What is meant by a Co-occurring Disorder?



Q: What is meant by a co-occurring disorder?

A. A co-occurring disorder is a psychological disorder that complicates treatment for drug addiction. It is estimated that in addition to their drug addiction, 10 to 20 percent of addicts/alcoholics have a separate psychological problem. In fact, many in this group view their alcohol or drug use as a form of self-medication.

Depression, anxiety disorder, and bi-polar disease are just a few of the disorders that can further complicate treatment for addiction. Substance abuse will only make their other problem worse.

If a co-occurring disorder is suspected, receiving professional advice is even more important. Still, recovery for these individuals is attainable.

Proper diagnosis is the first step, because substance abuse can sometimes be the source of the addict’s psychological problems. A friend of mine from Miami, who is in his forties, just celebrated seventeen years of sobriety. I attended his celebration along with about fifty of his friends, relatives and colleagues. Early in life, before alcohol and drugs became a problem, he was already struggling—diagnosed as bi-polar and hospitalized twice for attempted suicide. He began to use alcohol and drugs to self-medicate. He told me that throughout his life he has been on thirteen different medications for depression and bi-polar disorder. He continues to take medication for bi-polar disorder, but has been alcohol- and drug-free since his early thirties.

This is an example of someone who was fortunate to receive a proper diagnosis and who followed through on his recovery. The prescribed medications he takes now allow him to enjoy a much higher quality of life. For some people these medications are life-savers.

Why Don't They Just Quit? What families and friends need to know about addiction and recovery.This “Q & A with Joe” is excerpted from Part 5 of “Why Don’t They Just Quit? What families and friends need to know about addiction and recovery.”


Affordable Phone Counseling for Families Dealing with Substance Abuse
Recovery Resources for Friends, Families and Employers

> If someone can stop using drugs or alcohol for weeks at a time, they “aren’t an addict—correct?

>Chronic Pain Management & Pain Pill Addiction: What to do?

>How can I know if my addicted friend or loved one is telling the truth?

>”I need help because I’m not able to deal with my live-in Fiance’s need to get drunk every night.”

>Should my husband “back off?”

>Gambling vs. Drug Addiction? What is your opinion?

>How can I tell if someone is an addict/alcoholic or just a heavy user?

>What is Methadone? What is Harm Reduction?

> Self-Tests: Codependence

> Self-Tests: Alcohol and Drug Addiction

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1 thought on “What is meant by a Co-occurring Disorder?

  1. Mel

    I have to say that it is wonderful that your friend was able to openly celebrate his sobriety with family, friends, and colleagues. I recently helped with an International intervention of an old friend, and have been harshly criticized for wanting to include how my friends and I were able to save her through social networking and Facebook in a documentary film. Of course, we have never used her name, country, profession, or shared any details of her life or intervention, and unfortunately, she has not followed the aftercare advice she was given at a very expensive rehab center.

    My questions are: How you find the treatment of recovering addicts/alcoholics in the American work environment? I am looking for statistics about people hiding their recoveries from potential employers, and how co-occurring mental health issues are received by employers? Is it true that recovering addicts/alcoholics must hide their pasts in order to get a job? Is it true that it takes one year of sobriety to properly diagnose a co-occuring disorder?

    I find your articles very interesting, and after attending a Family Week for our friend, find it disturbing that proper aftercare and co-occuring diagnosis was never attained. Although she has not relapsed, she has done some very irresponsible things to others, has been outwardly resentful of being saved, and is acting out inappropriately on Facebook.

    I no longer associate with her, and find it fascinating that those who are open and honest about their problems seem to heal so well.

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