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A “co-occurring” disorder can refer to any two or more conditions that occur together within one person. Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are at high risk for co-occurring behavioral health conditions. Research indicates that approximately 30-35 percent of all people with intellectual or developmental disabilities have a psychiatric disorder. (The Diagnostic Manual – Intellectual Disability: A Textbook of Diagnosis of Mental Disorders in Persons with Intellectual Disability, Second Addition DM-ID-2)
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities experience the same types of behavioral health disorders as people without disabilities. Common co-occurring psychiatric disorders include major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, impulse control disorders, personality disorders, major neurocognitive disorders and stereotypic movement disorders, among others.
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities experience trauma, including abuse and neglect, at higher rates than the general population. In addition to the increased likelihood of experiencing trauma, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are at increased risk of developing more severe post-traumatic stress symptoms than people without intellectual and developmental disabilities when exposed to the same traumatic event. (The Diagnostic Manual – Intellectual Disability: A Textbook of Diagnosis of Mental Disorders in Persons with Intellectual Disability, Second Addition DM-ID-2)
The behavioral health needs of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities often go unrecognized. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are often defined by their behavior. Recognizing that behavior is a form of communication and not a symptom of a person’s disability is crucial to understanding what a person’s needs are and supporting them to meet those needs. The co-existence of a psychiatric disorder can have serious effects on a person’s daily functioning and can greatly reduce their quality of life. If a person’s behavior is attributed to their disability, behavioral health conditions may go undiagnosed and individuals may not receive necessary treatment and support.
Recognition of the behavioral health needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is fundamental in supporting mental wellness. Understanding trauma and using a trauma-informed care approach will support resiliency and recovery in people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have experienced trauma.
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