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St. Joseph's Care Group

St. Joseph's Care Group

       

Mental Health & Addictions Outreach Programs

FAQ for Northwestern Ontario Concurrent Disorders Program

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  1. What are "concurrent disorders"?
  2. How common are concurrent disorders?
  3. What are the symptoms of concurrent disorders?
  4. What causes concurrent disorders?
  5. How are concurrent disorders treated?

Answers

1. What are "concurrent disorders"?

People who have more than one disorder occurring at the same time are said to have concurrent disorders, for example: an anxiety disorder and alcohol problem; cannabis abuse and schizophrenia; depression and alcohol dependence. Many combinations are possible. There may be more than one substance involved. The person may suffer from more than one mental illness.

2. How common are concurrent disorders?

Statistics show that many people suffer from concurrent disorders:

  • about 30% of people with mental illness have a substance use disorder;
  • about 53% of people with substance use disorder have a mental illness as well;
  • about 47% of people with schizophrenia have a substance use disorder;
  • about 53% of people with bipolar disorder have a substance use disorder as well.

The most common combinations are anxiety disorders and substance use disorders. Mood disorders and substance use disorders are common as well.

3. What are the symptoms of concurrent disorders?

Mental health problems and substance use can affect each other in many ways:

  • substances can make mental illness worse
  • substances can hide the symptoms of mental illness and/or copy or mimic the symptoms of a mental illness
  • people may use substances to relieve symptoms or relieve the side effects of psychotropic medications
  • relapses with one disorder can affect relapse in the other disorder
  • people with concurrent disorders will often have more serious medical, social and emotional problems
  • treatment may take longer and be more challenging
4. What causes concurrent disorders?

There is no simple answer because each situation is different. Some people 'self-medicate' their mental illness with substances, i.e., make themselves feel better. Substances can cause changes in people's mental health, their lives and relationships. There may be a biological factor that leads to mental health and substance use problems. There may be an event, such as emotional or physical trauma, that leads to a concurrent disorder. Some people may have fragile mental health and even a modest amount of substance use may create problems.

5. How are concurrent disorders treated?

The best success for treatment is when both problems are addressed at the same time, i.e., integrated treatment. Treatment depends on the type and the severity of the person's problems. Treatment could include psychosocial therapy (individual and group therapy) or biological treatments (medications) and usually both.

       
       
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