Co-occuring Disorders

What are co-occurring disorders?

The term co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis, describes the diagnosis of individuals who simultaneously suffer from mental illness and substance abuse problems. Alcohol and drug problems commonly co-occur with depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and/or personality disorders.

The concept of dual-diagnosis can be used broadly. In fact, many debate the suitability of this term, because it applies to a heterogeneous group of individuals with complex needs and a varied range of problems. For example, all of the following combinations could be considered co-occurring disorders:

  • Depression & alcoholism
  • Severe mental illness (psychosis, schizophrenia) & substance misuse disorder (marijuana abuse)
  • Mild mental (panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder) & drug dependency
  • Intellectual disability & mental illness

Making a dual diagnosis in substance abusers is difficult, as drug abuse often induces psychiatric symptoms. It is necessary to differentiate between substance induced and pre-existing mental illness.

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