Acute Care for Co-Occurring Disorders

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope

Co-occurring disorders can be defined as more than one mental illness that coincide together or the development of mental illness and substance abuse. For example, an individual who struggles with alcohol addiction may also have severe anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or another form of mental illness.

Signs and Symptoms

Because of the complexity of mental illnesses, the implications can be serious and range from physical damage to declining wellness. Many symptoms of mental illness overlap and lead to more complicated symptoms if left untreated.

In some instances of untreated co-occurring disorders, health risks can develop that put a person’s life in immediate danger. In these cases, acute care may be a necessary form of treatment to intervene and prevent fatality.

Acute care is often provided in an inpatient hospital setting, where doctors and nurses can provide around the clock care. This level of treatment is often necessary to provide medical and psychiatric stabilization. Some of the most common mental illnesses that may require acute level of care include schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, depression, and bipolar disorders.

Mental Health Status

At the onset of acute care, symptoms will be assessed to determine the most effective form of treatment and to define a person’s mental health status. If an individual is experiencing any problematic symptoms, the medical team will work to stabilize these conditions first and foremost.

doctor and young woman meeting at home visitAny underlying physical conditions are typically addressed, such as dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities, and malnutrition. Another important aspect of acute care for the addiction aspect of co-occurring disorders is detoxification, as an individual is likely to experience withdrawal from any substance or drug they have been addicted to.

Around The Clock Care

Some inpatient facilities have specialized units for drug/alcohol detoxification, and it is crucial that this occur under the supervision and guidance of a physician. Pharmacotherapy may also be integrated into treatment to help with stabilization, and around the clock care can help monitor any problematic symptoms.

If you or someone you care for is experiencing symptoms associated with co-occurring, be sure to seek out medical and professional help during this time.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What has been your experience with acute care in recovery from co-occurring disorders? What encouragement might you share with an individual who is considering acute care for co-occurring disorders?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on May 15th, 2015
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