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What Is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

what is a cooccurring disorder

Co-occurring disorders are addiction, and mental illness struggles battled concurrently. Also referred to as a dual diagnosis, co-occurring disorders treatment is often needed to get at the root of the dependency on drugs and alcohol and properly address the mental health issues. If you or someone you care about is suffering on multiple levels, reach out to the compassionate medical professionals at A Better State online or call 781.412.1488 today to discuss how our co-occurring disorders treatment can help overcome, recover and live a happier, healthier life.

What Is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that almost half of people with a serious mental illness have reported engaging in drug or alcohol abuse. This is because living with mental illness can push people to attempt to mask their suffering with drugs and/or alcohol, which can put them at a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder. To get clean, sober, and start on a path toward a complete recovery, both addiction and mental illness issues must be addressed.

What Are The Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders?

From grief to guilt and anger to low self-esteem, there are countless emotions and situations with the potential to lead to addiction and mental illness issues. When it comes to co-occurring disorders treatment, the common diagnosed mental health issues that go hand-in-hand with addiction are:

Anxiety Disorder

An anxiety disorder is a diagnosis often assigned to people who experience frequent and recurring anxiety, panic attacks, sleep issues, and restlessness. Attempting to live with this level of intense anxiety has the potential to push a person to try drugs, alcohol, and prescription medication as a way of coping with the pain and negative thoughts and as means of functioning socially and appearing ‘normal’ to friends and family.

Eating Disorder

Anorexia and bulimia are common co-occurring disorders found in people who require addiction treatment. If you have an unhealthy relationship with food, body dysmorphic issues, and develop an eating disorder, you may turn to stimulants or diet pills, along with alcohol, as a way of suppressing your appetite and increasing your confidence in social situations.


It is usually kids and young people diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Identified by impulsive behavior, a lack of focus, and hyperactivity, ADHD is often seen in those searching for answers to what is a co-occurring disorder. Unfortunately, a co-occurring disorder emerges when young people abuse their prescription medications and then turn to alcohol or other drugs to function socially.

Bipolar disorder

Individuals with bipolar disorder are particularly susceptible to alcohol and drug addiction because the chemical imbalance in the brain causing uncontrollable episodes of depression often leads to trying to self-medicate with substances to minimize the mania that comes from Bipolar. Unfortunately, this usually increases manic episodes and leads to severe addiction requiring co-occurring disorders treatment to help you regain control over your life.


You may have experienced an event or series of events, like fighting in a war, suffering trauma, or being the victim of a violent crime. These events may have caused you to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This extreme stress can be life-threatening and lead people to self-medicate with drugs. Even if the substances mask the issues temporarily, an addiction can form, leading to a greater emotional imbalance. Treating addiction and mental illness simultaneously as co-occurring disorders is one way to restore balance in your mental health and physical well-being.

How Are Co-Occurring Disorders Treated?

While your co-occurring disorders treatment plan will be tailored to your specific situation and individual needs, there are common methods of treating addiction and mental illness concurrently. As our skilled medical team works to provide you with a safe and sustainable plan to eliminate your alcohol or drug abuse while also treating the underlying causes of the addiction, the following approaches may be used:

  • Detox
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Intensive outpatient program
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Group therapy
  • Holistic treatments
  • Life skills training
  • Aftercare

Learn More at A Better State

If you or someone you love is suffering from mental health and addiction, learn how treating co-occurring disorders at A Better State can start rebuilding a life. Contact us using our secure online form or call us confidentially at 781.412.1488 today.