co-occurring mental health disorder

Can Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders Make You More Prone to Relapse?

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Recovery is hard under the best of circumstances. When you have a co-occurring mental illness, recovery goes from hard to harder and may make you more prone to relapse. If you have a co-occurring mental disorder, you have to take extra precautions to ensure you maintain sobriety. In many cases, the mental health issue is a major contributor to developing a substance abuse disorder, so learning how to manage your mental health is critical to maintaining your sobriety. Some issues are more common than others, and some are more problematic, but here’s how you can cope.

Depression and Anxiety

Almost anyone who has had a substance use disorder (SUD) likely suffers from some degree of depression or anxiety disorder. Those probably contributed to the development of a SUD, to begin with. Now that someone is in recovery, they may be experiencing a relapse due to the anxiety of maintaining their sobriety and depression from having to leave their whole lifestyle behind. Time has a way of glorifying the good and forgetting the bad when it comes to remembering how life was when you were still using. If you are having a relapse due to depression or anxiety, seek immediate professional help to address these issues.

A study found that of people that suffer from an anxiety disorder, up to 80% likely experience a substance abuse disorder. Many medications that are used to treat anxiety disorder can cause dependency and lead to substance abuse.

Bipolar Disorders and Substance Abuse

One of the most common co-occurring personality disorders found among those who abuse substances is bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterized by mood swings that range from manic episodes to depression. Depression can be hard enough to manage when you’re recovering, but having a disease where manic episodes are characterized by impulsive, risky, and self-harming behavior adds special challenges to the mix. It doesn’t take a genius to see how a mental health disorder that includes impulsivity can increase your chance of relapse. Not only is this true of substance abuse disorders but also eating disorders where the lack of impulse control can trigger a binge.

Bipolar disorder is one of the most challenging co-occurring mental illnesses and personality disorders one can encounter when faced with the challenge of maintaining sobriety. It is very important to treat both your substance abuse disorder and your bipolar disorder at the same time if you hope to remain in recovery. Some rehabilitation centers treat both and can help you learn how to balance both disorders.

ADHD and Recovery

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is another challenging mental issue that can further complicate your recovery and make you more prone to relapse. Adderall, one of the medications used to treat this disorder, can cause dependency. If you have ADHD and are in recovery, your doctor may need to prescribe a second-line medication that is not a stimulant to help you maintain sobriety. You certainly need to disclose your history of substance abuse to the doctor treating you for ADHD if they are different from your SUD doctor or clinician.

Substance abuse in anyone–whether they have bipolar disorder, ADHD, or any mental issues–changes a person’s brain chemistry. Whatever substance you were abusing often hinders the brain’s dopamine function or one of the “feel-good” chemicals. Over time, your brain learns to rely on that chemical substance for dopamine production and has to re-learn how to produce it on its own. Adderall has the same effect on dopamine production, so the treatment for ADHD can exacerbate a substance use disorder. Finding alternatives to stimulants is key to maintaining sobriety with ADHD.

Other Mental Disorders

Any kind of mental health disorder is going to make a person more prone to “falling off the wagon.” Whatever mental issues you suffer from likely had a role in developing the substance use disorder to begin with, so it’s natural to presume they can be a trigger for relapse. It’s important to seek out help from professionals who can treat both disorders, no matter which coexisting condition you have with a SUD.

Seeking out treatments with your clinician that are less medication-based and more therapy-based may help. With bipolar disorder, rejecting medication for your treatment isn’t an option, but finding a counselor or healthcare professional that understands how to balance mental health disorders and substance use disorders can make all the difference.

If you suffer from a mental health disorder, recovery can be especially challenging for maintaining sobriety and even more difficult than for those who don’t struggle with co-occurring mental illness. Treating both disorders together can present a challenge because sometimes the medications given for your co-occurring mental illness can trigger a relapse of your substance abuse disorder. Because it’s so complex, you must find professionals that are experienced in treating both. Here at Everlast Recovery Centers, we treat those with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental disorders, and our professionals can help you with both. Our Riverside, California facility has low staff-to-patient ratios, and we can teach you many tools to live a sober lifestyle. We offer equine therapy, yoga, nature hikes, and art therapy to help you process any trauma or psychological problems that led to your substance abuse. We also offer aftercare when you return home to make sure you take home what you learned here. You don’t have to do this alone–we can help. Call (866) 338-6925 today.

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