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Living with Illness

BC Mental Health Substance Use Services provides information about living with mental health and substance use challenges.

Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders are characterized by many different signs and symptoms, and can be present in many different forms.

They can impact how a person thinks, feels and behaves. 

Some common symptoms of a mental health disorder include changes in a person’s mood, disturbances in perception, obsessions and fears, or anxiety.

Substance Use

Substance use refers to the use of alcohol or psychoactive drugs. These drugs change the way you think or feel.

Different substances affect your brain and body in different ways. Some make your brain speed up, like coffee or tobacco. Others slow it down, like alcohol or heroin. 

Some substances block pain (medications). And others create strong feelings of pleasure (ecstasy). 

Some substances make the world look, sound and feel different from normal (LSD). And some, like cannabis (marijuana), have multiple effects.

Concurrent disorders

It is common for people with mental health challenges to also experience substance use challenges. Similarly, people who experience substance use challenges have a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with a mental health disorder. When a person is experiencing both mental health AND substance use challenges at the same time, they may be diagnosed with a “concurrent disorder”. Other terms that are used to describe concurrent disorders include “dual diagnosis” or “co-occurring disorders”. 

Concurrent Disorders are complex and challenging to identify. The mental health concern may come first, using substances may come first, both concerns may start at the same time and mental health concerns and using substances may start separately.

To learn more about concurrent disorders, see Co-existing problems on the Here to Help website.

SOURCE: Living with Illness ( )
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