What Is Comorbidity?

As a nurse practitioner, I’ve had the privilege to care for all types of patients. However, the majority of my patients, were never single diagnoses… that would be too easy. I cared for complex patients, who suffered from comorbidity. Hypertension, Type II diabetes, heart failure, COPD, etc.… You name the disease and my patients were diagnosed with at least two or more. Comorbidity describes two or more diseases or illnesses occurring in the same individual. You’re probably thinking… How does this apply to Behavioral Health or D’Amore Healthcare? Let me explain, within the field of mental health, many patients suffer from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or dual diagnoses. Even more people face additional needs like hypertension, diabetes, asthma, etc. Now, your next thought might be, “What exactly is a dual diagnosis?” Basically, dual diagnoses are both mental illness and substance abuse.

 

 So, let’s dive right into how comorbidity can affect you or your loved one’s mental health and overall well-being.

Research has shown behavioral health patients have a higher risk of medical comorbidity and mortality than the general population. Let me be frank: The pairing of addiction or poor physical health with depression or any other mental health disorder can be a barrier and liability to the recovery and healing process of patients (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2010). For example, a patient diagnosed with Type II diabetes and schizophrenia has an increase mortality rate than the general population based on unhealthy lifestyle, lack of understanding illness, inadequate medical care due to the stigmatization of people with mental illness, and harmful side effects or drug interaction with psychotropic/non-psychotropic medication.

 

I don’t stress the seriousness of comorbidity and mental health to scare you. On the contrary, I tell you this vital information to empower you and your family members with knowledge. Is mental health a serious disease? … YES! Is comorbidity a barrier to recovery? … YES! Should you be discouraged as a patient or family member? … A THOUSAND TIMES “NO!!!!” And let me tell you why. Here at D’Amore Healthcare we specialize in dual diagnoses and treating a variety of complex mental health disorders with or without comorbidities (Cranwell, Polacsek, & McCann, 2016). Healing happens when we partner with people trained in evidence based best practices. Because D’Amore Healthcare enlists mounds of social science and good medicine every day, partnering with patients who decide to comfort and resolve their comorbid healthcare needs. To really deliver, it takes the D’Amore approach to mental healthcare.

 

The D’Amore Healthcare Team consists of myself, a psychiatrist with nearly three decades of experiences, nurses, credentialed counselors, licensed therapists, and many other carefully trained team members, to help you, or your loved one, achieve mental wellness.

This begins with caring for physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. In fact, Mental wellness is something we all strive to achieve, myself included.  However, for people who suffer from a mental illness, a lack of mental wellness can change the way they think, feel, act, how they handle stress, relate to others, or make life-sustaining choices. Additionally, an effective treatment program consists of medical personnel who understand how to target comorbidities or dual diagnosis with mandatory psychotropic medications and effective management of side effect and/or drug to drug interactions. As medication doses are titrated to reach the patients unique biochemical needs, behavioral therapies introduce replacement behaviors to comprehensively treat all diagnoses, addressing all needs, while prioritizing the goals most important to reduce suffering today.

 

However, the most important attribute that is the epicenter of the healing process is compassion.

 

D’Amore Healthcare facilitates healing with heart.

Also, compassion is the catalyst to all healing. Something so simple, however, scarcely practiced based on the stigma of mental health, can lead to change in a patient’s self-perception; and restructure a patient’s new norm by providing respect, grace, and positive reinforcements. There is a famous African quote, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Well, it also takes a village to fight addiction and mental illness. D’Amore Healthcare guides patients in building essential tools to aide in rejoining society with a clear mind, lighter spirit, and positive lifestyle habits.

 

Dr. Chinyelu Chukwurah, DNP, RN, FNP-BC

 

D’Amore Healthcare is a dual diagnosis, substance abuse addiction treatment center in Orange County, CA. We provide information and treatment for people dealing with the life-shattering cycle of substance abuse and addiction. If someone needs immediate help, call 24-hours a day at 714.375.1110 or contact us online.

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