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What are Co-occurring Disorders?


Although substance use disorders and mental health disorders can occur individually, some individuals experience both at the same time. It’s common for long-term use of drugs or alcohol to interfere with the brain’s ability to balance chemicals necessary for functioning, contributing to mental illness. On the other hand, it’s common for individuals with severe mental health disorders to turn to substance abuse to self-medicate their symptoms, which can lead to addiction. Understanding co-occurring disorders and providing appropriate care is crucial to improving the individual’s quality of life and offering them the support and techniques they need to properly cope with their symptoms.


What Is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

Also known as a dual diagnosis or comorbidity, a co-occurring disorder refers to the simultaneous presence of two or more disorders or conditions in one person. The dual diagnosis definition usually refers to the co-occurrence of an addiction and mental health disorder.

Co-occurring disorders can interact with each other, making diagnosis, treatment, and recovery more complex for providers and the individual. For instance, substance abuse can worsen the symptoms of a mental health disorder by interfering with the chemical balance in the brain, including the brain’s ability to balance dopamine and serotonin.

Untreated mental health disorders can increase the risk of self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. Long-term use of these substances can lead to physical dependence and addiction.

Common types of co-occurring disorders include:

  • Alcohol addiction and depression
  • Schizophrenia and substance use disorder
  • Anxiety disorder and drug addiction
  • Alcoholism and antisocial personality disorder
  • Heroin abuse and depression
  • Cocaine abuse and anxiety disorder
  • Opioids and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Effective treatment usually addresses these disorders individually and considers how they contribute to each other, as well.


Common Symptoms of Co-Occurring Disorders

The symptoms of a co-occurring disorder can vary depending on the specific disorders the individual has and their severity. Some common dual diagnosis symptoms and signs include:

  • Noticeable changes in behavior or mood: Individuals with co-occurring disorders often experience changes in behavior, such as withdrawing from loved ones. They may also exhibit mood swings, irritability, or increased anxiety.
  • Increased substance abuse: Many people with co-occurring disorders may use drugs or alcohol more frequently to cope with their mental health symptoms.
  • Physical symptoms: Substance abuse can lead to a variety of physical symptoms, including bloodshot eyes, tremors, slurred speech, or changes in appetite and sleep.
  • Poor performance at work or school: Addictions and mental illnesses can interfere with a person’s ability to perform well at school or work, contributing to poor grades, poor job performance, and more.
  • Difficulty sustaining relationships: Co-occurring disorders can make it challenging to maintain healthy relationships, often leading to conflict, mistrust, and more.
  • Suicidal thoughts, ideation, or behavior: In severe cases, people with co-occurring disorders may experience suicidal thoughts or engage in self-harming behavior due to their symptoms.

It’s also important to note that co-occurring disorder symptoms can be complex and may vary from person to person. Our Boca Raton mental health center offers residential mental health treatment to support any individual with a dual diagnosis or individual disorder in their recovery.


Finding Dual Diagnosis Treatment Near Me

Our Banyan Boca mental health program is a unique program designed to offer medical care and treatment for mental illness at the residential level of care. This program serves as a transition from hospitalization or as a direct admission for continued stabilization in a less restrictive setting.

Both mental health and substance use disorders can be treated with therapy techniques, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Properly treating these disorders will allow people to lead happier and healthier lifestyles.


For more information about our dual diagnosis treatment and how we can support you or a loved one in recovery, call Banyan Treatment Centers at 888-280-4763 or send us your contact information, and we’ll reach out to you.

Related Reading:

Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders

5 Things You Should Know About Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
What are Co-occurring Disorders?
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