Co-Occurring Disorders, Defined

Mental Health and How it Affects Addiction

Those who struggle with an addiction to drugs or alcohol may have an underlying mental health disorder which is at the root cause of their addiction. Close to 50 percent of cases where an individual is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse is a result of an undisclosed mental health issue. When individuals go through a thorough patient assessment, it will be determined whether a mental illness is present as well as define which illness it is. 

Having a co-occurring disorder means that you have been diagnosed with both a substance abuse problem as well as a mental health disorder. Treatment for both of these requires a dual diagnosis. This is where both of the issues are treated and managed through professional rehabilitation, counseling, and therapy. 

Diagnosing Substance Abuse

If your substance abuse is interfering with your ability to do your job or take care of personal obligations such as your relationship, it’s likely that your drug and alcohol use has become a problem. When your substance abuse negatively affects and worsens your life, it is time to seek professional help. Alcohol and drug dependency, on the other hand, is more severe in nature and means that you depend on the substance of abuse in order to get through each day. You have built up a tolerance and will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms if you do not have your ‘fix’.

When it comes to co-occurring disorders, anxiety and depression are two of the leading mental health disorders that are present in those who are struggling with substance abuse. Some of the most common mental health disorders are:

  • PTSD
  • Panic Disorder
  • Generalized Anxiety
  • OCD
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Clinical Depression
  • Schizophrenia 

Dual Diagnosis

It can be difficult to diagnose an underlying mental health disorder which is why it’s important that individual go through a patient assessment. Once this has been completed, it will be determined which type of mental disorder is present as well as the severity of it. Once this process has been completed, a treatment program will be constructed that targets both the mental health disorder as well as the addiction. 

It’s important that when treating both problems, the mental health disorder is treated first as this will give the foundation for a successful recovery. When individuals have mental clarity, they are able to make rash decisions and can also make sound choices. Since a mental health disorder is often at the root cause of the addiction, it must be treated first in order for recovery to be successful.

If you are struggling with a co-occurring disorder, getting the help you need now will help you work toward a fulfilled future that is free from your struggles. Learning how to manage symptoms is imperative when wanting to make a full recovery which is why therapists and counselors will work with you so that you have every opportunity to make a successful recovery.


If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.