples counseling with their addicted loved one
  • Attend family support groups that will connect them with peer support
  • Address personal mental health issues and/or substance abuse or addiction problems therapeutically on their own
  • Learn more about addiction and the diagnosed mental health disorder and what is expected – and beneficial – during treatment
  • Help the addicted person stick to recovery principles once home (e.g., help him to manage his treatment and therapy schedule or attend some 12-step meetings, doctors’ appointments, or therapy sessions with him as appropriate)
  • Avoid trying to “fix” the addicted person’s problems or do things for him with the goal of making things easier for that person
  • Avoid nagging or constant interrogation to determine whether or not the person is lying, drinking, or using drugs

While family members can be excellent support systems for people in recovery, it is possible for them to enable a return to drug and alcohol use or to inadvertently be a part of the reason that the person falls away from adherence to his mental health treatment plan. Speaking with a professional about the best ways to support someone in recovery – as well as the behaviors to avoid – will help to make sure that the family member is always a positive part of the recovering person’s life.

Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted, it has been required that all health insurance policies sold on the open health insurance marketplace provide coverage for mental health services and treatment services for substance abuse and addiction as readily as they cover medical services. This means that if you are in compliance with the ACA then you have health insurance coverage that will cover all or part of the costs of treatment for co-occurring disorders. You may need to still cover the cost of co-pays or deductibles. To determine exactly what your out-of-pocket expenses will be, contact your health insurance provider directly.In most cases, health insurance programs may not cover the cost of every treatment or therapeutic opportunity that will be of benefit to someone in recovery for both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse problem. Knowing the costs in advance will help you to prepare. Most families paying for intensive treatment of this nature look to multiple sources for the funds. They often utilize:

  • Health insurance coverage
  • Personal savings
  • Savings allocated for other purposes (e.g., college, retirement, etc.)
  • Personal loans or gifts from family members
  • Financing

Treatment statistics and research

co-occurring disorder rateCo-occurring disorders are exceedingly common. Those who are living with a drug or alcohol use disorder are about twice as likely to also exhibit symptoms of a mental health disorder as compared to the general population. Similarly, those who are living with a mental health disorder are twice as likely to develop a substance abuse problem as well. About 8.9 million Americans are believed to be living with both a drug or alcohol problem and a mental health disorder, yet only about 7.4 percent receive the treatment they need to heal.

In 2013, about 17.3 million Americans over the age of 12 lived with an alcohol use disorder including alcoholism in the past year, and 6.9 million Americans 12 and older abused illicit drugs and/or were addicted to them in the year prior to being surveyed.

percentage population mental illnessMental health disorders are one of the most common causes of disability in the United States and bear the largest disease burden of any disease. An estimated 14 million Americans (or 1 in 17 people) are living with a serious mental illness or mental health issues in any given year.

An estimated 25 percent of all years of life that are lost due to early death and disability are caused by disability in the US and Canada. About 30,000 Americans take their own lives each year, making suicide the 11th leading cause of death in the United States.

About 9.6 million Americans over the age of 18 (about 4.1 percent of all adults) were living with a serious mental illness in 2012. Additionally, an estimated 20 percent of kids under the age of 18 in the United States either have had or currently are living with a “seriously debilitating mental disorder.”

Rates of mental illness in AmericaMore than 18 percent of American adults are living with an anxiety disorder and almost 23 percent of these cases are identified as severe. Additionally, women are 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder than men.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is best known as a childhood disorder characterized by difficulty managing behavior, staying focused, or paying attention to directions, but it is a problem that often continues into adulthood. It is estimated that more than 4 percent of adults over the age of 18 in the US struggle with the disorder, with more than 41 percent of the cases classified as serious. Additionally, 9 percent of kids between the ages of 13 and 18 are diagnosed with ADHD, a diagnosis that is more than twice as common among males as females.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are defined by deficits in social communication and interaction in various forums as well as repetitive behaviors and restricted interests that begin in the first few years of life. It encompasses a spectrum of experience from mild to severe and is a disorder that occurs in one of every 68 children. It is almost five times as likely to occur in males as compared to females.
Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa (serious self-deprivation of calories), binge eating (eating large amounts of food followed by periods of extreme dieting and/or purging), and bulimia nervosa (purging of food) are some of the most deadly mental health disorders because they not only deprive the body of necessary calories for energy but also of nutrients necessary to survive. Eating disorders do not just plague women or adults. An estimated 2.7 percent of children in the US struggle with an eating disorder, and more and more men are diagnosed with these types of disorders every day.

Mood disorders (e.g., bipolar disorder, dysthymic disorder, and/or major depressive disorder) plague about 9.5 percent of the US population over the age of 18, and about 45 percent of these cases are classified as severe. Women are about 50 percent more likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder as compared to men. About 14 percent of children between the ages of 13 and 18 are diagnosed with a mood disorder, and about 4.7 percent of these cases are deemed “serious.”

Mental illnessPersonality disorders (e.g., borderline personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and others) are defined by an ongoing pattern of behavior and perspective that is markedly different than that which is expected by the society in which he lives and that allows him to function healthfully within that society. More than 9 percent of the population is living with a personality disorder yet only 39 percent of that number are getting the treatment they need to manage it effectively.

Though 13.4 percent of adults in the United States received some level of treatment for a mental health issue, only 58.7 percent of those who needed treatment for a serious mental illness got the help they needed.

Therapy options

Most people living with a co-occurring substance abuse problem and mental health disorder will require a very unique treatment plan designed to assist them in addressing personal challenges they face in their experience of symptoms. Because there is no cure for addiction or any mental health disorder, it is often necessary to take advantage of a unique combination of psychotherapies and medications.

Psychotherapy may be done individually with a patient and a therapist, in a group format with multiple patients, or two people may meet with a therapist regularly together in order to work on their relationship. The goal is not only to better understand the mental health issues that are challenging to them but also to learn how to manage the symptoms and limit the amount of distress or disruption they cause in day-to-day life. Different types of psychotherapy will be effective in the treatment of different disorders. Some patients may attend multiple sessions per week or opt to take part in a variety of different types of psychotherapies once per week.

At the start of treatment, a baseline of information is taken identifying the issues the person is facing. With the therapist, the individual can create a treatment goal they would like to reach through psychotherapy sessions. Some common psychotherapies include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Cognitive behavioral therapy combines cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy to identify the behaviors and perspectives that a person holds that may be contributing to or creating the difficulties she experiences. This type of therapy is very commonly used to treat a range of mental health disorders in order to help people identify the beliefs and viewpoints that are harming them since these are often a significant part of the mental health disorder. Once identified, these harmful perspectives and behaviors can be replaced by more positive ones that aid the individual in creating a more positive quality of life for herself.

Cognitive Therapy OptionsCBT can be adapted to treat depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, substance abuse and addiction, and trauma.

  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): One form of cognitive behavioral therapy is dialectical behavior therapy. DBT was designed to address suicidal behavior in patients, and it is often used to treat borderline personality disorder as it is often characterized by suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
  • Interpersonal therapy: The focus of interpersonal therapy is on improving communication patterns with others with the goal of learning how to get needs met healthfully while respecting the needs of others. It is commonly used to treat depression or dysthymia.
  • Family-focused therapy: The value in this type of therapy is heavily placed on improving family relationships and healing old wounds that may be continually problematic for all involved. Family members take part in therapy sessions with the patient. This form of therapy is often utilized to treat bipolar disorder and for patients who are living at home while seeking drug abuse and addiction treatment.
Medications are not always part of the treatment for a mental health disorder and are even less common for the treatment of substance abuse disorders, but they can be a crucial part of recovery for many living with long-term addictions to certain types of drugs or serious mental illness. Though no medication will “cure” a mental health disorder or substance abuse problem, when utilized in combination with psychotherapy, medications can be extremely effective in helping individuals to manage their symptoms and thrive in recovery. However, they are not effective in every case, and it can take some time to determine the right medication, dose, and/or combination of medications that will be most effective.

Some common types of medications prescribed to treat substance abuse and/or mental health symptoms include:

  • Antipsychotic medications: There are both “typical” and “atypical” antipsychotic medications used to treat mental health disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They serve to address symptoms like hallucinations, breaks with reality, and psychotic symptoms.
  • Antidepressants: Used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, and bipolar disorder, antidepressant medications work to help balance any imbalance of naturally occurring chemicals in the brain that affect mood and emotion.
  • Mood stabilizers: Mood stabilizers are one of a few different types of medications commonly prescribed to treat bipolar disorder. Anticonvulsant medications are often used to stabilize mood and can be effective in managing the ups and downs experienced by some individuals.
  • Anti-anxiety medications: Benzodiazepines are sometimes prescribed to people struggling with extreme anxiety symptoms. They work by slowing the central nervous system’s responses to stress and can work more quickly than waiting for a buildup of other medications, like antidepressants, in the system. Unfortunately, these drugs can be highly addictive and may contribute to the development of a co-occurring substance abuse disorder over time.
  • Beta blockers: Beta blockers may be prescribed to those who experience extreme physical symptoms during a panic attack or before facing a situation that triggers a phobia.
  • Stimulants: Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is often treated with stimulant medications. They can help to improve focus in children who are living with the disorder, but if body chemistry changes, they can become addictive and contribute to a co-occurring drug abuse or addiction disorder.

Specific mental illness

There are a number of different types of mental health disorders that can be problematic and co-occurring with substance abuse issues. These include:

Various types of depression may be problematic for those who also struggle with a co-occurring substance abuse problem.

  • Prevalence: More than 20 million Americans are living with some form of depression.
  • Common symptoms: Signs of depression include extreme weight loss or gain, sadness, lack of energy, sleeping too much or too little, lack of interest in old hobbies, feeling worthless, and considering suicide.
  • General causes: Depression may be caused by acute issues or specific events, or it may exist as part of a different diagnosis. For example, postpartum depression may occur within the year after a woman gives birth, or seasonal affective disorder may become an issue for some people during the winter, but for those living with bipolar disorder, depression is only part of the disorder.
  • Treatment medications: Depression is usually treated with tricyclic antidepressants like Prozac or Zoloft.
  • Successful therapies: Medication alone is not enough to overcome depression. In most cases, cognitive behavioral therapy is recommended as well as other holistic treatments designed to lower stress, advance physical health, and improve mood.
  • Long-term outcome: With regular engagement with treatment, many living with depression learn how to manage their symptoms effectively.
Just as there are a number of different depressive disorders, there are also a number of different anxiety disorders. Phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and others may be defined by symptoms that make it difficult for individuals to function in everyday life.

  • Prevalence: An estimated 40 million Americans struggle with an anxiety disorder.
  • Common symptoms: The signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder may vary depending on the specific disorder but may include flashbacks to traumatic events, rapid heart rate and breathing when faced with a feared situation or thing, nightmares, obsessive thoughts or behaviors, and overwhelming feelings of fear or panic.
  • General causes: Anxiety may be a genetic issue that begins to become apparent during the teen years or even childhood, or it may be triggered (or worsened) by acute events. For example, someone who lives through a traumatic sexual or physical assault, natural disaster, or life-threatening situation may develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Treatment medications: Benzodiazepines like Xanax or Klonopin, beta blockers like Inderol, or antidepressants like Lexapro, Celexa, or Zoloft – or any combination of these – may be helpful in treating anxiety.
  • Successful therapies: Exposure therapy, a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), may be helpful especially for those who must face their fears in order to learn how to manage the anxiety those fears trigger. Other forms of cognitive behavioral therapy as well as holistic treatments like yoga and meditation may help individuals to manage anxiety as it arises.
  • Long-term outcome: With ongoing treatment, anxiety symptoms should lessen with time. In some cases, patients may eventually be free of the need for medications if they are initially necessary, especially if their anxiety was driven or worsened by drug use.
Those living with a personality disorder are often very rigid in their point of view, how they do things, and how they believe things should be done. They are often unable to function well with others, read situations or people correctly, or recognize that the views and/or needs of others are valid if they are in conflict with their own.

Personality disorders are classified in three different clusters, each one signified by a unique set of symptoms. Cluster A personality disorders are characterized by eccentric behavior and include schizoid personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder. Cluster B personality disorders are exemplified by overly dramatic and unpredictable behaviors and include narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Cluster C personality disorders are defined by anxiety- or fear-driven behaviors and include avoidant personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and dependent personality disorder.

  • Prevalence: An estimated 9 percent of American adults over the age of 18 have a personality disorder.
  • Common symptoms: Symptoms vary from disorder to disorder but in general, those living with a personality disorder often have explosive relationships with others, find it difficult to get their needs met healthfully without dysfunctional behaviors (e.g., lying, manipulating others, etc.), have emotionally inappropriate responses to normal stimuli, and find it difficult to control impulsive behavior.
  • General causes: Genetics and childhood experiences may play a part in the development of a personality disorder, but there is no known cause.
  • Treatment medications: Anti-anxiety medications, mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and/or antipsychotics may be appropriate.
  • Successful therapies: In some cases, inpatient hospitalization may be necessary to stabilize the individual. In less severe situations, intensive outpatient treatment that incorporates medication as well as behavioral therapies is recommended.
  • Long-term outcome: Every person is different. Some find that symptoms begin to improve during middle age; others find that dedication to a medication regimen and behavioral therapy is the only way to find balance.
Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, and even exercise addiction – there are a number of different disordered eating and exercise behaviors that can add up to an eating disorder. They are often termed the deadliest of all mental health disorders because the extreme limitation of calories often also means an extreme limitation of necessary nutrients – as well as other damage done to different systems, depending upon the specifics of the eating disorder.

  • Prevalence: As many as 24 million Americans are living with an eating disorders. Eating disorders are 2.5 times more likely to occur in women, but they occur in men, as well.
  • Common symptoms: Depending upon the specific eating disorder experienced by the person, the symptoms will be different. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by starving oneself, while binge eating is defined by regular and excessive overeating. Bulimia nervosa is defined by binge eating following by purging.
  • General causes: Psychological, genetic, social, biological, and behavioral factors may all play a part in the development of an eating disorder.
  • Treatment medications: Antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medications may be helpful depending upon the experience of the individual. This is in addition to the medical care required to address physical problems created by extended disordered eating.
  • Successful therapies: Cognitive behavioral therapy, nutritional counseling, and personal training often play key roles in recovery from an eating disorder.
  • Long-term outcome: Round-the-clock care is often necessary in the first few months of treatment in order to help the person stabilize medically and establish healthy eating habits.
Bipolar disorder is defined by cyclical, extreme mood shifts that last for days or weeks with “normal” moods in between. The “up” period is called mania, and the “down” period is signified by a deep depression.

  • Prevalence: An estimated 2.6 percent of American adults over the age of 18 are living with bipolar disorder.
  • Common symptoms: Extreme mood swings, suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors, and erratic behavior that leads to difficulty in relationships at home and work signify bipolar disorder.
  • General causes: Genetics may play a role in the development of bipolar disorder, but abnormal brain function and structure may additionally play a part.
  • Treatment medications: Antipsychotic medications, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers may be used in the treatment of bipolar disorder.
  • Successful therapies: Medication is a primary part of bipolar disorder but so too are regular cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, and other therapeutic interventions.
  • Long-term outcome: Bipolar disorder is usually a lifelong disorder that requires ongoing engagement with treatment in order for continued management of symptoms and mood.
There is a wide range of symptoms and cognitive and/or behavioral difficulties that define autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Most people living with the disorder are diagnosed in their first years of life as they often miss significant developmental milestones.

  • Prevalence: It is estimated that about one in 68 children is somewhere on the autism spectrum.
  • Common symptoms: Repetitive behaviors and interests, difficulties interacting appropriately and effectively with others, and impaired functioning across multiple fronts often characterize autism.
  • General causes: There is no known cause of autism, but research suggests genetics and environmental factors may play a role.
  • Treatment medications: A range of medications may be appropriate in the treatment of autism, including antipsychotics, antidepressants, stimulant drugs, and/or mood stabilizers.
  • Successful therapies: Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy is a widely accepted method of treatment to assist individuals in learning new behaviors and minimizing intrusive behaviors.
  • Long-term outcome: Autism is a lifelong disorder. Early and intensive intervention is recommended for the best possible outcome. Medications and therapeutic assistance may be necessary for life.
Psychotic disorders (e.g., schizophrenia, postpartum psychosis, delusional disorder, etc.) are defined by abnormal perspective and thinking patterns that are not in touch with reality. Because those living with psychotic disorders often believe that they are under attack, they are rarely successful in interpersonal relationships and usually exhibit erratic behavior.

  • Prevalence: An estimated 3 percent of the population may be living with a psychotic disorder or experience psychotic behaviors.
  • Common symptoms: Delusions and hallucinations are hallmarks of psychotic disorders.
  • General causes: Stroke, brain tumors, certain drugs and alcohol, and some brain infections may cause psychotic behaviors or contribute to the development of a psychotic disorder. Additionally, psychotic behaviors may be experienced by people diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Genetics and environment may play a part.
  • Treatment medications: Antipsychotic medications are often part of treatment. Antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medications may also be effective, depending upon the specific person’s experience.
  • Successful therapies: Inpatient hospitalization may be required for the most severe cases and in instances where the patient may hurt himself, but many will be able to manage symptoms with medication, brain stimulation therapies, and therapeutic support.
  • Long-term outcome: With ongoing support and treatment, patients may be able to live independently and safely.

If co-occurring disorders are making it difficult for your loved one to function in day-to-day life, intensive treatment for both the mental health disorder and substance abuse issue are available at The Recovery Village. Contact us today at the number listed above to learn more about our unique treatment program and how we can help.

Co-occurring Disorders Treatment
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Co-occurring Disorders Treatment was last modified: September 19th, 2017 by The Recovery Village