How Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Treat Comorbid Disorders?

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Comorbid disorders, or co-occurring psychological disorders, are extremely common in addicted individuals and require simultaneous treatment in order for a person to recover safely. Fortunately, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be a very beneficial treatment option for both addiction and mental disorders.

The Basics

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “CBT was developed as a method to prevent relapse when treating problem drinking, and later, it was adapted for cocaine-addicted individuals.” Now, it is considered one of the most effective, most beneficial, and safest treatment options for addiction recovery of any kind, including behavioral addictions.

The program is used to treat mental disorders in adolescents, and it can also be incredibly effective as a treatment for both mental disorders and addiction simultaneously. This is because it changes the way a person thinks about their addiction or disorder and allows them to use behavior that minimizes the likelihood of relapse and problematic side effects during recovery.

Coping with Addiction and Mental Illness

One of the most important elements of CBT is being able to recognize and anticipate problems before they occur and to strengthen one’s ability to control their actions through developing beneficial coping strategies. These strategies can range from teaching patients how to recognize and avoid triggers to showing them how to cope with cravings and the stress in their life. This helps patients become better at managing their daily issues without returning to drug abuse, a common problem for those with dual diagnosis.

This inability to cope is often what originally causes problems for the individual and causes them to begin abusing dangerous substances in the first place. The NIDA states, “Patients suffering from anxiety or depression may rely on alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs to temporarily alleviate their symptoms.” Once a person has a better grasp not only on how to cope with their addiction syndrome but also on how to cope with their mental disorder, they will be less likely to return to dangerous behavior.

CBT as Part of a Well-Rounded Rehab Program

CBT on its own may not be enough to help an individual overcome both addiction and mental illness, but it certainly creates a number of benefits and teaches patients many ways to improve their situation. However, CBT should also always be part of a well-rounded treatment program that offers patients everything they need, including:

  • Medication (if possible/necessary)
  • Group therapy
  • Vocational, housing, and educational help
  • Drug testing
  • A safe and comfortable environment in which to recover
  • A kind and caring staff who want to help the patient succeed

As a part of a full treatment program, CBT can do a lot to help a person change their behavior as well as their perspective on their comorbid disorders.