female patient with co-occurring disorders talking to female doctor

What Do Co-occurring Disorders Mean?

According to the DSM5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health 5th edition), Co-occurring disorders are two or more of the following: mental health disorders, and substance use disorders. According to SAMHSA’s 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 9.2 million adults in the United States have a co-occurring disorder.

Common Co-occurring Disorders with Addiction

There are 8 common co-occurring disorders with addiction that are seen paired with a substance or alcohol use disorder. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is a common disorder that can occur after someone experiences a traumatic event. Individuals with PTSD experience symptoms like night terrors, and flashbacks, which can be life-threatening. Sometimes people with PTSD choose to self-medicate their symptoms substances, which can lead to an addiction. 

Eating Disorders

Anorexia and bulimia are examples of eating disorders that are commonly seen in individuals who enter addiction treatment. Sometimes people might use drugs, such as diet pills or stimulants. Some people may use alcohol to suppress their appetite.

Body dysmorphic disorder is when an individual is too critical of their own appearance and obsesses over imagined flaws in their own body. This is an often seen co-occurring disorder, as well. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is diagnosed in people who have symptoms of recurring, frequent panic or anxiety attacks. Symptoms like sleep disturbances, restlessness, and functional impairment are also common.

It is often seen that people choose to use drugs or alcohol to try and take some of their symptoms away. Some may abuse prescription anxiety medications such as Xanax. Others tend to rely on alcohol or drugs to help with social situations.

Major Depressive Disorder

Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health issues in the United States. Feelings of excessive sadness, dread, or even suicidal thoughts are some of the symptoms of major depressive disorder. Feeling this way for long periods of time can cause some people to use illicit drugs or alcohol. This is in an attempt to change the way they feel. 

Bipolar Disorders

People with bipolar disorder are more susceptible to a substance or alcohol use disorder. Bipolar disorder is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The imbalance can cause the sufferer to experience uncontrollable, and often severe episodes of depression and mania. 

Many people who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder self-medicate to help with the severity of these episodes. This can easily lead to an increase in episodes and often addiction. 


Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that causes people to experience delusions, psychosis, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking. Sometimes, for people diagnosed with schizophrenia, it can be difficult to tell the difference between reality and fantasy. This could lead to the use of drugs or alcohol to numb this feeling.

Personality & Mood Disorders

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is just one example of a mood and personality disorder that can display a variety of symptoms. A borderline personality disorder is very common. BPD can involve symptoms like severe mood swings, impulsive behavior as well as intense emotional ups and downs. Sometimes people with mood or personality disorders turn to using drugs or alcohol as a mechanism of coping.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders

While ADHD is usually diagnosed in earlier years,  it is still common for an adult to suffer from ADHD symptoms. These symptoms could include an inability to focus, impulsiveness, or even hyperactive behavior. The medications prescribed for ADHD can be very addictive and are often abused. 

Symptoms & Signs of Co-occurring Disorders

When abusing drugs and alcohol is paired with a mental illness, many symptoms and signs may be visible. Some of the common symptoms and signs are:

  • Sudden personality and attitude shifts 
  • Low hunger
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Sleeping problems
  • Excessive activity
  • Euphoria
  • Being forgetful
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Low hunger 
  • Low performing at school or work
  • Depressive episodes 
  • Fright
  • Withdrawal from family or social events

People with first-degree relatives who have a diagnosed mental health, or substance/alcohol use disorder are more likely to have co-occurring disorders. Dual-diagnosis disorders may also be caused by family relationships.

Also, being influenced by observed responses to fear, stress, or loss. Co-occurring diagnosis could have devastating effects on you or your loved ones. Getting help to treat both mental health, and substance/alcohol use disorder is paramount for long-term health.

Are There Effective Treatments for Co-occurring Disorders?

The short answer to this question is, absolutely. There are many effective treatments, depending on which disorders are co-occurring. Miracles Recovery Center bases each individual’s treatment on their specific needs. 

We offer medical detox, psychiatric evaluations, nutrition consultations, recreational therapy, group therapy, 12-step programs, as well as evaluations and management of prescription medications. All of these modalities are proven to be effective in treatment programs of dually diagnosed patients. 

Benefits of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual Diagnosis Treatment (also called co-occurring disorder treatment) was not available until the late 1990s. Before then, it was the belief that mental health illnesses and substance abuse, which can lead to dual diagnosis, could be treated in separate ways. 

Now, someone suffering from co-occurring disorders gets the benefits of an individualized treatment plan that includes just as much mental health treatment as it does addiction treatments. By working on both illnesses at the same time, it becomes easier to manage each one.

What are the First Steps in Getting Help?

The first step in getting help is always to admit there is a problem. Without admittance, there is no real change. After someone can admit they need help, calling Miracles Recovery Center would be an excellent start. 

Addiction treatment with co-occurring disorders can be tricky. Our admissions team in Port Saint Lucie, Florida is highly trained and available 24 hours a day. We can help verify your insurance, and answer any questions you may have.