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Common Co-Occurring Disorders

Living with a mental health condition can put individuals at higher risk of drug and alcohol addiction. Studies have found that almost half of all people who have a drug or alcohol addiction also have co-occurring disorders. Here we look at the most common co-occurring disorders and why it’s important to treat them at the same time as addiction. 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder often occurs when a person struggles through a type of trauma that causes extreme stress. Some examples of PTSD include a soldier that has been to war, a person involved in a road accident, or a victim of a violent crime. Individuals who have had these experiences may suffer from night terrors or flashbacks.

These symptoms can be overwhelmingly distressing, and some individuals may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. Individuals with PTSD and an addiction will often display emotional imbalance, have trouble sleeping, and may find it difficult to be functional in everyday life.

General Anxiety Disorder

General anxiety disorder is described as anxiety or panic attacks that are frequent and recurring. These anxiety attacks can cause physical symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, inability to rest, and aches and pains. Some individuals will abuse anxiety medications that have been prescribed.

Other individuals will abuse alcohol and drugs to try and gain relief from general anxiety. They may feel that drugs or alcohol give them the courage to be confident in social situations.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is unlike many other co-occurring disorders. This disorder occurs because of a chemical imbalance in the brain, leading to severe episodes. These episodes involve bouts of uncontrollable depression and mania that can lead to behavioral issues and unpredictability in the sufferer. Many people who have bipolar disorder find themselves self-medicating to relieve the symptoms.

However, this often results in worsening the symptoms of bipolar disorder, rather than relieving them. Having bipolar disorder puts someone at greater risk of becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs. 

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders often come hand-in-hand with drug or alcohol addiction. Individuals with conditions like bulimia and anorexia will often use diet drugs or alcohol to suppress their appetite. In addition, using drugs or alcohol can help to give the illusion of body confidence.

Body dysmorphic disorder is also a condition commonly seen in addition to addiction. This condition makes individuals obsess and criticize their appearance to the point where they can barely look at themselves without finding fault after fault. Turning to drugs or alcohol can feel like a way to escape their own thoughts. Eating disorders can occur in anyone, at any age.


Schizophrenia is a very serious mental health condition with recurring symptoms. Some of the symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis. Many people with this condition will also have severely disorganized thinking patterns. They often find it difficult to distinguish between reality and fantasy and so display behavior that may seem odd to others.

Because the symptoms of schizophrenia are so severe, it’s not uncommon for sufferers to turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to escape their own minds. This can turn into addiction and worsen the symptoms of the condition.

Personality Disorders

Personality disorders can vary for many individuals, but the most common among them is borderline personality disorder (BPD). This disorder creates severe emotional imbalance, and many individuals with this disorder struggle to manage their relationships well. Someone with this disorder may display intense mood swings or impulsive behavior.

For many individuals with BPD, understanding their own behavior and choices can be very difficult. They may end up doing things they regret, potentially using drugs and alcohol to try and manage how they feel. It’s important to address this when treating an individual for drug or alcohol addiction.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

There has been more attention on ADHD in recent years in connection to drug and alcohol addiction. ADHD is often diagnosed in children or young adults, but rehabilitation centers are now seeing that more young adults are becoming addicted to prescription medication. Prescribed drugs for ADHD are a coping mechanism for the symptoms of the condition, but they are being abused more often.

What Is Dual Diagnosis?

Mental health professionals recognize that dual diagnosis is vital for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. Dual diagnosis occurs when there are co-occurring mental health disorders alongside addiction. An addiction recovery plan must include the treatment of common co-occurring disorders if recovery is going to be successful.

Every treatment plan should be individualized to the patient so the tools given for recovery are specific to the individual. There are many treatments available that address both addiction and co-occurring disorders. These include counseling, psychotherapy, psychiatry, and life skills training.


It can be difficult making your first steps out of treatment on your own. That’s why aftercare is so important. When you have common co-occurring disorders along with addiction, the thought of trying to manage life on your own again can be daunting. When you receive treatment, you can be sure you’ll still get support from the Jackson House team.

You’ll be able to access professional advice for the 60 days following the end of your treatment so you can ease back into life without worrying about doing it alone.

Get The Help You Need

Mental health issues and addiction often come together, and recognizing that your addiction could be the result of more than poor choices is a great start on the path to recovery. If you suffer from a mental health condition that has led to an alcohol or drug addiction, we can help. If you’d like to talk more about dual diagnosis and the benefits of treating dual conditions, our dedicated team will be happy to answer your questions.

Contact us today to learn more about the programs we offer and our tailored plans.

About the author

Jackson House

Jackson House

We built Jackson House because we realized there was a critical gap in our healthcare system and many individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems were struggling because of it. While there are many outpatient treatment options and locked, inpatient facilities there was nothing in the middle. Nothing to help people who needed around the clock care but wanted to receive treatment voluntarily, on their own terms. Jackson House is different. We provide clients with the level of care they need in a welcoming environment. When you walk through our doors, we will meet you wherever you’re at and help you on your journey toward feeling better.

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We are here to help and we are in-network with most insurance providers. Call us for a free and confidential consultation.

If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.