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Co-Occurring Disorders: Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders

A co-occurring disorder is when someone has at least one diagnosed mental health disorder (such as anxiety or depression) and at least one diagnosed substance use disorder at the same time. This page will help you better understand what co-occurring disorders are and how to find treatment that addresses both conditions, which may lead to more positive treatment outcomes.
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What Are Co-Occurring Disorders?

When a person has a mental health disorder (such as PTSD, anxiety, or depression) and a substance use disorder, it’s known as a comorbidity or co-occurring disorders.1,2,3

If you or a loved one are struggling with co-occurring disorders, you may already understand the challenges associated with both conditions.

To be diagnosed with co-occurring disorders, an individual needs to be evaluated and diagnosed with each disorder independently to ensure they aren’t experiencing effects and symptoms from just one disorder.3

Types of Co-Occurring Disorders

Any mental health disorder can occur with a SUD, but the most commonly occurring disorders include:3,6

Risk Factors for Co-Occurring Disorders

Risk factors are various biological, psychological, familial, or other social characteristics that, when present, may increase the likelihood of a person developing SUDs or mental health disorders.8 Many mental health disorders and SUDs have common risk factors, which include:9

  • Genetics. Around 40 to 60% of the development of a SUD may be related to genetics. SUDs and mental illness are heritable, meaning a person is at increased risk should a parent or family member have one condition or co-occurring disorders.
  • Life experiences. Childhood trauma, extraordinary stress, and drug use at an early age can lead to increased risk for SUDs and mental health disorders.
  • Neurochemicals. Neurochemicals such as dopamine and GABA, as well as the parts of the brain involved in reward, decision-making, and emotions, play a role in SUDs and mental health disorders.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Treating both disorders concurrently in an integrated treatment approach is the standard of care for treating co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health disorders.10 In several studies, the integrated treatment approach consistently resulted in better outcomes than treating each disorder separately.11

Many of the approaches used in the treatment of co-occurring disorders involve some form of behavioral therapy or psychotherapy, along with strategies like education and employment skills to improve overall functioning and keep people motivated to stay in treatment.11

Find Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment Near Me

Finding integrated treatment for co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health disorders may be foundational to the rest of your recovery. Many people can benefit from a reputable treatment program that addresses both conditions at the same time and customizes care to address specific individual needs.10

American Addiction Centers (AAC) offers evidence-based treatment programs across the country that specialize in treating co-occurring conditions. If you or your loved one are struggling with co-occurring disorders, call our caring team at to learn about our facilities, how to pay with insurance, and what types of treatment may be right for you.

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