Co-Occurring Disorders - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Co-Occurring Disorders

The term co-occurring disorders refers to an individual who is suffering from one or more substance abuse disorders and one or more psychiatric disorders at the same time. ('Dual diagnosis' is an older term for 'co-occurring disorders'.) The dual disorders may affect each other, and each disorder predisposes relapse in the other disease. At times the symptoms can overlap and even mask each other, making treatment and diagnosis difficult. To fully recover, a person needs treatment in both disorders equally and simultaneously.

Why are these separate disorders grouped together?

It is important to know if co-occurring disorders exist because each disorder can cause symptoms of the other disorder, leading to slow recovery, chronic relapse, and a diminished quality of life.

For example, a person with an undiagnosed psychiatric disorder such as depression may abuse drugs to alleviate the symptoms of depression. If the person gets treatment for the drug addiction but not for depression, the depression still exists and the need for relief from its symptoms continues. The person will end up using drugs again to manage the depression symptoms.

If addiction treatment only addresses changing the behaviors, then only the symptoms of the disease are being treated.


Recovery is a journey of healing and transformation enabling a person with a problem to live a meaningful life in a community of his or her choice while striving to achieve his or her full potential.

Powered by Frankly