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A List of the Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders

July 01, 2022

Alcoholism and addiction oftentimes do not exist in a vacuum. They are not stand-alone conditions that lack the presence of other pre-existing or co-occurring disorders. They very often are but a symptom of a greater problem, or they are exacerbated by some underlying issue yet to be seen.

This understanding is fairly new to the treatment industry and a mere 15 to 20 years ago addiction and co-occurring disorders were treated separately and with little success. A person who suffered from both clinical depression and addiction would be treated for one at an addiction treatment center and then treated for another at a mental health facility, but the two never overlapped and so many times people resulted back to their addiction to deal with their underlying problem.

It was only after it was realized that in order to give each addict and alcoholic the best possible chances at recovery, there needed to be a treatment protocol that dealt simultaneously with the addiction and any co-occurring disorders that true progress was made.

Today almost all addiction treatment facilities seek to deal with the addicts' issues with substance abuse and any underlying problems they may be experiencing. With that in mind, let’s look at the most common co-occurring conditions that people with an addiction suffer from.

Most Common Co-Occurring Conditions with Addiction

  • Depression

There is a difference between clinical depression and just feeling a little down. A person suffering from clinical depression will have the symptoms attributed with depression for extended periods of time and they will not be able to shake them very easily. Sometimes when a person suffers from depression and it is undiagnosed or not currently being treated, they will seek to begin to self-medicate to deal with their depression. Many times they seek out illicit drugs that curb their symptoms and what’s worse is that many times they may not even be aware that they are self-medicating. They just know that they feel better when they smoke pot or use an opioid and in time they become addicted.

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

When many people think of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD for short, they think of soldiers returning from war. While this is often where PTSD will make itself most known, among addicted populations PTSD is also fairly common. Some addicts start their addiction because they are attempting to deal with the stress of traumatic experiences from their past, while others are driven on in their addiction due to the PTSD that is caused by living their addicted lifestyle. Regardless of when the PTSD is developed, some people who suffer from addiction also suffer from the underlying issues attributed to PTSD. In order for a person to experience true and lasting recovery, both their addiction and their PTSD must be addressed, because otherwise, they run a risk of falling back into their addiction to deal with their underlying condition.

  • Anti-Social Personality Disorder

It was recently discovered that there is a close link between Alcoholism and Anti-Social Personality Disorder. In fact, in a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, it was discovered that those who abuse alcohol ran a 21 times greater chance of having Anti-Social Personality Disorder than those with alcohol abuse.

Anti-Social Personality Disorder is a condition where a person shows little to no regard for what is right or wrong and often does not take into account the feelings or needs of others. While this may sound like a general description of most addicts and alcoholics, people who suffer from Anti-Social Personality Disorder tend to show no remorse for their actions, while most addicts and alcoholics do actually feel bad about the things they do during active addiction.

  • Anxiety Disorders

Many people who wind up becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol find that they can calm their ever-present anxieties through drinking or using drugs. They may have had these anxieties for their entire life and have been unaware that they were more anxious than most and needed to seek help for this. In not doing so, they can result to drug use or alcoholism in order to handle their symptoms and in time they become addicted. For a person who has an underlying anxiety disorder to achieve a happy sobriety they must also deal with the anxiety disorder that is present so that they are not drawn back into their addiction because of an inability to deal with their mounting anxiety.

  • Schizophrenia

While schizophrenia can be a very serious disorder, it is also one of the disorders that are fairly easily treatable. People who suffer from schizophrenia are at a much greater risk than the general population for suffering from alcoholism or an addiction of some sort and many times they will do so in order to self-medicate. During the course of a treatment stay if schizophrenia is diagnosed and dealt with, then a person has a much better chance at being able to maintain their sobriety than if it goes undiagnosed, so it is important to make sure that the treatment center you choose has a program that can handle any and all mental health concerns.

Treatment For Your Addiction, Alcoholism, and Mental Health Concerns

Coming to the conclusion that you need to seek help for your drug addiction or alcoholism can be a frightening proposition. It means leaving behind the perceived comfort of substance abuse for the unknown of sobriety and due to misguided views of what recovery is, doing so can be terrifying.

It may also be that this is not your first time seeking treatment and so you are rightfully suspicious about the outcome, but if one of the reasons for your previous relapses is that there was an undiagnosed mental health concern, then seeking treatment for that and your addiction could be the difference between success and failure.