What is Concurrent Disorders?

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What is Concurrent Disorders?

By: Keleigh Anderson

Published On: July 13, 2018

I am a graduate of the fairly new Post Graduate Concurrent Disorders Program at Mohawk College.  I didn’t know what that term meant until researching the program.  Turns out, I am not alone.  To clarify, Concurrent Disorders is a term describing a person experiencing both a mental health issue(s) and addiction(s) simultaneously.

How does one develop a Concurrent Disorder?

It may be more common and easier than you think.  It is becoming more and more recognized that mental health and addiction go hand in hand.  The question is which came first; the chicken or the egg, the addiction or the mental health issue. The development of a Concurrent Disorder may happen in one of three ways.

  1. The Common Factor Model is when a person experiences both a substance use disorder and has a mental health diagnosis at the same time. For example, a person experiences anxiety and uses marijuana to cope.
  1. Another way to develop Concurrent Disorders is through secondary substance abuse. For example, a person is clinically depressed and turns to alcohol to cope with the depression.  The use of alcohol is secondary to the clinical depression.
  1. The third way is the Secondary Psychopathology Model. This happens when a person has a substance use disorder and a mental health issue results from the substance use.  For example, an individual that experiences cannabis induced Schizophrenia.

How to help someone experiencing Concurrent Disorders?

To start, you can help by offering love and compassion.  We are all just one crisis away from needing help.  Treatment wise, both the mental health issue and addiction need to be addressed.  An individualistic approach works best to determine which issue should be addressed first or if both can be addressed simultaneously.  Best practice suggests if substance misuse is involved, the substance use should be treated first.  This is because substance abuse can have shorter-term effects than mental health issues and once the substance use has ceased, the mental health issues will be clearer and easier to determine.  Treatment for Concurrent Disorders would involve integrated therapy to treat both the mental health issue and addiction.  One example of integrated therapy to treat a Concurrent Disorder such as depression and alcohol use may involve an antidepressant and talk therapy.

If you or someone you love is experiencing mental health and/or addiction, call Bayridge Counselling Centre at 905.319.1844 to book an appointment.  We can help.