Co-Occurring Disorders and Domestic Violence

Co-Occurring Disorders As It Relates to Domestic Violence

October is domestic violence awareness month and it is important to bring to light the issues that cause domestic violence. Domestic violence is much more than physical assault. Domestic violence can also include non-physical behaviors such as: emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, spiritual abuse, and elder abuse.

As a society, we are doing a much better job at not turning a blind eye to domestic violence and the stigma associated with it. However, it is simply not enough to focus on the actions of the perpetrator, but we must also understand what causes the behavior and what the outcomes might be. As we continue to study things such as trauma, PTSD, mental health disorders and substance use disorders, we are continuing to find the relationship between domestic violence and co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders.

As we begin to better understand the correlation between the co-occurring disorders, we can see how there is hope in treating both those who are victims of domestic violence and the people who commit domestic violence. As we study the disease of addiction and mental health, we can determine what genetic and environmental factors contribute to these diseases and how they may present in each person. For instance, a child who was brought up in a home that experienced violence and/or active substance use (drugs or alcohol), would be at an increased risk of becoming a victim or a perpetrator of domestic violence (based on ACE scores).

“The World Health Organization reports that women who reported partner violence at least once in their lifetime are nearly 3 times as likely to have suicidal thoughts and 4 times as likely to attempt suicide. Compared to those who have never been abused, survivors are 6 times as likely to have a substance use disorder.”[1]

Therefore, it is important for a person who has experienced or is experiencing domestic violence to undergo an evaluation by a psychiatrist or licensed counselor to determine the amount of trauma one has experienced and how that may be affecting or could affect decision making or one’s mental health. Additionally, simply incarcerating the offender without properly treating the offender, may result in a re-offense because underlying issues have not been addressed or dealt with.

If children are involved as witnesses to the domestic violence or are also suffering some level of the violence, they will also need evaluation and treatment so to not perpetuate the cycle of abuse (whether as a victim or a perpetrator).

It is important to note, however, that domestic violence isn’t necessarily caused by the substance use, but it can contribute to the violence. Some perpetrators may use drugs or alcohol before committing an act of domestic violence. Substance use and mental health disorders affect a person’s control in some way. Not being able to clearly control one’s behavior and not being able to comprehend the consequences of one’s behavior contributes to domestic violence. Additionally, because people often act differently when under the influence of drugs or alcohol or during a mental health episode, the domestic violence issues can look different for different people, and different from past situations.

The only way to end the cycle is to admit there is a problem and get help. Both parties are affected and one party cannot fix the other by staying in the situation when there is danger involved. Professional help can help determine what is triggering the need for drugs and/or alcohol, as well as diagnose any underlying mental health issues. Once these issues are discovered, a plan of action can be put in place to help everyone involved.

There is hope and we help people. If you are experiencing domestic violence or have experienced past domestic violence, we want to help you find healing and get on a healthy path. We offer individual treatment plans on an outpatient basis to find what is best for you. We also offer family counseling. We have a team of professionals who can help with medical needs, including treatment for substance use and alcohol use, and mental health needs, including psychiatrists and licensed counselors.

We have offices in four states (Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas) spread across fourteen locations. We accept most insurance plans, Medicare, Medicaid and cash pay. We are accepting new patients in all our offices. Call 844.728.4929 or visit www.pathwayhealthcare.comfor more information.

If you are not the one suffering from domestic violence but you know someone who is, please share this with them and let them know there is help and hope available.


A Statement From Our CEO for Our Military Members and Their Families


I know that these are hard times for everyone and our veterans and active duty military, and their families, have not been immune from difficulties. Fear, anxiety, depression, anger, and despair are rampant, and an urgent crisis.

I want to remind you there is hope. Please do not struggle alone.

If you need help, call someone – reach out to one of our Pathway Healthcare offices, or some other mental health resource. Help is available and hope remains.

With all sincerity,

Scott Olson

Co-Founder/CEO and United States Air Force Veteran

Summer Days and the Dangers of Alcohol


Summertime is all about outdoor BBQ’s, lounging by the pool, being out in the sun by the beach or at the lake, hanging out with family or friends…all with a cool drink in your hands. A lot of people think about and consume beer, canned or fresh cocktails, spritzers, hard seltzers, hard teas and lemonades, and wine coolers. There are unlimited options and advertisers do their best to convince you these drinks are “cooling”, “refreshing” and/or “relaxing.” What could possibly be better? 

However, combining the summer heat and alcohol can be dangerous. It can lead to anything ranging from a really bad day to a downright deadly one if you don’t understand how summer and alcohol mix. 

Summer heat is the first danger to be alert to. Most people are not drinking any or enough water to stay safely hydrated. When someone is not hydrated enough, several things start to happen: 

1) You get hot in the heat and begin to sweat, which is totally normal. This is how the body cools itself off. But this loss of fluid is a problem if you don’t have fluid going in to make up for what is going out. 

2) You grab an alcoholic drink to hydrate, but alcohol is a diuretic. Basically, it makes you urinate more so in turn, you lose more fluid. 

3) After sweating and urinating, you are more dehydrated than when you started. Add in a little buzz from that beer or other alcoholic drink (or two, or three), and you also don’t particularly care or realize you are dehydrated. 

4) If you happen to vomit for any reason, the fluid loss is even worse. 

5) Every drop of sweat and alcoholic drink is creating a vicious cycle. 

Eventually, your cooling system is going to breakdown in this scenario. Your body only works in a small temperature range. Alcohol can mess up your ability to know that you are in danger. As it gets worse, the warning signs of severe illness can be ignored. Heat stroke can occur which is life threatening and requires immediate emergency medical attention. (The signs of heat stroke are: headache, dizziness, disorientation, confusion, loss of consciousness, hallucinations and seizures). During a heat stroke, your body temperature is high, and your organs are “cooking”. A lot of these symptoms seem like how a drunk person might act so your friends may not notice a problem, especially if they have also been drinking. 

Another summer alcohol danger is the lack of safety awareness that comes with alcohol intake. Otherwise normal summertime activities can become dangerous when alcohol gets mixed in. Alcohol can decrease you gag reflex. Suddenly you can’t clear your airway as well in the water and you can get water in lungs easier and drown. This is compounded when your judgment is impaired and you are less aware of your limits and distance and swim out farther than you should or can’t find your way out of the water because the alcohol has you a bit confused or disoriented. Boating accidents, car accidents, slips, trips, and falls all increase with alcohol leading to injuries as severe as paralysis and death. 

If you are struggling to control your alcohol consumption, please call us at Pathway Healthcare for an assessment and treatment plan. We can help you reduce or completely eliminate your alcohol intake which will lead to better health overall. Thankfully, there are many alternatives to alcohol on the market that actually hydrate the body so you can enjoy the summer heat outdoors safely.

Pathway Healthcare – 844.728.4929 or visit find a location near you.

Author: Shelly Southworth, BSN RN 


Are You Affecting Your Gray Matter?

We’ve known for quite some time that alcohol affects a person’s health, and as more studies are done, we are discovering more of what it does to people. A recent study conducted in the UK determined that alcohol use affects the gray matter in the brain.* Why is gray matter important? It is the area of our brain where information is processed.

“The more people drank, the less the volume of their gray matter,” said one of the researchers. As we age, this becomes more important. Choosing to not drink alcohol is a choice a person can make while aging is something out of our control. The study also determined that the degree of drinking didn’t matter nor did the type of alcohol consumed matter.

Alcohol was the leading risk factor for disease and premature death in men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide, accounting for nearly one in 10 deaths in 2016 (according to a study published in The Lancet in 2018).

What we choose to put into our bodies affects our bodies. The more alcohol we put into our bodies, the less gray matter in our brains. Brain health, including mental health, is at risk for anyone who consumes alcohol because no safe level of consumption has been established.

If you or a loved one needs help to stop drinking, or at least decrease the amount of alcohol you drink, we can help on an outpatient basis. No inpatient stays are required.

We have doctors who are experienced with treating alcohol use disorders, as well as psychiatrists and licensed counselors.

Making better choices now can help increase overall brain health before too much damage has occurred.

Call us today for an appointment 844.728.4929 or visit for more information.