Mental Health Disorders


What Are the Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders?

signsMood disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and personality disorders often overlap with drug or alcohol addiction. These conditions affect the way you feel, behave, interact with others and perceive the world. Drugs, alcohol and addictive behaviors like gambling or unsafe sex are often used as dysfunctional coping mechanisms to help the individual live with the painful symptoms of mental illness.

Learn About Testing and Assessment for Mental Health Disorders

If you or someone in your life is fighting addiction, you may also meet the criteria for one of the following psychiatric conditions:


Clinical depression is characterized by feelings of hopelessness, guilt, low self-worth, sadness, irritability or suicidal thoughts for two or more weeks. Individuals with depression may sleep too much or too little, eat too much or too little, and lose interest in activities they used to enjoy.

Generalized anxiety disorder+

People with generalized anxiety disorder experience feelings of intense distress and irrational fear that interfere with their daily lives. They may have difficulty working, relating to others or socializing because of their crippling fears.

Panic disorder+

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that causes episodic attacks of extreme, debilitating fear. During a panic attack, an individual may have alarming physical side effects like chest pain, tightness in the throat, a racing heartbeat, tremors and sweating; however, panic attacks are rarely life-threatening. They are usually triggered by ordinary situations like attending social events or driving.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder+

People with this anxiety disorder use compulsive, ritualistic behaviors to calm their fears or stop intrusive thoughts and images. They may try to control their environment by cleaning repeatedly, organizing their belongings or counting objects. They may also engage in rituals like hand washing or repetitive grooming. These rituals often take up so much time and energy that they interfere with daily life.

Bipolar disorder+

This severe mood disorder causes alternating episodes of depression and mania, leaving the individual in a state of severe emotional instability. People with bipolar disorder may experience depressive episodes, hypomanic episodes, manic episodes, and mixed episodes of depressive and manic symptoms. During a manic period, emotions and energy levels run high, and the individual is prone to risk-taking behaviors. During an episode of depression, the individual may feel hopeless, despondent and extremely lethargic. Each episode may last from a matter of hours to a matter of weeks, depending on the individual.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)+

PTSD begins with a real event that threatens your safety or the safety of someone you care about. Because the fear or anger associated with this traumatic incident is never resolved, the individual may experience nightmares, flashbacks, avoidant behavior and emotional instability for years afterward. Common causes of PTSD are sexual assault, childhood abuse, military combat, weather-related disasters, fires, incarceration and violence.

Eating disorders+

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and night eating syndrome are psychiatric conditions that manifest themselves in the way you consume food. People with these disorders engage in self-destructive rituals surrounding diet and exercise, such as restricting their calories severely, exercising compulsively, eating compulsively in the middle of the night, or binging and purging.

Personality disorders+

Individuals who have difficulty establishing relationships or understanding themselves may suffer from a personality disorder. These psychiatric conditions affect the way you perceive yourself and interact with other people. Common personality disorders include borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder and avoidant personality disorder.


Schizophrenia is a serious psychiatric illness that affects the individual’s perceptions of the world. People with schizophrenia often suffer from delusions (believing things that aren’t generally perceived as true) or hallucinations (experiencing phenomena that don’t really exist). Disorganized thoughts, speech and writing are also characteristic of schizophrenia. The psychotic episodes of schizophrenia can result in serious impaired social functioning and may lead not only to substance abuse but to homelessness, incarceration and social marginalization.

Mental Health and Drug Addiction

cta-qanda-clinicianCertain medical conditions have a relationship in which one aggravates the other to the detriment of the individual. This is the case with mental health and addiction to drugs or alcohol. Individuals who suffer from mental illness are likely to experience serious consequences when drug or alcohol addiction is part of the problem.

Those who suffer from mental health issues like depression or anxiety experience frightening or disturbing symptoms almost every day. Symptoms like intrusive thoughts, hopelessness, a lack of motivation or a fear of public situations can interfere with basic functions like working or socializing.

To quell these negative feelings, many turn to drugs or alcohol. This type of substance abuse only serves to worsen the existing mental condition. The more the individual uses illicit substances to manage their symptoms, the greater the chances that he or she will become addicted. Addiction itself is a severe disorder, causing compulsive, self-destructive behavior that can affect all areas of your life.

How Are They Related?

Studies have shown that approximately half of those individuals who suffer from mental illness are also substance abusers who may have developed an addiction to drugs or alcohol. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, up to 53 percent of those who abuse drugs and 37 percent of those who abuse alcohol also meet the criteria for a mental health disorder. And because good mental health is almost impossible to achieve while battling addiction, the urgency for treating both conditions grows exponentially. Identifying such problems is difficult because, as we will see below, many of the symptoms of addiction and mental illness are the same.

contributing-factors-to-co-occurring-disorders-brain-development-heredity-brain-development-bodies-trauma-factors-in-treatmentThe line between common psychiatric disorders and addiction isn’t always easy to define. In some cases, substance abuse appears to cause mental illness, while in others the opposite is true. Many mental health disorders arise from the same factors as addictive disorders, such as family history, brain chemistry and personal trauma. When it comes to recovery from a Dual Diagnosis, treatment must target both the mental health condition and the addictive disorder to produce effective, lasting results.

When you compare the key symptoms of addiction and mental illness, the complicated relationship of these conditions becomes apparent:

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction(to alcohol or drugs such as heroin, cocaine, prescription medication, marijuana or hallucinogenic drugs):

  • Euphoriacocaine
  • Decreased appetite
  • Depression
  • Inability to sleep
  • Sweaty palms, shaky hands
  • Hyperactivity
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Sudden shifts in personality or attitude
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Moodiness
  • Paranoia
  • Social withdrawal
  • Forgetfulness

Signs and Symptoms of Mental Disorders(including bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders or schizophrenia):

  • Depressiondepression
  • Euphoria
  • Social withdrawal
  • Moodiness
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Anger-related issues
  • Fear and anxiety

Looking at the lists above, consider all the symptoms that could be attributed to either poor mental health or addiction (depression, social withdrawal, moodiness, etc.). Now you’re beginning to get a clearer picture of the challenges facing those who treat co-occurring disorders. The consequences of mental disorders and addiction are also similar: impaired social functioning, unstable relationships, financial difficulties, unemployment, poor physical health and an increased risk of suicide. Finding effective treatment for a Dual Diagnosis may save you or someone you love from the devastating effects of a co-occurring disorder.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System notes that certain abnormalities in brain chemistry can affect mental health and predispose the individual to addiction. People with a Dual Diagnosis may process neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and corticosteroids differently than the general population. These imbalances may increase the risk of depression, anxiety or personality disorders while making the individual more vulnerable to addiction.

Family history and genetic patterns play a significant role in the risk of developing a co-occurring disorder. Psychiatric conditions like depression, bipolar, anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder are seen more frequently in first-degree relatives, suggesting that these disorders may be hereditary. Learned responses to fear, stress or loss may also contribute to the link between family relationships and mental illness.

According to statistics compiled by the Co-occurring Disorders Information Center of New York State, the following psychiatric disorders are most likely to increase the risk of substance abuse:

  • Antisocial personality disorder:  Increases the risk of substance abuse by 15.5 percent
  • Mania/bipolar disorder:  Increases the risk by 14.5 percent
  • Schizophrenia:  Increases the risk by 10.1 percent
  • Panic attacks/anxiety disorders:  Increase the risk by 4.3 percent
  • Chronic depression:  Increases the risk by 4.1 percent

Obsessive-compulsive disorder and phobias also augment the risk of developing a substance use disorder. New trends in Dual Diagnosis treatment have made it possible for individuals who suffer from co-occurring disorders to create the lives they truly want. The sooner the individual receives treatment for a co-occurring condition, the greater the chances of a successful recovery.

What Sets Integrated Treatment Apart?

Dua Diagnosis TreatmentIt takes a significant amount of expertise to properly identify and treat co-occurring conditions. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, effective treatment for co-occurring disorders is still not widely available in the United States. Most facilities are not equipped to handle Dual Diagnosis patients, so the individual must seek out the kind of program that offers integrated care for mental illness and addiction.

If you’re searching for a treatment program that can address your addiction and a co-occurring psychiatric disorder, look for the following key features:

  • A staff of psychiatric professionals and addiction therapists who have specialized training in Dual Diagnosis treatment
  • The provision of therapeutic services for mental illness and addiction at a single rehab facility
  • Close collaboration among the professionals involved in treatment
  • Individual counseling, peer support groups and aftercare recovery resources for psychiatric and addictive disorders
  • Access to pharmacological therapy for depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions
  • Holistic recovery services for Dual Diagnosis patients, such as hypnotherapy, acupuncture, equine-assisted therapy or massage

Our professionals at Foundations Recovery Network treatment centers understand the overlapping nature of mental illness and addiction. At our centers in California (The Canyon and Michael’s House) and Tennessee (LaPaloma Treatment Center), you will find a staff of experts in both areas. These are the people who understand mental health and addiction best. They can help you or someone you love gain control over addiction and restore good mental health concurrently.

When it comes to mental illness and addiction, delaying your decision is NOT an option. These are highly destructive illnesses and need to be treated as soon as possible. Contact us here at Foundations Recovery Network treatment centers for more information.

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