Co-occurring disorders

Also known as dual diagnosis, refers to the presence of a mental health issue (or issues) as well as drug or alcohol abuse, with depression, anxiety, and personality disorders the most common. In addition, personal and emotional situations can contribute to psychological problems, as can physical problems, as depression rates are high for those with heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. These, too, must be identified for recovery to be successful.

Which condition(s) existed first is not an important factor

But in most cases, mental illness exists prior to substance abuse. However, each one exacerbates the other – substance abuse may begin as a way to cope with an undiagnosed mental illness or mental illness may be a consequence of substance abuse. Regardless, identification of both (or all, as there may be several present) disorders must take place in order for any treatment to be effective.

Co-occurring disorders are more prevalent than initially thought, with close to thirty percent of all those diagnosed with mental illness having abused drugs or alcohol. The numbers are even higher for those currently abusing drugs or alcohol as being victims of men


Diagnosis of Co-occurring Disorders

For substance abuse treatment to be effective, all existing conditions must be diagnosed and addressed. This can be problematic since often substance abusers often neglect seeing a mental health professional. Before any treatment program can be developed and therapy begun, a complete psychological examination must be conducted.

  • A reputable mental health professional at a rehabilitation center will be able to identify and recommend
  • Bipolar Disorder Treatment
  • Anxiety Disorder Treatment
  • ADHD Treatment
  • Inpatient Depression Treatment
  • Personality Disorder Treatment
  • Trauma & PTSD Treatment
  • Inpatient EMDR Treatment

among other problems. While there is not a particular substance that is abused more than another with a certain disorder, if the underlying cause is not treated, the abuse will continue.


Once co-occurring disorders treatment begins, detoxification is the first step. After discharge from a detoxification facility, admission into a residential treatment program is necessary. Because there are many types of mental illnesses, and alcohol and substance abuse can take many forms, there is no single procedure for treatment. An effective program must treat all conditions simultaneously and must be created specifically for a patient.

  • Treatment programs may involve one or more of the following processes:
  • Residential Medication Management
  • Inpatient CBT Treatment
  • Psychological Testing and Evaluation
  • Psychiatry, Psychoanalytic Therapy
  • Existential Therapy
  • Gestalt therapy
  • Humanistic psychology
  • Residential Neurofeedback Therapy

After the residential program is completed

The patient must participate in any of a number of support programs, which may be continuations or extensions of the residential therapy. These programs may also include peer support groups, outpatient treatment, private counseling, family counseling, or all of them.

Diagnosis of co-occurring disorders has played a significant role in the increased success of substance abuse treatment programs. By identifying the underlying and co-existing problems, health professionals are better able to treat individuals and reduce the rate relapse.