A co-occurring disorder is a term that refers to the co-existence of two or more disorders. In other words, it is when one mental illness triggers another mental illness. Unfortunately, the research regarding treatment for co-occurring disorders is limited, but it’s likely that treatment options could include medication and/or counseling. The term “co-occurring” indicates that some other condition exists in addition to the disorder under discussion. Research is currently being conducted on which treatments are best for co-occurring disorders. 

While diagnosis and treatment for a single disorder may be challenging, co-occurring conditions can make the situation even more complicated. People who struggle with more than one psychiatric illness are at higher risk for suicide, untreated depression, and substance abuse disorders, among other health complications.

Diagnostic codes can be tricky, but the terms co-occurring disorders (such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) are even more challenging to navigate. To help you understand what co-occurring disorders are and how they’re treated, we give you a breakdown of five different types of treatment. Read all about the 5 types of treatment for co-occurring disorders.

Symptoms & Signs of Co-Occurring Disorders

Given that there can be a large amount of overlap in the symptoms of each condition, it can be challenging to distinguish between addiction and mental illness. A mental health diagnosis should preferably be established while a person is abstinent and has no drugs in their system to prevent confusion. 

While the symptoms of each mental health problem vary, there are some overarching indicators that suggest a mental illness may be present.

These consist of:

  • alterations to food and sleeping patterns.
  • giving up once-important interests or activities.
  • experiencing incredibly high or low emotional peaks.
  • feeling fear frequently and without reason.
  • being unable to concentrate or think clearly
  • being unable to recognize these changes in one’s personality or behavior.
  • a worsening of irritation.
  • either a rise or fall in libido.
  • apart from family and friends.
  • disregard for personal hygiene.
  • loss of reality, such as delusions, paranoia, or hallucinations.
  • engaging in dangerous activities like substance abuse or promiscuity.
  • bodily symptoms without a known reason
  • Suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts

A SUD and a co-occurring condition can worsen or add to issues caused by either one or both disorders. People with co-occurring disorders are more likely to have trouble retaining a job or a place to live, interpersonal challenges, health problems, and an increased risk of arrest and suicide, significantly as the severity of the co-occurring illnesses rises. In addition, each disorder has the potential to exacerbate the others, making recovery more difficult.

Assessment of Co-Occurring Mental Disorders 

Most addiction treatment centers offer a dual diagnosis treatment program but first, they assess your overall condition. Here is how a healthcare provider will assess you for any co-occurring disorders: 

  • the creation of clinical SUDs and mental disease diagnosis. This contains a thorough listing of how each will affect the person’s life, relationships, career, extracurricular activities, and health.
  • a driving force for change. If the patient is dedicated to quitting or cutting back on their substance use while receiving treatment, the psychosocial interventions will be more successful in improving the patient’s mental health.
  • tests to determine the extent of the harm and to validate the existence of chemicals

  • CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy)

CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) is a set of treatments and strategies to treat disorders, including anxiety and depression. It is believed that CBT identifies the concepts behind the condition, then helps those with the mental illness identify negative thought patterns, irrational beliefs, and behavior patterns that contribute to their problem behaviors.

  • MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment)

MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment) are medications used to help treat opioid use disorders. The medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders uses certain prescription drugs like naltrexone, buprenorphine, and Suboxone to help reduce cravings for opioids and ease withdrawal symptoms. MAT is often combined with behavioral therapies, such as counseling or 12-step programs, to relieve both psychological and physical dependence on opioids and prevent relapse. MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment) is a growing trend among treatment centers and can be very effective in combating addiction as well as helping patients cope with the loss of a loved one.

  • Ambulatory Detoxification

Ambulatory Detoxification (Ambulatory DTx) is a new concept in treating opioid addiction. It combines the advantages of detox and rehabilitation therapies with medical management, individualized treatment plans, and a multidisciplinary approach. It is an effective rehabilitation facility treatment that allows patients to undergo outpatient alcohol and drug rehabilitation on an outpatient basis instead of in an inpatient setting. There are more and more centers that are developing outpatient drug and alcohol rehab centers to help with this problem.


  • Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

Dual Diagnosis Treatment is an approach that is based on the knowledge that both mental illness and substance abuse problems have a common underlying cause.

If a patient has both depression and a co-occurring disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, alcohol dependence or drug use, and mental health issues, the patient can benefit from dual diagnosis treatment. Dual-diagnosis treatment involves using several different types of treatments to address patients’ psychological conditions.

  • Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is a type of substance abuse care where the individual can attend 12-step meetings and live in an environment similar to a dormitory. Instead of receiving inpatient treatment for substance abuse at a hospital or residential home, the individual attends meetings and receives help obtaining their 12 steps and other forms of therapy at his/her discretion. As outpatient treatment for substance abuse does not require immediate emergency room visits, it can be more cost-effective and convenient for individuals who need help. Still, it cannot afford admission to a hospital or residential program.

It is a safe way to gain insight into addiction before deciding to go to a rehabilitation center. Outpatient programs can offer you and your loved ones the chance to receive the treatment you need without leaving home, saving you time and money in the process. Getting into an Outpatient rehab program is better than an Inpatient rehab program. Outpatient programs are better liked by people—especially those who work.

Which Mental Illness Exists Along with Substance Abuse Disorder?

Studies on co-occurring disorders’ frequencies have been conducted for many years. They have discovered that some mental health conditions are more frequently associated with substance use problems than others. In addition to others, the mental health problems that are most likely to coexist with SUDs are as follows:

  1. Anxiety Disorder: 

An anxiety disorder of some kind also co-occurs in roughly 18% of the overall population. Marijuana use issues are strongly associated with social anxiety disorders. An increased chance of co-occurring disorders is linked to panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. 

  1. Mood Disorders: 

A SUD affects 20% of people in the general population who also have bipolar disorder or depression or at least one other mood disorder. 

  • Psychological Problems:

 Comparatively, patients receiving addiction treatment have a prevalence rate of about 35-73% compared to the normal population’s approximate 10-15% personality problem prevalence rate. The personality disorders antisocial, borderline, avoidant, and paranoid are most frequently seen in people with SUD.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):  

One national survey found that those with PTSD were up to four times more likely to additionally fit the criteria for a substance use problem than people without PTSD.

  • Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD)

ADHD is linked to a younger age at which substance use starts and a greater propensity for using a range of substances. According to Brook et al.20, having an ADHD diagnosis increases the chance of acquiring SUD in adulthood; satisfying the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis in adolescence is linked to developing SUDs in a subject’s 20s and 30s. The frequency of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive symptoms is positively connected with the risk of substance use in people with ADHD.

Does Insurance Cover Treatment For Co-occurring Disorders?

This may be one of the most asked questions. YES! Most private and state-funded Insurance programs do cover dual diagnosis treatment. There is no doubt that addiction treatment is expensive, but with the help of Insurance, You may be able to get it easily. Simply call your Insurance provider and verify your Insurance. 

Concluding 5 Types of Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders 

Treatment of co-occurring disorders is crucial for the recovery of individuals suffering from both disorders. It serves as the cornerstone in breaking the circle between these disorders and allowing individuals to work on building a life free from both. Treatment for one disorder can diminish the symptoms of the other disorder, making it easier for them to focus on recovery.

Although it is not risk-free, mental health treatment combined with a comprehensive recovery plan can help those with substance use disorders and mental health conditions achieve wellness across several areas of their lives. Mental health professionals have specialized training and expertise that can be used to treat co-occurring disorders, but this treatment also requires individuals to take responsibility for their own recovery. Do not delay treatment, contact a co-occurring disorder treatment center today! 

Categories: Health

Nicolas Desjardins

Hello everyone, I am the main writer for SIND Canada. I've been writing articles for more than 12 years and I like sharing my knowledge. I'm currently writing for many websites and newspapers. I always keep myself very informed to give you the best information. All my years as a computer scientist made me become an incredible researcher. You can contact me on our forum or by email at [email protected].