Diagnosing specific mental health problems and disorders is not always easy. The human mind is very complex. Even highly-trained and vastly experienced mental health professionals may occasionally experience some difficulties in pinning down a definitive diagnosis.
This is especially true in regard to co-occurring disorders. Also referred to as “dual disorders” or a “dual diagnosis,” a co-occurring disorder exists when a mental health condition is accompanied by at least one other disorder.
Co-occurring disorders are relatively common. It is often the case where the symptoms of one condition will present themselves while other conditions lie beneath the surface. This is the challenge for psychiatric professionals; to determine whether there are underlying issues that may be affecting or exacerbating what appears to be a particular mental illness.
For example, it is not uncommon for ADHD to be accompanied by anxiety or mood disorders; or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to coexist with depression. The symptoms of these illnesses can play into each other, overlap or display themselves as a result of the other.
Such is the case with addictive disorders that are well-known for existing with other conditions. Many who struggle with depression or mood and anxiety disorders turn to substance abuse to relieve their symptoms.
Treating Co-occurring Disorders
To effectively treat co-occurring disorders, each condition must be isolated and addressed. Every patient has their own unique background and set of circumstances. Therefore a treatment plan must be tailored to meet the needs of each individual.
After initial evaluation and assessment, an “integrated” approach to counseling and psychotherapy is usually preferred when treating co-occurring disorders. This is where substance abuse counselors, psychotherapists and anyone else involved in the treatment process will coordinate efforts and share information regarding the patient’s condition, care and progress.
An integrated program for those with co-occurring disorders is usually administered in stages. Various avenues of treatment are incorporated into a comprehensive strategy that includes helping the patient understand their condition, establishing goals and guiding the patient toward the development of healthier behavior patterns. Group therapy and aftercare can also play an important role in an overall plan to help a co-occurring disorder sufferer heal.