When Getting Sober Reveals a Co-Occurring Disorder
What is a co-occurring disorder? A co-occurring disorder is when someone has two mental health diagnoses. According to www.drugabuse.org roughly half of people who develop a substance addiction have another psychiatric disorder, and vice versa. Addiction is considered a mental health disorder, and so when combined with another mental health disorder, this is known as co-occurring disorders.
How do I know if I have a co-occurring disorder?
It can sometimes be difficult to determine if you have a co-occurring disorder. One of the questions to ask yourself is whether or not you remember having anxiety or depression before you started using substances. If you remember having anxiety or depression as a child or teenager, this can lead to using substances to cope with those feelings. Unfortunately, many women experience traumatic experiences early in life which can lead to using substances to cope with depression, anxiety, or PTSD symptoms. If you did experience anxiety or depression as a child or teenager and started using substances to cope with those feelings, then you may have an underlying co-occurring disorder.
If you did not experience anxiety, depression, or a traumatic experience as a child or teenager, then the answer may not be as clear. Using substances can actually cause anxiety or depression, and for some people when they stop using substances the anxiety or depression starts to clear up. In order to determine if anxiety or depression symptoms are substance induced or symptoms of an underling co-occurring disorder, it’s important to maintain sobriety, and continue to monitor your feelings and moods. If you notice that after 30 days of sobriety you are still feeling anxious or depressed, I would suggest that you meet with a licensed therapist who can help you determine if you have a co-occurring disorder. Sometimes it can take up to 6 months of being sober in order to have a clear picture of what your baseline mental health symptoms looks like.
Some people notice more severe mental health symptoms when they get sober. If you notice hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, not sleeping for days at a time, or severe depression or anxiety, make an appointment with a medical doctor immediately or go to a local mental health clinic. If you notice suicidal or homicidal thoughts at any time, call 911 or go to your nearest hospital emergency room.
What should I do if I think I have a co-occurring disorder?
This first thing to do if you think you might have a co-occurring disorder is to schedule an appointment with a licensed mental health therapist or a psychiatrist. If you schedule an appointment with a therapist, confirm that they have an addiction and mental health license because it is important that they have training in both and can evaluate your symptoms properly. If the therapist feels that medication would be helpful, they may recommend that you schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist or addictionologist.
What’s the difference between a therapist, a psychiatrist, and an addictionologist?
It’s also important to understand the difference between a therapist, a psychiatrist, and an addictionologist. A therapist is a licensed mental health professional that can evaluate, diagnose and treat mental health disorders through various modalities. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that also treats mental health disorders and can prescribe medication.
If you are in recovery from a substance addiction, it may be beneficial for you to see an addictionologist instead of a psychiatrist. An addictionologist is a psychiatrist who has additional training in treating addiction and is certified by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Seeing an addictionologist is helpful because they know which medications to prescribe that are not addictive, and which are safe for recovery.
At Silver Lining Counseling in Charlotte, I can help you determine if you have a co-occurring disorder, and teach you the skills and tools to manage the symptoms. I provide a safe and empowering place for you to heal.