Defining Co-occurring Disorders
It’s not likely that you have heard of the word comorbidity. Comorbidity doesn’t usually come up in our day-to-day, casual conversations. Although you might not know the meaning of the word, you may have a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol. If they also have a mental illness, their addiction could be considered comorbid.
Comorbidity or “co-occurring disorders” describes two or more illnesses occurring in the same person. Current research has identified more significant instances of comorbid occurrences of addiction and mental illnesses among individuals who have been diagnosed with a substance abuse problem.
This new research has some physicians making a more defined connection between addiction and secondary diagnoses, such as depression, anxiety, stress disorder, PTSD and other mental illnesses. Taking it a step further, many believe a causation link exists between the two. Meaning a person diagnosed with a mental illness may be predisposed to developing a substance abuse disorder and vice versa.
Our enlightened viewpoint shows addiction is a chronic, progressive disease of the brain. Many people often refer to addiction as a substance use disorder. Labeled as a “disorder” or “disease,” addiction is now more readily compared to other diseases of the brain, like Alzheimer’s or dementia and conditions similar to diabetes where a cure doesn’t exist, but the disorder can be successfully managed with a personalized, physician-directed treatment plan.