How to Approach a Loved One About their Co-Occurring Disorders

Portrait of a young couple hanging out at a park and looking up towards copy space

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

Observing someone you love struggle with co-occurring disorders, such as mental illness and addiction, can be devastating. Co-occurring disorders are delicate issues that are often surrounded by many myths and misunderstandings.

Red Flags

Perhaps you have observed changes in your loved one that has caused you to question what they may be struggling with. Even if you do not fully understand the extent of the current circumstances in the life of your loved one, you have likely picked up on red flags that have clued you into knowing that something is amiss.

Co-occurring disorders are identified as more than one mental illness that have developed together or the occurrence of a mental illness alongside substance abuse. Because of the similarities that exist between mental illnesses, it is not uncommon for co-occurring disorders to develop.

Address The Concerns

If you have identified signs that may reveal co-occurring disorders in someone you care for, it is important to address these concerns in a loving and caring way. Because of the severe consequences associated with mental illness, intervention is typically needed to begin the healing process and recovery.

While it may feel uncomfortable, painful, and difficult to approach your loved one about your concerns, your voice may be the encouragement they need to take a step towards getting the help they need.

Find Clarity

Man looking out to seaIf you are unsure about what to say or what may be the best approach to take, consider discussing your thoughts and concerns with someone you look up to.

Processing your thoughts and emotions before having a discussion with your loved one might help give you clarity and discussion. Seeing someone close to you struggle with something so painful can be overwhelming and confusing. You may feel unsure about your place or how you can best help him or her.

Appropriately bringing attention to your concerns in a loving matter can be one of the most powerful ways to help the person in your life who may be struggling with co-occurring disorders.

Remember that you cannot change your loved one, but your love and support can ignite a sense and desire for recovery.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What are helpful suggestions you may have for a person who is unsure how to approach their loved one who may be struggling with co-occurring disorders?

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