Dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues can seem like a game of chicken or the egg; which came first? The treatment of these conditions can feel like playing whack-a-mole. Treat the addiction and the depression flares up. Work on trauma and substance abuse increases. Understanding what co-occurring disorders are and how to treat them is crucial for relief.
What are Co-Occurring Disorders?
Co-occurring disorders are “any combination of two or more substance use disorders and mental disorders.” While usually interrelated, they can coexist within the same person individually. Due to a variety of sociocultural factors, women are more likely to suffer from co-occurring disorders than men. The most common co-occurring disorders are substance abuse paired with trauma, anxiety, and depression.
Co-Occurring Disorders in Women
Trauma & Anxiety:
Statistically, women experience trauma at a higher rate than men. Their trauma is most often experienced through physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, and/or childhood traumatic events. Anxiety disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be triggered from these experiences.
Trauma and anxiety can have a severe impact on an individual’s mental and emotional well-being. Fear, hypervigilance, intrusive thoughts, and flashbacks can hinder normal functioning. Many people turn to substances to self-medicate.
Trauma & Depression:
Trauma can also trigger depression. Women who have experienced traumatic events can experience an aftermath of persistent sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. Their life becomes bleak and apathetic. Trauma-induced depression can reduce quality of life, make daily functioning difficult, and increase suicidal ideation.
Anxiety & Depression:
Depression and anxiety are often paired. Distinct conditions on their own, they share common symptoms such as sleep disturbances, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. When hand in hand, depression and anxiety can complicate the diagnosis and make treatment of either frustrating.
Why Co-Occurring Disorders are a Concern
When dealing with co-occurring disorders simultaneously, they tend to aggravate one another. Women struggling with substance abuse, trauma, anxiety, and/or depression can become overwhelmed by the strain it puts on their mental and emotional health and the toll it takes on their daily lives. Each condition feeds off the other, setting into motion a terrible cycle that is nearly impossible to break without professional help.
Treatment & Support
Although complex, co-occurring disorders are treatable. Clinical treatment is recommended and typically involves an amalgamation of therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, medication management, and holistic approaches like meditation and yoga. Treating co-occurring disorders is rarely something that can be done alone. Mental health professionals can assist and provide the individual with a tailored treatment program in a safe and supportive environment. Part of that environment are support networks. Communities of women who are experiencing similar struggles and can share openly and honestly with one another. They empower each other to feel less isolated and tackle their issues head on.
Worried that you may be dealing with a co-occurring disorder? Not sure what to do or who to talk to? Call Momentum Recovery today. Our clinical staff can give you a free evaluation to see if you have a co-occurring disorder and suggest a treatment plan that may be right for you.