Substance abuse disorders and mental health disorders are difficult to manage on their own, but very frequently they can be dually diagnosed in a person, which makes for a very complex set of challenges. Nearly half of the individuals who are diagnosed with mental health disorders have been found to have substance abuse issues as well. The dual diagnoses of these two disorders usually means a longer, more challenging recovery process for the affected individual and their support system, and a more complicated treatment process on the part of mental and medical health professionals.
The disorder known as substance abuse is characterized by the repeated use of a mood-altering substance despite the damaging affects it has on the user’s life. Some commonly abused substances include alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, opioids, prescription medications, hallucinogens, amphetamines, PCP and inhalants.
The disorder known as mental illness is identified as an individual’s inability to regulate behaviors, moods and thoughts. Several mental health disorders that co-occur with substance abuse disorders are anxiety, depression, psychotic disorders and personality disorders.
One of the most difficult things about living with co-occuring disorders is that they affect each other, and they affect the individual’s psyche in tandum. This can make it difficult to separate one from the other and treat each for the problems and symptoms that are particular to it. Substance abuse may exacerbate a pre-existing mental disorder, or a mental disorder may influence an individual to abuse a substance as a means of coping with stress or self-medicating. It is vital that any rehabilitation center treating a co-occurring disorder is licensed to do so, and has program options for individuals with a dual diagnosis.