Melissa is known as the “party girl” in her friend group. On most weeknights and weekends, she can be found hitting up as many as 4 bars before crashing in the wee hours or the morning. She has secretly struggled with depression and severe anxiety for years, and the only time she feels any relief is when she drinks. However, rather than just being the “party girl,” Melissa is starting to find that her nightly drinking isn’t enough. Now, she needs a few drinks in the morning and throughout the day to help her keep going. Her friends are starting to worry that Melissa’s drinking is getting of control. When her boyfriend recently confronted her about her excessive drinking, Melissa yelled at him and ensued a huge fight.
Joseph is a self-identified introvert and hasn’t dated much. When he knows he has to meet a group of people or be in a crowd his anxiety sky-rockets. Joseph really wants to be more social so that he can hopefully find a girlfriend, but he doesn’t think he can do it on his own. For a while he tried smoking marijuana because it would help calm his nerves, but it didn’t help him become any more social — in fact, he tended to recede a bit and get lost in his own thoughts. About a year ago, he started taking stimulants and found that he could become the “life of the party” on demand with their help. Now, Joseph is starting to feel reliant on stimulants for anything from leaving the house to getting his work done. He knows this isn’t a long-term solution, but can’t seem to stop.
Joanie’s partner Ellen runs a pub in Nashville that requires her to work late nights and odd hours. One month ago, Ellen saw a psychiatrist for the mood swings she’d been having. The psychiatrist diagnosed her with bi-polar disorder and prescribed medication, but Ellen refused to fill the prescription or return to her doctor, stating that she is “fine and needs to relax more. I don’t need pills even if the doctor says I do.” For the past month since that doctor visit, Ellen has come home every Friday and Saturday night as late as 5am, drunk and sometimes having driven herself home from the bar. Joanie is concerned, but true to form, Ellen says that Joanie is overreacting and this is just what “bar culture” is like. Joanie wants to be supportive of Ellen’s career, but the intensity of Ellen’s drinking is not something she feels she can continue to ignore.
What does “Co-Occurring” mean?
In a nutshell, someone in Nashville with a Co-Occurring Disorder has both a substance abuse problem and an emotional or psychiatric diagnosis. For example, someone might be diagnosed both with Alcohol Dependence and Anxiety, or Marijuana Dependence and Depression (etc.). For individuals who’ve been diagnosed with Co-Occurring Disorders, both the substance abuse and psychiatric diagnosis must be treated in order for to feel better and see lasting results.
Did you know?
- 9 million people have a co-occurring disorder according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Only 7.4% of people with co-occurring disorders receive treatment for both substance abuse and mental health
- 8% of people receive no treatment at all for their co-occurring disorders
- 37% of people who abuse alcohol have at least one serious mental illness
- 53% of people who abuse substances have at least one serious mental illness
- 29% of people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness also abuse drugs and/or alcohol
- People who’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness are 3-6 times as likely to abuse drugs than people who don’t have a mental illness
- Substance use is more common with depressive disorders (depression or bi-polar), anxiety disorders (OCD, phobias, PTSD), and psychiatric disorders (schizophrenia, borderline, paranoid personality disorder)
The Chicken or the Egg?
In most cases, determining which came first — the substance abuse or mental illness — is not always clear. Someone may be drinking to manage their depressive, anxiety, or other symptoms in order to experience more calmness, extroversion, relaxation, or happiness. Or they may develop psychological complications from substance abuse (things like paranoia, hyper-vigilance, anger, mood swings, etc.). While this chicken or egg distinction may initially be of importance to persons seeking Nashville Co-Occuring Disorders counseling, treatment can proceed even if the picture isn’t entirely clear.
How are Co-Occurring Disorders Treated?
- Find professional help – It is challenging to make positive change without the support and guidance of someone trained in addressing co-occurring disorders. Find a therapist that is knowledgeable in both mental illness and substance abuse treatment. Sadly, for those who do not seek treatment, the negative impact can be severe from homelessness, incarceration, early mortality, or medical complications.
- Address both issues – Know that you are doing the best you can to manage two serious mental health concerns. Tell your therapist about your history with substance use and mental health. Allow yourself to get support for both of these areas of your life.
- Develop coping skills – Seek out support and ways to cope that are not centered around substance use, such as therapy, help from churches or organizations, and supportive and insightful friends. Speak with a doctor about your symptoms and substance use history so you can receive the best care for your specific needs.
“I think my loved one is suffering from a Co-Occurring Disorder.”
- Set healthy boundaries – Be honest not just with yourself, but also your loved one about what expectations they can have of you. While your loved one’s health and safety is important to you, you are not responsible for their decisions. Be clear about what you will and will not do and hold to those boundaries.
- Encourage professional support – At Change, Inc. our therapists are skilled in working with individuals with co-occurring diagnoses. Also, there are support groups for people with co-occurring disorders that your loved one could join for added help and connection.
- Find resources – While it can feel isolating to be in relationship with someone who has a co-occurring disorder, you are not alone. There are many people going through the same thing you are and support groups that are helpful for the loved ones of people who have substance abuse and mental health concerns. Consider checking out Al-Anon and seeing a therapist to help you determine the best course of action.
What you can expect in Nashville Co-Occurring Disorders Counseling?
- You’ll be asked to think about the role alcohol and drugs are currently playing in your life. This will be done in complete confidentiality and you’ll be able to be honest with someone who is not going to judge you, but will support you and provide the insight you need.
- You’ll be given more information and a chance to expand your understanding of how drugs interact with your mental illness.
- You’ll be given the chance to enhance your life and break out of destructive patterns causing you emotional, physical, and maybe even financial strain.
- You’ll develop recovery goals that will be co-created between you and your therapist, specifically for your unique needs and preferences.
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