What Are Co-Occurring Disorders?

By Safe Call Now Admin

For many people, mental health disorders and addiction are two very separate problems. However, we know today that substance use disorders and mental illness are often synonymous with one another.

The two disorders can have similar underlying causes, and having one increases the chances of developing the other. For some, their mental illness gets so bad that they turn to drugs and alcohol to help them cope with the symptoms. For others, the severity of their addiction and the side effects of long-term alcohol and drug abuse can trigger or exacerbate a mental illnesses.

The simultaneous presence of both of these disorders is what is known as a co-occurring or dual diagnosis. Co-occurring disorders have become a common occurrence in the United States, effecting nearly 10 million Americans each year.

“Up to 65.5% of those with a substance dependence disorder had at least one mental disorder and 51% of those with a mental disorder had at least one substance dependence disorder.”

The Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Common Mental Health Disorders Treated Along with Addiction

Mental health disorders can involve changes in thinking, behavior and mood, and they commonly cause a negative impact on the way eople live their everyday lives. According to studies, one out of five U.S. adults (over 40 million) suffer from a mental health condition, and nearly 60% of them did not receive treatment for their illness.

Here are some of the most common mental health disorders associated with substance addiction:


Anxiety disorders are the most common types of mental illnesses we see. Nearly 20% of U.S. adults struggle with anxiety, with approximately 23% of these people being diagnosed with a severe case. Symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Nervousness
  • Excessive worrying
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Racing heart
  • Chest pains
  • Panic attacks
  • Irrational fears
  • Feeling weak and nauseous
  • Difficulty sleeping


Depressive disorders are the second most common type of mental disorders. Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Persistent sadness and anxiety
  • Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Increased irritability
  • Energy loss
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Severe fluctuations in weight

Complex Trauma

Common causes of trauma include sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse and profound neglect. Typically, the traumatic occurrences happen during childhood, and the effects of the incidents persist with the individual through adulthood. Symptoms of complex trauma may include:

  • Feelings of anger, sadness and hopelessness
  • Severe anxiety
  • Fear or depression
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty sleeping and nightmares
  • Inability to form close relationships
  • Dissociation

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD typically develops after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, such as military combat, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, sexual assault or car accidents. Symptoms of PTSD may include:

  • Frequent flashbacks of the traumatic event
  • Difficulty sleeping and nightmares
  • Negative and angry emotions
  • Intense distress
  • Distorted beliefs

“Co-occurring disorders effect nearly 10 million Americans each year”

If you, a loved one or someone you know needs help, call:

Safe Call Now:  24 Hour Confidential Hotline:  206-459-3020

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Or call Shannon Clairemont at 661-466-6352 or Vanessa Stapleton at 304-651-3008