We’re not given a “Book of Life” when we’re born, and if that were the case, a lot less people would struggle with mental illness, addiction, and other painful experiences because we’d have already taken the right steps to seeking help. It just doesn’t work that way – and, unfortunately, it’s typically not until we’re well into adulthood that we begin recognizing distressing symptoms. Even as adults, we may believe that this is how life really is – and we may not seek any help at all. If this is something you can relate to, it’s important to know that seeking treatment is not only going to provide you with more answers regarding your day-to-day experiences, but it will also help you prevent any conditions you have from developing further.
Defining Co-Occurring Disorders
A co-occurring disorder is when a person has both a substance abuse disorder (SUD) and a mental illness simultaneously. Mental Health America (MHA) explains that with co-occurring disorders, individuals are more likely to:
- Experience physical health and safety risks
- Impairment of life skills is greater
- Chances for successful treatment are much less, primarily due to stigma
This is often because of the symptoms that each disorder brings out. In some cases, each disorder can intensify the other – which makes it even more challenging to navigate daily life. An example of a co-occurring disorder would be someone who struggles with both alcoholism and depression. Their depression may cause them to feel hopeless, anxious, and angry, with bouts of insomnia as well. In an attempt to deal with the painful feelings a person is experiencing, they may rely on alcohol – which slows down the central nervous system. Alcohol can make it more difficult to think clearly, which can even perpetuate symptoms of depression – meaning that while both depressed and intoxicated, a person is more at risk for:
- Hurting themselves
- Hurting others
- Making risky decisions
- Getting involved in criminal activity
- And more
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) notes that when co-occurring disorders are present, friends, family and other loved ones may notice that a person is beginning to withdrawal from social situations, lose control over substance use, turning to substances in order to function and other warning signs.
If not treated, the risks for danger are heightened – meaning that any signs of substance abuse or mental illness should be taken very seriously.
Treating Co-Occurring Disorders Appropriately
Holistic approaches to recovery mean that a person’s mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing are being taken into deep consideration. The reality is that co-occurring disorders aren’t the only aspects of a person’s life; the other elements of being human involve having a history – with social networks, family relationships, trauma, major life events, childhood memories and more. Not only should co-occurring disorders be treated at the same time (otherwise symptoms of the un-treated disorder may become exacerbated), but clients in recovery should experience a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses the many aspects of a person’s life that affects them so deeply. Some of these concerns may stem out from addiction and mental illness, but rather about:
- One’s purpose in life
- Building a support network of people whom they can rely on
- Discovering one’s identity and place in this world
- Uncovering deeply rooted feelings associated with past trauma and healing from them
- Exploring physical pain and how it manifests throughout the body
- Identifying a person’s lifestyle patterns and whether or not their daily decisions are helping or hindering their recovery
- And more
There are a variety of holistic treatment methods that can help those in recovery heal and restore in many ways:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – a highly effective approach which teaches clients to replace old, negative thought patterns with newer, more positive and productive ones
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) – a form of CBT that helps clients accept the “gray” areas of life by working on emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, skills training and more
Massage Therapy – through a variety of massage techniques, clients can learn to focus on the present moment while feeling relaxed and relieving aches and pains from stress, depression, etc.
Art Therapy – a number of techniques can be used to stimulate creativity and insight from clients regarding past trauma, self-identity and self-esteem, recovery, relationships and more
Gestalt Therapy – this type of therapy focuses on the patient’s relationship to the world, which ultimately emphasizes personal responsibility and a person’s experience in the present moment
Meditation – a practice that is centered on awareness and acceptance
Yoga – an ancient practice that has become applied more frequently in the United States; through breathing movements and postures, individuals can strengthen their mind, body and spirit
Seek Help Today
Co-occurring disorders are not to be taken lightly. They require extensive assessments and sincere knowledge by healthcare professionals; at Avalon Malibu, clients receive comprehensive evaluations with a treatment program that best matches their needs.
Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. If you are ready to seek treatment to develop the tools you need to overcome life’s obstacles and be on the road towards happiness, health, and well-being, call us today at 888-958-7511 for a consultation. It’s never too late, and there are people here ready to help you.