Drugs and alcohol are misused by a significant number of people with mental illnesses. Millions around the world today have a co-occurring disorder. Yet, not many are seeking treatment for both conditions. 

In this article, we will discuss the concept of a co-occurring disorder as the presence of both a mental disorder and a substance use disorder in the same person.


What is a co-occurring disorder? 


When an individual is diagnosed with more than one disorder simultaneously, it is referred to as co-occurring disorders, also called dual diagnoses or comorbidity. When a person struggles with both mental illness and substance abuse, they are said to have co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis.


Mental health conditions that co-occur with substance use disorders include: 

  • Bipolar 
  • Anxiety 
  • Personality disorders
  • Depression
  • Psychotic disorders (e.g., schizophrenia)


It can sometimes be difficult to diagnose co-occurring disorders. A substance abuse or addiction symptom can mask a mental illness symptom, and a mental illness symptom can be confused with substance abuse or addiction symptom. Many people with mental health disorders do not seek treatment for their substance abuse because they do not see it as relevant to their problems.


Nevertheless, some typical patterns do emerge among people with co-occurring disorders.


Why is substance abuse common among people with mental health?


Substance abuse is common among people with mental health disorders. An anxious person may need something that makes them feel calm; a person who is depressed may need something that makes them feel more active; a person who is fearful of others may need something that makes them feel more relaxed and less inhibited; and someone who is suffering from psychological pain may need something that makes them feel numb.


The symptoms of co-occurring disorders may persist after people with co-occurring disorders stop using alcohol or other drugs. Many treatment centres and clinicians are not prepared to deal with both conditions. Others may require abstinence from all drugs, including medications for mental health disorders. Because of this, it can be extremely difficult for people with co-occurring disorders to treat both their substance-use problems and their mental health problems at the same time.


Seek Professional Help


We at Parkland Place continue to explore the link between mental health and alcohol abuse. We can educate you about this link and show you how it may apply to you as part of our alcohol rehab treatment. Understanding such links is essential to recovery.


Finding professional advice or support can be extremely helpful if you are experiencing alcohol and mental health problems yourself or know someone who does. For further details on how our team at Parkland Place can help you contact us via our live chat or call 01492 203421.