treatment for co-occurring disorders
August 03, 2023 By Leah Malone

Why Co-Occurring Disorders Must Be Treated in Tandem for Lasting Recovery


Many individuals in treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) experience co-occurring disorders. Untreated mental health disorders have the potential to significantly interfere with treatment for SUD. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “More than one in four adults living with serious mental health problems also has a substance use problem.” Emerge Recovery TX uses integrative care and personalized treatment programs to help women recover from co-occurring substance misuse and mental health disorders.

What Are Co-Occurring Disorders? 

Co-occurring disorders, also called dual diagnosis, are comorbid SUD and mental health disorders. The disorders may develop independently or be related. In some cases, people experience multiple co-occurring disorders alongside SUD. 

A few of the most common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Major depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Disordered eating 

Early intervention and treatment are the best way to treat dual diagnosis and avoid developing other mental health disorders. Co-occurring disorders should be treated simultaneously to reduce the risk of complications or relapse during recovery from SUD. 

Risk Factors for Co-Occurring Disorders

No single factor causes co-occurring disorders. In many cases, a combination of stressors significantly affects mental health. Individuals diagnosed with SUD have a higher risk of developing trauma and mental health disorders. According to MedlinePlus, “Common risk factors may contribute to both mental disorders and substance use disorders.” The overlap sometimes makes it challenging to diagnose co-occurring mental health disorders.

Intergenerational trauma and a family history of mental health disorders significantly increase the risk of developing co-occurring disorders. Some other common risk factors include:

  • Childhood neglect or abuse
  • Witnessing or experiencing a distressing event
  • SUD
  • Genetics
  • Chronic stress
  • Significant life changes, including the death of a loved one

Risk factors affect everyone differently. Mental health issues exist along a spectrum, making disorders challenging to identify and diagnose. In addition, experiencing one or more risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean a person will develop SUD or mental health disorders. Some people have strong support systems and coping skills to help them successfully manage stressors. 

The Relationship Between Substance Misuse and Mental Health Disorders

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in 2018, 18.2% of adults with SUD also reported a mental health disorder. SUD and mental health disorders influence each other in multiple ways, including:

  • Substance misuse can cause mental health disorders
  • Mental health disorders can lead to substance misuse 
  • Both conditions may appear independently 

Some people develop multiple disorders within a short period of time due to a specific stressor. Other individuals may experience preexisting SUD or co-occurring disorders for years before developing additional conditions.

How Do Untreated Co-Occurring Disorders Impact Recovery?

Unmanaged mental health issues or SUD can cause severe complications during recovery. According to SAMHSA, “People with [co-occurring disorders] face unique challenges compared with individuals who have only a mental illness or an SUD [as] symptoms of one condition can exacerbate the other (especially if untreated), and treatment components should comprehensively address all diagnoses and symptoms.” 

Untreated co-occurring disorders may affect recovery by doing the following:

  • Increasing the risk of relapse
  • Reducing a person’s ability to cope with stressors
  • Causing more severe symptoms of SUD or mental health issues
  • Increasing the risk of self-harming behaviors 

Untreated co-occurring disorders have the potential to impact physical and mental health in various ways. Integrative care provides the best treatment for individuals in recovery. Care plans with integrative care ensure clients receive personalized treatment and comprehensive support services.

How Does Emerge Recovery TX Help Women With Co-Occurring Disorders?

Emerge Recovery TX offers treatment for substance misuse, primary mental health issues, and co-occurring disorders. Our care team uses a personalized trauma-informed approach to ensure the best outcome while addressing current and underlying issues. Comprehensive treatment programs allow clients to establish healthy routines for long-term recovery. 

Clients have access to a range of effective treatment services, including: 

  • Individual and group psychotherapy
  • Alternative holistic therapies 
  • Peer support 
  • Case management
  • Additional extended support services 

Some disorders take longer to heal. After completing the program, women in treatment for co-occurring disorders can continue attending therapy with their preferred clinicians. All clinicians at Emerge Recovery TX offer private practice care. Clients can take advantage of their expertise during ongoing recovery. 

Achieving Recovery Goals Through Effective Treatment

Grace Recovery TX, the sister program of Emerge Recovery TX, offers experiential coaching and other support services to help women with dual diagnoses achieve emotional stability and long-term sobriety. The sober living community at Grace Recovery TX also provides a safe space where women can grow and heal during outpatient treatment. Clients at Emerge Recovery have access to integrative treatment and personalized care plans. Actively participating in professional mental health and recovery programs ensures women have the tools to achieve recovery goals. 

Anyone can experience co-occurring disorders. However, individuals diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD) have a higher risk of developing other disorders. Many people in recovery experience mental health issues affecting their ability to heal. Treatment programs should simultaneously address all active conditions and underlying issues to reduce the risk of relapse. Emerge Recovery TX uses personalized integrative care to help clients recover from co-occurring substance misuse and mental health disorders. Often, co-occurring disorders cause more significant symptoms and side effects. Early intervention and treatment are the best way to reduce the adverse side effects of SUD and mental health issues. To learn more about our programs and services, call us today at (737) 237-9663.

About Author

Leah Malone

Learning to sit with uncomfortable feelings can be painful and disturbing at times. When Leah was able to see her behavior patterns and decided there was enough pain to be disturbed, she became motivated to make changes and accept the work that needed to be done to heal. She needed direction and had no clue how to heal on her own. Through a connection with God, authentic connection with others, honesty, willingness, and humility, Leah is now in recovery from addiction and trauma.

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