Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders

An individual with a co-occurring disorder means they have been diagnosed with a drug abuse disorder and another psychological health disorder. Co-occurring disorders, sometimes called dual disorders, are best dealt with dual-diagnosis treatment models attending to both disorders at the same time.

Co-occurring disorder quick facts (4)

The human brain is a delicate and complex muscle. It’s not unusual that alcohol and other drugs can cause and/or mask symptoms of mental disorders. Drugs heavily influence how the brain works by manipulating the chemicals within it (dopamine and serotonin). This manipulation causes users to feel buzzed or high.

Co-Occurring Disorders

In response to those changes, the brain adapts to the presence of alcohol and other substances, creating dependence and raising the chances that an individual will develop a substance use disorder. Substance use disorders are categorized as a mental health disorder – but more commonly known as addiction.

It’s possible to have more than one psychological health disorder. Addictions usually co-occur together with other mental disorders. Over half of individuals with substance use disorders also have a mental illness. Often the mental illness comes first. In other people, mental illness occurs due to the abuse. In both situations, each disorder intensifies the signs and symptoms of one another.

Many people with substance use disorders likewise have varying psychiatric disorders which might or might not be major. The majority of co-occurring disorders have underlying depression or underlying anxiety.

Other usual co-occurring disorders include personality disorders, behavior disorders and psychotic disorders. With comprehensive therapy, people can recover from addiction and most co-occurring mental health disorders. Although, falling short to resolve co-occurring disorders within addiction therapy will almost inevitably lead to relapse.


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Ryan Matheson
Ryan Matheson
13:24 29 Jun 18
Top-notch treatment center! A friend of mine went to treatment here for help with his drinking problem. He tells me all the time that Coalition Recovery saved his life! It's great seeing my buddy back to his old self. Glad he found exactly what he needed at CR.
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Patrick Sneed
22:00 21 Jan 19
Wonderful! Coalition is the best of the best! The staff are not only professional, educated, and welcoming, but extremely passionate about loving and treating people who battle the disease of addiction. What makes Coaltion stand out from the rest is their aftercare program, where you'll be supported and counseled by the same staff who worked with you while you were inpatient. A "coalition" is an alliance for combined action, but this treatment facility is more than that: it's a family.
18:27 05 Nov 18
Coalition Recovery in Tampa is an excellent addiction treatment center. I love their admissions team & clinical staff. They use evidence-based methods and create custom individualized treatment plans to provide the best care for their clients. I have referred clients here many times and they all talk about the excellent care they received by the staff at Coalition Recovery. Great work!
Lara Frazier
Lara Frazier
20:40 11 Dec 18
The opportunity to go to Coalition recovery is the best gift my mother has ever given me. From the moment I walked in the front door I felt a huge weight lift and I knew that if I put in the work my life was about to improve exponentially. Every staff member that works there has a huge heart and I felt more than comfortable sharing my inner most secrets with them and asking for help and advice. They have helped me overcome extreme anxiety and depression issues, have helped grow my feeling of self worth, they have led me in the right direction to have a fulfilling life and have made me truly excited for my future. I took advantage of every opportunity they gave me. They even have a program that will get you on track to pursue a degree! I was fearful that I would never be able to succeed in college and I am thrilled to tell them about all of my successes! Dr. Val is my personal therapist and I can not say enough nice things about how she has helped me. I truly value her opinions and how she challenges me. I do not know where I would be or how I would be doing without her. If you are truly ready to change your life and willing to do the work and stay open minded Coalition will be the place that turns your life around. Every clinitian and staff member is completely dedicated and invested in my well being and I am excited to stay in contact and be one (of their many) success stories! Thank you Coalition Recovery!
Amanda Cilento
Amanda Cilento
19:55 18 Jan 19
Coalition Recovery is a top notch drug & alcohol rehab facility! Their staff does a great job and genuinely cares for their patients. I highly recommend them to anyone struggling with substance abuse problems.
Thomas Jenkins
Thomas Jenkins
20:13 12 Feb 19
I would be proud to recommend Coalition Recovery to close friends and family. They truly take the time to understand you specifically. They don’t force any particular program on you, so you can just use what works best for you. Thank you Coalition Recovery, I hope the best for you guys
Mary Carlton Romanski
Mary Carlton Romanski
15:20 15 Jun 18
If you’re looking for a treatment facility for either you or a loved one- Coalition Recovery is hands down the best choice. I have never met a staff more dedicated to actual PATIENT CARE than this facility. Truly, this staff is committed to not only caring for patients in fragile physical and/or mental states but also assisting in the process of sobriety beyond the inpatient level. This is not ‘just’ a treatment center; it is the first step in a new beginning.
Carly Svetec
Carly Svetec
21:07 22 Jun 18
Coalition provides amazing treatment and aftercare for those struggling with addictions. The staff and executives are top notch and focus on client care first before anything else. Their approach to addiction treatment and the Renaissance program are unlike any I’ve seen. They are not solely concerned on the client remaining substance free, but also with having a high quality of living and living life to their fullest potential.
Stefanie Crain
Stefanie Crain
14:21 15 Jun 18

What Are Mental Health Disorders?

The expressions “mental health issue,” “mental illness,” and “mental health disorder” are frequently used synonymously. In its diagnostics handbook, the American Psychiatric Association uses the term mental disorder to specify mental illnesses. However, the organization likewise recommends using the term mental health challenge.

The American Psychiatric Association defines a mental disorder as: “a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, developmental or biological processes underlying mental functioning.”

Some mental illnesses are more usual than others. Problems such as anxiety and depressive disorders, as an example, take place more frequently than schizophrenia and psychosis. Each type of mental disorder can range in severity from mild to serious.

Developmental Disorders

Mental disorders are unique from developmental disabilities. Developmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder and learning disabilities, hinder social interaction, self-sufficiency, language and mobility. Substance use disorders and other mental health disorders can co-occur alongside developmental disorders. The term co-occurring disorder most generally refers to substance use disorders and psychological disorders.

Dual Diagnosis & Comorbidity

Dual diagnosis is the term used to describe the treatment for co-occurring disorders. Both of these terms are occasionally confused with comorbid disorders. Comorbidity is a wide term used to signify the existence of numerous physical or mental diseases or disorders. Co-occurring disorders and dual diagnosis are specific to substance use disorders and other mental health problems.

Mental Illness that Co-Occur with Substance Use Disorders

Any type of psychological health disorder can co-occur together with substance use disorders. The most usual kinds of co-occurring disorders consist of mood, anxiety, psychosis, eating, personality and behavioral disorders. Each group consists of many sorts of mental disorders that can vary in severity.


Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are a broad category of mental disorders that consists of all types of depression and bipolar disorders. They are largely connected with persistent feelings of despair that last longer and are more extreme than typical feelings of sadness.

Examples of mood disorders consist of:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Dysthymia
  • Major Depressive disorder

Discover more regarding depression

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety and fear are normal feelings, but prolonged sensations of anxiety that get worse in time might be a measure of an anxiety disorder. Some anxiety disorders interrupt normal life, making work and various other activities difficult.

Instances of anxiety disorder consist of:

  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Psychotic Disorders

Psychotic disorders usually trigger two severe signs and symptoms: delusions and hallucinations. People with psychosis are disconnected from reality and may become a threat to themselves or others.

Sorts of psychotic disorders consist of:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Postpartum psychosis
  • Schizoaffective disorder

Eating Disorders

Like substance use disorders, eating disorders are misunderstood. People with eating disorders do not choose to eat unhealthy diets. They have a significant mental illness that causes them to perform self-damaging eating behaviors.

Usual kinds of eating disorders consist of:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Bulimia nervosa

Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are mental illnesses related to unhealthy thoughts and activities. These disorders are set off by daily stresses and can interrupt leisure activities, work and relationships.

Kinds of personality disorders include:

  • Paranoid personality disorder
  • Schizotypal personality disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Dependent personality disorder
  • Narcissistic personality disorder
  • Schizoid personality disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Histrionic personality disorder
  • Avoidant personality disorder

Behavioral Disorders

Behavioral disorders most generally occur in adolescents. Many healthy individuals show behavior issues, such as defiance, inattention and hyperactivity. Behavioral disorders are identified by persistent behavior issues that last at least 6 months.

Typical behavioral disorders include:

  • Conduct disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder

Signs of Co-Occurring Disorders

The physical and emotional signs and symptoms of co-occurring disorders vary depending on your life circumstances, the kind of substances you use and the kind of mental illness you carry.

Social and lifestyle symptoms of co-occurring disorders consist of:

  • Seclusion
  • Treatment disagreement
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Aggressiveness
  • Unexplained mood changes
  • hostile behavior
  • Lawful troubles
  • Employment and housing instability
  • Trouble budgeting funds
  • Prostitution or sexual deviance
  • Cleanliness and health problems
  • Trouble concentrating

The symptoms of mental health disorders resemble the side effects of addiction. Therefore, it can be difficult determining whether a mental disorder triggers substance abuse or the other way around. Reliable addiction treatment centers evaluate individuals for mental disorders and create plans for dealing with co-occurring disorders separately but at the same time.

Why Drug Use and Other Mental Disorders Co-Occur

Psychological health disorders raise an individual’s risk of using drugs or drinking alcohol. Substance abuse also increases the risk of developing a mental illness. Nonetheless, it’s hard to verify what created the cause of the other. Scientists are still examining the human brain to figure out how mental illnesses develop, but they have several theories.

“If somebody drinks or uses substances or alcohol heavily, they’re more probable to have mood problems as a result of the drug use.” – Coalition Recovery’s Medical Director – Dr. Debra Barnett

We can conclude that there are likely direct associations between substance use and mental illness. If somebody drinks or uses drugs heavily, they’re more probable to have mood troubles as a result of substance use. In most cases, they’re more likely to handle those problems by using other drugs. It becomes a damaging cyclical process.

Along with self-medication, there are several factors that make mental health individuals more susceptible to substance abuse. Danger factors for co-occurring disorders consist of:


Stress, trauma and other events can trigger psychological health concerns that make drug use more enticing.


Brain systems in charge of things like stress or reward may be impacted by both drug use and mental illness.


Genetics may make a person more at risk for addiction and other mental illnesses.


Exposure to alcohol or other drugs during childhood years and adolescence impacts the development of the human brain. This makes these individuals more susceptible to addiction and various other mental disorders.

Substances can also cause earlier onset of mental illness. People with hereditary threat factors for schizophrenia commonly develop signs of mental disease earlier in life if they smoke weed on a regular basis. However, in some scenarios, abstaining from alcohol or substance abuse can minimize mental health issues. Nonetheless, some drugs can cause long-lasting or permanent damages, and therapy is essential to help people deal with the effects of these mental disorders.

Stigma and Other Issues Involving Co-Occurring Disorders

Stigma is the greatest barrier for individuals with mental illness. Many people wrongly believe that individuals with mental disorders are dangerous or that individuals with drug use disorders have a moral failing. Actually, most individuals with mental illness present minimal risk to others. And regardless of moral beliefs, addiction is a disease that harms an individual’s health, social function and ability to control drug usage.

This misunderstanding causes feelings of fear and embarrassment amongst people with co-occurring disorders. Many people separate themselves to avoid shame. They may also reject that they need mental health therapy. Stigma in our culture additionally prevents individuals in need from receiving support. Social denial can stop people with addiction from maintaining their housing, finding work, and providing for themselves.

Learn more about stigma.

The Criminal Justice System

The vast bulk of inmates in the federal prison system have been found guilty of drug-related offenses. The criminal justice system in the United States is among the greatest sources of addiction treatment referrals in the nation. According to a 2017 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a 2011– 2012 national survey found that more than a 3rd of detainees and almost fifty percent of jail inmates in the United States had a background of mental illness. A separate report (from 2007 to 2009) discovered 59 percent of state prisoners and 63 percent of sentenced jail inmates fulfilled the standards for substance abuse or misuse. Some criminal justice programs, such as drug courts, are trying to end the cycle of recidivism by supplying options to imprisonment.

Being homeless

Homeless people frequently have co-occurring disorders and minimal or no access to healthcare. They may even be unaware of their mental illness and might have a background of legal issues that makes it difficult to work. More than 200,000 people who had a drug use disorder or a serious mental disorder experienced homelessness in 2016, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


Around 50 percent of veterans who need psychological health treatment seek it, and slightly more than half of those that do receive treatment obtain sufficient care, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). An approximated 70 percent of homeless veterans also have a substance use disorder. Some veterans elect not to look for treatment because they do not want to be discriminated against by peers. Adding to this problem, many Veterans Affairs clinics have been plagued with long wait times. 

Learn more concerning substance abuse and veterans

Recognizing and Recovering from Co-Occurring Disorders

Since the 1980s, the medical community has identified that co-occurring disorders require specialized treatment. Throughout the years, the professionals in the clinical community have used numerous different terms to define people with co-occurring disorders.

The numerous terms used to describe a person with a co-occurring disorder, consist of:

  • Dually diagnosed patients
  • Mentally ill chemical abuser
  • Dually disordered
  • Mentally ill substance abuser
  • Mentally ill substance using
  • Chemically abusing mentally ill
  • Substance abusing mentally ill
  • Comorbid disorders
  • People with co-occurring psychiatric and substance disorders

In recent years, experts have attempted to systematize the term co-occurring disorders to stay clear of confusion between people with developmental disorders and those with mental health disorders. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration generally uses the term co-occurring disorders to describe drug use disorders and mental disorders.

woman on couch talking to another woman psychiatrist or therapist

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

Dual-Diagnosis addiction treatment consists of treating the underlying causes of addiction alongside substance use disorders. Detoxification alone isn’t adequate. To recuperate from addiction, every facet of mental disorder should be addressed.

We know that a tremendous amount of individuals have considerable trauma problems in their past, and we have to resolve them all at the same time.

If you don’t resolve these various other problems, when people get to a place where they’re stressed out, it’s most likely to lead them right back to the coping skill that they used for several years, which was substances. So we truly need to attend to all these issues simultaneously.

Comprehensive, integrated therapy strategies are made to fit each person’s unique health needs. The frequency and strength of treatment are based on the severity of each psychological health condition.

Continuing Aftercare

The most efficient therapies for addiction last a minimum of thirty days, however, long-term healing must include aftercare. Most people in recovery from addiction participate in everyday or regular support group meetings. Likewise, many people receive outpatient counseling regularly.

Recovery from mental illness is similar. People should remain going to therapy for co-occurring mental illness after they leave rehab. In addition to therapy, if medical professionals advise medications, such as antipsychotics or antidepressants, patients should continue to take them for as long as their doctor suggests.

Individuals with severe mental illness might require continued therapy treatments. However, most individuals with co-occurring disorders have the ability to attain happiness and fulfillment after achieving sobriety from alcohol or various other substances.

Medical Disclaimer: Coalition Recovery aims to enhance the lifestyle for individuals having problems with substance use or psychological health disorder with fact-based content relating to the nature of behavioral health problems, therapy options, and their associated end results. We release products that are researched, mentioned, modified and examined by qualified medical professionals. The details we provide are not meant to be a replacement for professional clinical recommendations, diagnosis or therapy. It should to not be used instead of your doctor’s recommendations.

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