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If you have read a few of our blog entries, you have likely encountered the phrase “co-occurring mental health disorder.” The idea is that it is possible—indeed, it is common—to be struggling with a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder at the same time as co-occurring disorders.

Sometimes, a mental health disorder might be a contributing factor in the development of a substance use disorder. In other cases, the substance use disorder might contribute to the development or worsening of a mental health disorder. In plenty of cases, it is difficult to determine which came first (and in the end, it really doesn’t matter).

In this entry, we will take a look at some of the common mental health disorders that can accompany substance use disorders (they can also, of course, be a challenge for people who do not struggle with drugs or alcohol).

Some Details on Depression

“Depressed” is a word you hear quite a lot—and generally, it is used in really imprecise ways. Often, in fact, you hear it used as though it is a synonym for “sad.” You might, for example, hear someone say, “Oh, I’m just feeling a little depressed today.”

But “sad” and “depressed” are not really synonyms. Sadness is an emotion that can be triggered in us by any number of things—loss, disappointment, loneliness, and more. Depression is a brain disorder, the symptoms of which may mimic sadness, but which is not necessarily attached to any cause in particular. Depression is generally marked by additional symptoms as well—such as a lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, and a range of others.

There are several varieties of depression, and approaches to treating them naturally vary somewhat. But as a general rule, the most effective treatments for depression include a combination of talk therapy and medication as well as a variety of lifestyle changes.

Unfortunately, some people attempt to “self-medicate” with drugs or alcohol in an effort to outrun depression. That can lead, of course, to a substance use disorder. Meanwhile, struggles with drugs or alcohol can worsen symptoms of depression. The two can—and do—easily become intertwined.

All About Anxiety

In the same way that we all get sad from time to time, we all experience worry now and then. We worry over all sorts of things—finances, relationships, our next employment review, and more. And sometimes you might hear someone say that they are feeling anxious about something—though usually they either mean that they are worrying about something or that they are eager for something.

Anxiety, however, is a brain disorder that causes the sufferer to feel worried all of the time, even when there is nothing specific to worry about. Even when there is a specific reason to worry, an anxiety disorder can amp up the emotion so that it is all out of proportion to the situation. Similarly, a panic disorder can lead to episodes of extreme anxiety that may or may not have a clear cause.

Anxiety, like depression, can be treated with medication, talk therapy, and lifestyle changes. Too many people, however, turn to drugs or alcohol to try to find calm. Some of those drugs may well have the opposite effect, inspiring more anxiety rather than tamping it down. But even drugs that do tend to calm a person down come with significant risk of leading to the development of a substance use disorder.

Taking Trauma Into Account

People who experience trauma—abuse as a child, combat, serious accidents, and more—are often left with mental health disorders that have arisen as a result of what they have gone through. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for example, is a trauma-induced disorder that can involve flashbacks, extreme anxiety, and other distressing symptoms.

As with depression and anxiety, there are treatment options, including medication and talk therapy. And there other strategies intended to lessen the impact of past traumas on a person’s present experience.

Too many people, however, turn to drugs or alcohol rather than getting the help they need. The trauma and substance use can get tangled up together in ways that make each worse.

We Can Help with Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

One of the most important things to know about the treatment we offer at French Creek Recovery Center is that we have the experience and expertise to address substance use disorders and mental health disorders. As we have noted, co-occurring disorders are often connected; the same is true of mental health and sobriety. Reclaiming your sobriety is likely to boost your mental well-being—and pursuing better mental health is likely to provide a firmer foundation for your sobriety.

When you are ready to make progress in both areas, our Meadville, PA, facility is here to help.

Looking for a PA substance use disorder treatment center? For more information about French Creek Recovery Center, contact us at (814) 636-6777. We look forward to hearing from you.