Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders | Wellness Retreat

The Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders

Thousands of people find themselves in need of addiction treatment. Many of them have underlying issues that would put them in the category of having a co-occurring disorder.  Learn more about these mental health disorders and how they contribute to a dual diagnosis.
Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders -

The Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders

Thousands of people find themselves in need of addiction treatment. Many of them have underlying issues that would put them in the category of having a co-occurring disorder.  Learn more about these mental health disorders and how they contribute to a dual diagnosis.

Table of Contents

What is Dual Diagnosis?

When you enter treatment and receive a dual diagnosis, it means that you have a mental health problem in combination with your substance abuse issue. Co-occurring disorders occur more often than you’d imagine.  It’s essential to treat them both at the same time if you hope to be successful in your recovery journey.


When you fail to maintain or manage your mental health problem and turn to substance abuse, it can worsen the effects. Remember that while these issues can exist simultaneously, it doesn’t mean that one of them led to the beginning of the other.


For many medical professionals deciphering which disorder happened first can be challenging. The important thing is to ensure both are treated.  Here are some theories that can be potential causes for co-occurring disorders happening to a person.

The Desire for Self-Medication

In 2020, 52.9 million people suffered from mental health issues. Part of managing a mental health problem is adhering to various treatments.


These treatments include but aren’t limited to:

A common complaint that people who suffer from mental health issues have is that their medications make them feel numb or like a zombie. Because the medication makes them feel this way, they choose to stop taking it.  From there they turn to other methods of managing their mental health disorder.


Taking this route means self-medicating. People begin turning to substances or alcohol to help them feel better. This is dangerous, and the risk of becoming addicted is heightened.


This is mainly because your brain chemistry is already changed because of your mental health problems.

Substance Abuse Exacerbates Mental Health Issues

While we can’t state concretely that substance abuse causes the development of a mental health problem, it can change your brain’s chemical makeup. For example, prolonged usage of substances like methamphetamine can lead to psychosis.


Drug-induced psychosis can make it challenging for you to differentiate between reality and fantasy. It makes your chain of thoughts become fuzzy, and you might begin to think people are trying to harm you when they are not.


Signs of psychosis include:

Your brain begins to heal after you stop consuming drugs, but the healing process can be long.

Healing from drug-induced psychosis can last from months to years, and it doesn’t mean your brain will return to normal 100%.

Past Experiences or Genetics

Another possibility that could be why mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders happen simultaneously is the presence of past trauma or stress in your life. When someone experiences forms of trauma in their life, they either decide to address it head-on and heal from it or run from it.


When they decide to run from it, they might begin to self-medicate as a way of not having to deal with their emotions. The thing about self-medicating is it doesn’t help or remedy the situation you’re facing.


Another theory about why mental health issues and substance abuse takes place is because of genetics. Some studies have been done that show if a person’s family has a history of substance abuse, it increases the chances that someone may have addiction in their lives.

Signs of a Co-Occurring Disorder

Have you ever wondered if you were suffering from a co-occurring disorder and needed a diagnosis to begin your treatment? If so, there might be some signs or symptoms you might have noticed that allude to there being more than one issue you need to treat.


The first sign is problems sleeping at night. Depending on the substance you’re ingesting, it can cause you to remain awake for days on end without being able to sleep. When you’re not consuming substances, you might experience a crash and sleep longer than the average person.


It’s not uncommon for people to experience drug-induced insomnia, which can present various sleeping problems. Here are some details on other signs and symptoms you might deal with if you have co-occurring disorders.

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Feeling Down

Substance abuse triggers the chemical in your brain that controls your pleasure sensors known as dopamine. When you’re abusing substances, your brain will remain in this heightened state of euphoria.


Over time your body will build a dependence on the substances you’re ingesting, which means you’ll need more to continue achieving that pleasure feeling. When you’re abusing that substance, your brain returns to a state that causes you to feel down or anxious.


This is because the typical or normal things that trigger pleasure in your brain will no longer be achieved without the presence of drugs in your system.

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Social Isolation

For some people, substance abuse begins in social situations when their friends persuade them to try things at least once. As substance abuse begins to take control of their lives, they begin to withdraw from social occasions to spend more time abusing substances on their own.


If you find yourself becoming more socially isolated from hobbies or people that you would traditionally hang out with, it’s a sign you’re dealing with substance abuse.


If you’re still withdrawn when you’re not using because of things like depression and anxiety, it’s a sign you’re dealing with mental health problems too.

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Increase in Mood Swings

Co-occurring disorders can lead to an increase in mood swings, especially when your body no longer has your substance of choice. Think of it this way when you don’t feel good, do you want people to bother you?


The unanimous answer would be no; the same thing applies when someone’s body is free of all substances. You begin to feel various symptoms like nausea and cold sweats that will only subside when you consume more of that substance.


When you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms, you could begin to have mood swings. At one moment, you don’t feel well, and then at another moment, you find yourself consumed with anger or overwhelming sadness.

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Visual and Audio Hallucinations

Your brain chemistry is altered due to your mental illness and substance abuse. These changes can lead to prolonged side effects long after you decide to stop abusing substances and alcohol.


Some people have reported still struggling with hallucinations years later. This is a result of your brain still trying to heal from the damage done to it during your addiction.


These hallucinations can worsen if you’re dealing with mental health problems like bipolar depression or schizophrenia disorder.

Dangers of Untreated Co-Occurring Disorders

Even during times when people have a confirmed co-occurring disorder diagnosis, it doesn’t mean they will decide to seek treatment. The problem is when you don’t seek treatment, it can lead to a plethora of issues and consequences.


Here are some of the consequences you might face if you choose not to seek treatment to help you manage your mental health while working on your recovery journey.

Damaged or Broken Relationships

During your time in active addiction, you might have done or said things that damaged the relationships you’ve built with family members and friends. This damage has occurred because when you’re addicted to a substance, the only thing you care about is the next time you can use it.


Continuing to use it will cause more damage to occur to the relationships in your life that you once deemed to be the most important. Mental health disorders can also cause damage to your relationships because people don’t want to deal with someone that is a loose cannon or is unpredictable.


People that are in contact with those that have co-occurring disorders might find them to be unreliable. When people aren’t able to rely on you, they won’t want to be around you.  From there, they may decide to cut ties with you and move on.

Financial Issues

In 2019, 1.5 million drug-related crimes took place that led to financial issues for those convicted of the crimes. Substance abuse leads you to make decisions that aren’t always the best.


For example, driving while under the influence can lead to an accident taking place, resulting in your arrest. When you appear in court, one of the consequences of these legal problems is paying a hefty fine and spending time behind bars in severe cases.


Until you’ve entered sobriety and begun to learn how to manage your co-occurring disorder, you’ll continue to struggle with legal issues and financial responsibility. Many times, people struggle with co-occurring disorders with doing things such as going to work or paying bills.  Instead of working to earn money needed to support themselves and their families, they spend it on drugs and alcohol.

Professional Issues

Some employers are empathetic to the fact that you’re dealing with personal matters and may give you time to work things out. However, when you don’t uphold your end of the agreement in terms of showing up for work, it can lead to you being laid off.


The average employer spends $4,125 onboarding employees and training them. When you don’t show up for work and do your job, the investment in bringing you onboard is wasted.


Therefore, to reduce the amount of money the company spends on paying you and training you, they let you go and find someone to fill your spot. Being let go from a job can lead to you making decisions that can land you in legal issues.

Health Issues

What happens when you don’t take care of your body? When you’re dealing with co-occurring disorders, it can cause you to neglect your health and not do things like:


Neglecting your health can lead to severe consequences such as issues with your teeth that lead to infection in your jaw, high cholesterol, and other problems. Many times until you’ve entered treatment, you won’t comprehend the full extent of your health problems.


Some of them might be irreversible, such as the damage done to your brain. 

Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders

After all the information we’ve given you it’s time to dive into the most common dual diagnosis disorders that many people deal with. Our list will provide you with in-depth information about each disorder.


Our descriptions will also dive into the symptoms and signs that come with dealing with these disorders.

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General Anxiety Disorder

There are several reasons a person might experience anxiety disorders. For example, when you have to enter a public speaking situation it can lead to such anxiety that leads to you becoming physically ill.


For some people, intense anxiety can be debilitating and force a person to become reclusive, but this doesn’t mean it’s the same when they’re consuming substances. When a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol they may become a different person.

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Bipolar Disorder

Many people that live with bipolar disorder experience intense moods swings that happen without notice. People that have been diagnosed with the disorder are prescribed medication to help manage the disorder.


Bipolar disorder is a result of an imbalance that happens chemically within a person’s brain. When a person is experiencing a manic episode it’s uncontrollable and can become violent depending on the severity of their symptoms.

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Eating Disorders

28.8 million people will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lifetime. There are several instances when a person finds themselves dealing with alcohol and substance abuse when suffering from an eating disorder.


For example, the consumption of things like pills or other stimulants can help increase a person’s confidence or energy to do things like exercise more. The consumption of alcohol can be used to suppress the urge to eat.


For someone dealing with an eating disorder not getting hungry is ideal and in their mind will help promote more weight loss. An eating disorder can happen to anyone at any point in their life.

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Depression is a common disorder that many people struggle with. In some cases the symptoms of the disorder are more severe than in others, but that doesn’t reduce the assumption that you need to seek help for the disorder.


People that struggle with depression might appear to be happy, but there are other feelings brewing beneath the surface that requires ongoing therapy and medication. Again as mentioned earlier some people begin to self-medicate because they don’t like the way the medication their prescribed makes them feel.


While they’re able to function the medication makes them feel as if they’re just existing instead of actually living their lives. Self-medicating allows them to not feel numb and they might become more sociable.

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Personality Disorders

There are more than 10 different types of personality disorders that someone might suffer from. These disorders include:

It’s important to understand depending on the type of personality disorder you have it will affect you differently than other people. When you’re under the influence of drugs and alcohol it impairs your ability to make the right decisions.


This means that the thoughts that would keep you from making reckless decisions are impaired, which can lead to severe consequences for you. 

Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

After you’ve determined that you have a co-occurring disorder, the next step in getting your life back on track is to begin seeking treatment from a licensed facility. The facility where you seek treatment should be trained and certified to treat people with mental health problems and substance abuse issues.


Here are some of the treatment options your care plan coordinator will discuss with you before you begin your treatment. Remember that when you enter treatment, you’ve got to be ready and open to what you’re going to be taught because your recovery journey will not be easy.

Integrated Treatment

Integrated treatment is a form of therapy that combines substance abuse and mental health treatment. If you’ve got a co-occurring disorder, you need to treat both at the same time if you want to be successful in your recovery journey.


The first step will be screening you to obtain a diagnosis during this form of treatment. The coordinator will also complete an assessment, which is when you will be asked a series of questions about your past substance abuse and mental health.


The purpose of the questioning is to ensure the treatment you receive will meet your needs. When you’re answering these questions, be as honest as possible.


This won’t be the first time you’re assessed. The assessments will continue throughout the time you’re in treatment, and your plan will combine group, family therapy, individual therapy, and psychotherapy.


After you leave treatment, it’s expected that you will be recommended to continue receiving some form of therapy to ensure you’re managing your mental health issues and doing what you need to do to stay sober.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavior therapy is a form of therapy where the person in treatment works one-on-one with a counselor to pinpoint the negative thoughts they have that lead to substance abuse. The assumption is when you’re able to notice a pattern of negative behavior, you can then learn the coping skills necessary to redirect your thoughts.


CBT also allows the person in treatment to become aware of triggers they might not have known they had. They can create a plan that will help them deal with these triggers if they can’t be avoided.


They will also learn how to avoid them by doing things like changing the people they hang out with or the spots they frequent.

Family Therapy

Family therapy is essential for families with cycles of codependency and enabling that has played a part in your addiction. It’s important to seek family therapy to work out issues that could hinder your recovery after leaving treatment.


Family therapy is also beneficial because it can teach all your family members how to set boundaries and uphold them. By maintaining boundaries, you can ensure that you’re maintaining a healthy support network around you to increase your chances of remaining sober.


Therapy is a place where everyone can express themselves in a productive way instead of things becoming detrimental. This form of therapy and others might be treatments you continue to undergo after completing your treatment program.