What is a Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment Program?

Co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis, is having two conditions at the same time that may affect or exacerbate the other.

What Is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

Co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis, are conditions where you struggle simultaneously with a mental health disorder and addiction, or another combination of disorders at the same time. You may find that you are suffering from any combination of more than two SUD, personality disorders, and mental disorders. According to reports by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), there are over nine million adult Americans that have a co-occurring disorder as of 2018. 1
Co-occurring Disorders Treatment

Who Is At Risk of Developing Co-Occurring Disorders?

Suffering from a mental illness puts you at a higher risk of having co-occurring disorders, unlike people who do not have a mental illness. The medications used in medication-assisted therapy (MAT) can have adverse effects when combined with anxiety medications, meaning that those who take these medications need to be careful of developing co-occurring disorders as well.

How Common Are Co-Occurring Disorders?

Co-occurring disorders are pretty common. According to a report by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 50% of all people with substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental health condition such as depression.

Signs and Symptoms of a Co-Occurring Disorder

Co-occurring disorder signs and symptoms are those associated with substance abuse disorders and mental disorders. For example, if you have depression and an alcohol use disorder, the symptoms you will exhibit are those associated with depression and alcohol, which will be different from those you may experience if you suffer from anxiety and a drug addiction.

Below are a few signs and symptoms common to most co-occurring disorders:

  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Social isolation
  • Using substances under dangerous conditions
  • <span”>Risky behavior
  • <li ” aria-level=”1″>Loss of control over how much they use substances or drink alcohol
  • Needing more and more of the substance to achieve the desired effect (tolerance)
  • Displaying intense, painful withdrawal symptoms
  • Cravings for the substance and the belief that they need the substance to function

Causes of Co-Occurring Disorders

The factors that may cause you co-occurring disorders may include genetics, your environment, and developmental factors. The factors that cause co-occurring disorders differ from one person to another.

Genetic Factors

Some people have a higher risk of developing co-occurring disorders because of their genetics. Co-occurring disorders caused by genetics form abnormalities or alterations in an individual’s genome. Certain genes are associated with the increased risks of co-occurring disorders. In contrast, some genes may make you intolerant to co-occurring disorders.

These genes pass from parent to child, which is exactly why an individual with a parent struggling with co-occurring disorders has a high chance of their child developing the same.

Environmental Factors

The environment you grew up or lived in significantly influences your risk of developing co-occurring disorders. A child raised in a drug-filled or abusive environment learns to mimic the same from a tender age. Additionally, having family members who turn to drugs to ease their mental health issues can influence how you see drugs, meaning you may turn to the same coping mechanisms.

Developmental Factors

Children born to parents addicted to drugs may struggle with co-occurring disorders because of severe chemical abnormalities from prenatal development caused by substance abuse.

Common Co-Occurring Disorders

Some common co-occurring disorders you will find in all age groups, especially those accessing MAT for mental disorders at co-occurring disorder treatment centers. These common disorders include:2

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Personality disorders and mood disorders
  • <span”>Schizophrenia
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

How to Treat Co-Occurring Disorders?

It is best to treat all conditions if you have been diagnosed with co-occurring disorders. The treatment only becomes effective when you cease using substances and alcohol. You may also need psychotherapy and support groups to cope. 3


SAMHSA’s “no wrong door” policy states that if you seek treatment for SUD, you must be screened for mental illness and receive treatment as required as well. Subsequently, if you seek treatment for a mental disorder, you must also be screened for an SUD and then treated for both.

Treatment Programs

SAMHSA recommends three types of treatment models for co-occurring disorders, which are coordinated, co-located, and fully integrated. Your health caregiver may use integrated care, which assures you a full recovery.

Treatment Plan

The treatment plan involves a comprehensive model referred to as integrated combined therapies (ICT). This approach gives you access to interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, twelve-step facilitation, and support groups as recommended in the co-occurring disorders treatment manual. You will also receive pharmacotherapy or MAT to ease your recovery journey. 4

What Is Integrated Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders?

Integrated treatment is a coordinated approach to medical care. It combines treatment and interventions for substance abuse and mental health instead of separately treating the two disorders.

Placing yourself or a loved one under an integrated care system is beneficial because: 5

  • It helps individuals understand what substances do to their lives, from psychological effects to substance abuse and mental health issues.
  • It allows you to learn how substance abuse impacts your mental health and other medications and explore your substance misuse.
  • It offers the right counseling to help in a family, group, or individual setting.
  • It provides more holistic support, including potential employment assistance after recovery.
  • It assists you in identifying your individual recovery goals and how to recover from each occurring disorder.
personality disorder

What Does an Integrated Treatment Plan Look Like?

Patients suffering from co-occurring disorders have different qualities. Everyone requires a unique combination of mental and medical support.

Integrated treatment may involve combining some of the following evidence-based therapies for the co-occurring conditions:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy
  • Contingency management
  • Motivational enhancement
  • Mutual support groups
  • Detox or withdrawal management
  • Inpatient care or residential treatment
  • Outpatient care

Get Help at Essence Healthcare for Co-Occurring Disorders

Always keep a positive mind. However hard it may seem, a comprehensive co-occurring disorder treatment program is the way to a complete recovery. It is best to adhere to the treatment plan and follow all the recommended treatment approaches for a safer and faster recovery.

Contact Essence Healthcare today if you or a loved one need help recovering from co-occurring disorders.

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.