In math, 1+1=2. In healthcare, it's not always that simple. When a patient has two conditions at once, their care doesn't become twice as complicated — it becomes exponentially more complex.
Co-occurring conditions, also known as dual diagnosis, are when a patient has two or more conditions at the same time, such as a mental illness and a substance abuse disorder. This complicates the patient's care, because treatment and treatment programs often have a specific focus.
For example, if a hospital offers treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder and eating disorders, the programs are likely to be in separate buildings and have separate teams. There may be some overlap, but care is often fragmented. Managing care for a patient who needs both treatments simultaneously can be quite challenging. Just to address the eating disorder, the patient may be seeing a nutritionist, gastroenterologist, psychiatrist, and therapist. With such a large team, it can be very challenging to coordinate care.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made healthcare more complicated across the board, and that is especially true for people with co-occurring conditions. Patients with co-occurring conditions are at increased risk of breakthrough infections and more likely to experience severe outcomes. The pandemic has also led to an increase in eating disorders and anxiety and depression.
Almost everyone had more than one health condition. It's very common for people to be diagnosed with two health issues at the same time. Dual diagnosis situations don’t always involve mental health — they can also impact physical health. The diagnoses are often related and they can exacerbate each other.
For example, if someone manages their anxiety by running on a regular basis, all of that running could lead to an overuse injury (such as shin splints). In order to recover from that injury, rest is needed, so they can't run. Without their usual anxiety management strategy, this person could lose their outlet to manage their mental health. Their anxiety worsens. Now, they suffer from both shin splints and increased anxiety. They may also experience sleep issues, due to their lack of exercise and increased anxiety.
If you or a loved one is living with two or more health conditions, consider seeking healthcare guidance and support. If you have questions about how different health conditions are related and want help navigating the treatment process, reach out to an expert health advisor.
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