Mental health issues are more common than many people think. According to Mental Health America, approximately one in five American adults (nearly 44 million people) and 13-20 percent of children living in the United States will experience a diagnosable mental health disorder in a given year. In addition, approximately 10 percent of the American adult population will experience a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar, while 18 percent will deal with an anxiety disorder, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

While mental health issues may be prevalent among the population, only 41 percent of those suffering will receive treatment for mental health issues. Others may begin to self-medicate to deal with negative symptoms they don’t understand. Alcohol or drugs may seem to calm the issues for a time, but substance abuse or misuse will only exacerbate many mental health issues in the long run, compounding the primary problem.

The Co-occurring Connection

Roughly 45 percent of people struggling with addiction have a co-occurring disorder, according to the 2010 National Survey On Drug Use and Health. Left untreated, the mental health issues contribute to the substance abuse, making it even worse. It can affect relationships, school, career and overall success in life. Fortunately, huge strides have been made in the field of dual diagnosis treatment. Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety are highly treatable and long-term recovery is possible. While still a fairly new field of addiction recovery, this type of co-occurring treatment addresses both mental health and substance abuse issues concurrently.

In the not-so-distant past, mental health disorders were treated separately from drug or alcohol abuse. When these conditions overlapped, clients were often denied treatment for a mental illness until they got clean and sober. Unfortunately, because substance abuse is often driven by an underlying psychiatric disorder, this was nearly impossible. The result was individuals in need of co-occurring treatment didn’t get the help they needed. Today, many treatment professionals are equipped to help patients look at how each issue affects the other. This type of integrative treatment addresses the whole person and promises a much better chance at lasting recovery.

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