DEPRESSION. ANXIETY. TRAUMA.
When you’re diagnosed with an alcohol or substance use disorder (AUD/SUD) and a mental health disorder at the same time, you have what’s known as co-occurring disorders. Mental health professionals also call this a dual diagnosis. Co-occurring disorders present unique challenges for people in treatment for AUD/SUD and for the counselors and therapists who treat them for three primary reasons:
- Symptoms: The symptoms of AUD/SUD often overlap or are indistinguishable from the symptoms of mental health disorders.
- Self-Medication: Alcohol or drug use is often initiated in an attempt to manage the uncomfortable emotions associated with untreated mental health disorders. This is known as self-medication.
- Mutual Reinforcement: Over time, alcohol and drug use often exacerbates, rather than alleviates, the symptoms of mental health disorders. This may lead to increased alcohol and/or substance use, which further exacerbates the mental health symptoms.
The fact of co-occurrence makes accurate diagnosis critical. Without proper diagnosis, an underlying mental health disorder can undermine progress made in treatment for problem alcohol and drug use.