Understanding Co-Occurring Disorders: What Are Common Co-Occurring Disorders?

Co-occurring disorders refer to any co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders an individual has. Understanding co-occurring disorders makes it possible to recognize the symptoms and understand the importance of participating in co-occurring disorder treatment sooner rather than later.

It is common for people with substance abuse disorders to also struggle with the following:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • ADHD
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • PTSD
  • Schizophrenia

Understanding Co-Occurring Disorders: Why Are Co-Occurring Disorders Common?

There are a handful of reasons why the rates of co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders are so high.


One of the most common reasons people need dual diagnosis therapy is because they have an undiagnosed mental health disorder, they were misdiagnosed, or they were given a diagnosis with medication that is insufficient. In any of these three scenarios, individuals are more likely to use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Clients may not realize that’s what they’re doing. They might not recognize that drugs or alcohol are helping them to mask their symptoms temporarily. Unfortunately, without proper treatment, individuals are more likely to develop an addiction if they start self-medicating with drugs and alcohol for symptoms of mental health disorders. This leads to the need for co-occurring treatment.

Brain Changes

In other cases, the need for co-occurring disorder treatment arises because an individual struggling with a substance abuse disorder ends up developing a mental health disorder. This is quite common in those who struggle with addiction for an extended length of time. Drugs and alcohol change the way the brain functions. Long-term exposure to drug use and alcoholism can cause severe changes to brain structure and function, leading to the development of mental health disorders like depression or anxiety.

Understanding Co-Occurring Disorders: Why You Need Treatment

It’s important that you get help as soon as you recognize the need for dual diagnosis services. If you believe that you or someone close to you is struggling with co-occurring addiction and mental health issues, the longer you wait to get help, the worse it can get.

Additional Complications

Without proper dual diagnosis therapy, you risk developing additional physical or mental health disorders. This is particularly true for individuals struggling with co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders. For example, clients with bipolar disorder who don’t find treatment are more likely to develop depressive disorders. Similarly, individuals struggling with depression are likely to develop anxiety disorders. Those with untreated PTSD are more likely to develop depression or substance abuse disorders.

Dissatisfaction with Life

Mental health disorders cause disruptions to the way the brain functions. This can make it difficult to experience any pleasure in everyday activities. Without therapy, you position yourself to experience long-term disruptions to your brain functioning, which can worsen your symptoms. Eventually, you might reach a point where you don’t have any satisfaction with life at all.

What is Dual Diagnosis Therapy?

Individuals struggling with co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders need dual diagnosis therapy. Dual diagnosis therapy is a treatment that provides services for both addiction and mental health disorders. Many therapies and services received can have overlapping benefits, like cognitive behavioral therapy for addiction and mental health disorders, mindfulness, meditation, and yoga. Other services might be specific to one of your conditions, like a detox for addiction or DBT for personality disorders. At professional treatment centers like Casa Serena, clients can receive customized mental health disorder and addiction treatment. This type of dual diagnosis therapy is more effective because it gives clients things like coping skills that can be applied to symptom management and addiction cravings. By treating both concurrently, clients are better able to avoid additional complications, relapse because of mental health symptoms, or self-medication.

Reach out to Casa Serena today to learn more about how our facility can help you with dual diagnosis therapy. 

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