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.