How Can I Tell My Loved Ones about My Co-Occurring Conditions?

Man sharing problems with psychologist

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

Co-occurring conditions are complex by nature, and it can be difficult to process the extent of what you may be struggling with. Co-occurring disorders typically involve an active substance abuse disorder along with a mental health disorder.

The Toll of Co-Occurring Disorders

Having co-occurring disorders can be overwhelming and burdensome, as this often takes a toll on a person physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Co-occurring disorders can also disrupt relationships as they often impact those closest to you. You may find it difficult to explain to your loved ones about what you are experiencing or how substance abuse has been exasperated by a mental illness.

Because of the many stigmas that surround substance abuse disorders and mental illnesses, you may also feel ashamed about what you are experiencing or worried about what your family may think if you reveal your struggles with them.

Sharing Your Pain

Speaking out about co-occurring disorders is a vital first step towards recovery. By voicing your pain and communicating your struggles, you are shedding light on your condition and advocating for yourself.

It is also important to gain the support of your friends and family during this process, and this can only happen by being honest about where you currently stand.

Serious conversationStart by talking with a person that you feel most comfortable in sharing about yourself and your conditions. Arrange to talk in a place that feels safe and comfortable for you both and that allows you to have a conversation uninterrupted.

Being transparent can make you feel vulnerable, but opening up about your struggles is key to finding healing and support in your recovery.

Finding External Sources

If you are unsure about how to explain your co-occurring disorders, try searching for education materials that you can share with your loved ones. Addiction Hope offers a variety of resources that may help your loved ones better understand exactly what you are struggling with.

Co-occurring disorders are rooted by many factors that you had no part in choosing, such as genetics and neurobiology. By understanding some of the basic aspects of co-occurring disorders, your loved ones may be able to receive the information you are sharing with greater compassion and empathy.

Do not allow shame and/or guilt to hold you back – healing comes with processing and in sharing with those who care for you.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What encouragement would you offer to someone who is attempting to share about co-occurring conditions with loved ones?

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