Common Co-Occurring Disorders With Substance Abuse

When you struggle with mental health and substance abuse, it is called a co-occurring disorder. Dealing with alcoholism and drug addiction is never easy, and it is even more challenging when you also experience difficulties with your mental health.

Some common co-occurring disorders with substance abuse have unique symptoms that may affect your ability to perform at school or work, and manage life’s challenges. Even worse, co-occurring disorders also affect each other. 

If you don’t treat your mental health disorder, the substance abuse can get more complicated or severe. Similarly, when drug or alcohol abuse increases, mental health issues increase too.

A large percentage of all co-occurring disorders are found in teenagers who are more prone to experience mental illness in their adolescence. Adults are also prone to co-occurring disorders as well. In a study done in 2018, a whopping 9 million adults were diagnosed with co-occurring disorders. 

Co-occurring disorders are treated simultaneously in what is known as an integrated treatment program, also called dual-diagnosis. The idea behind this treatment program is to tackle both disorders together. Integrated treatments seem to show more success than regular addiction treatment programs for co-occurring disorders. 

There are many common co-occurring disorders with substance abuse; let’s take a look at the most common ones, shall we?

Bipolar Disorder 

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness associated with extreme mood swings: from manic to depressive. Bipolar disorders commonly co-occur with substance abuse.  And due to the nature of a bipolar disorder and the similarities in genetic vulnerabilities with substance abuse, this co-occurrence can sometimes be difficult to treat. It’s important if you are struggling with the two to reach out for professional help. 


Depression is one of the most common co-occurring disorders with substance abuse. It is a common mental illness that affects the mood leaving individuals with deep sadness and loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed. Depression goes beyond experiencing feelings of sadness. 

Also, depression is a dangerous co-occurring disorder with substance abuse because of its bi-directional effects. This means that depression could induce substance abuse and vice versa. 

Personality Disorders

A personality disorder is a mental illness where the individual exhibits actions that are different from the ‘norm’. It is common for personality disorders to co-occur with substance abuse. Antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorders are more of the common personality disorders treated. 

Anxiety Disorder 

An anxiety disorder is a mental illness characterized by extreme feelings of worry, panic, and fear. Like bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders co-occur with substance abuse. Anxiety disorder often triggers substance abuse, especially alcohol abuse. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A large percentage of individuals struggling with substance abuse also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders. A study keeps this percentage at 25% to 50%. When PTSD co-occurs with substance abuse, it is difficult to treat. People struggling with PTSD also experience a decline in social functioning, little improvement, and more violence. 


Schizophrenia is a mental illness that causes a rift in an individual’s ability to perceive reality. This co-occurring disorder with substance abuse leaves people susceptible to substance abuse disorders. Men with schizophrenia are even more predisposed than women to substance abuse comorbidity. 

Scientists believe that an impairment in the dopamine mesocorticolimbic brain reward circuit triggers this common comorbidity. Schizophrenia and substance abuse comorbidity are dangerous as the latter worsens the symptoms of the former. 

How Enlight Can Help With Co-Occurring Disorders

Enlight is an addiction treatment center located in Los Angeles, California. We offer dual-diagnosis for individuals suspected to have co-occurring disorders. We also have an integrated treatment program set up for comorbid disorders. 

Do you or your loved one have a co-occurring disorder? Reach out to us today for help with your addiction! 

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