What is a Co-Occuring Disorder and How is it Related to Addiction?

Mental health issues can run hand-in-hand with the disease of addiction. A co-occurring disorder refers to individuals who are struggling with substance abuse and a mental health condition simultaneously. For example, a person may be in need of treatment for drug addiction, depression, and anxiety. Or a patient may have a condition like bipolar disorder and need treatment for alcoholism or drug addiction, too. 

For patients with co-occurring disorders, special treatment is necessary to provide adequate support for all disorders and ailments in order to put them on the best path to recovery. 


Those with mental health disorders are more likely to be substance abusers than those without these conditions. It has been shown that mental health issues such as bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, antisocial personality disorders, depression, and anxiety are all linked to a higher rate of alcoholism. 

It is also thought that a substance abuse problem can lead to the development of mental health disorders or a worsening or exacerbation of pre-existing mental health conditions. 

Understanding the Stats of a Co-Occurring Disorder

SAMHSA estimated that 17.5 million Americans are struggling with a mental health disorder. Of those statistics, one in four are actively abusing substances or developed an addiction. Sadly, only half of those with co-occurring disorders actually receive treatment. 

Research has shown that 34% of co-occurring disorder patients received mental health treatment without receiving addiction treatment. 2% received care for only an addiction. Only 12% actually received treatment that supported all their issues and disorders. 


To treat a co-occurring disorder, SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) recommends an integrated approach. Combining substance abuse and mental health intervention and using treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) along with applicable medication. Relapse-prevention education, group therapy, and psychological support will further improve outcomes for patients with co-occurring disorders. 

Comprehensive treatment has the best outcome for patients with co-occurring disorders. Only treating one, and not the other creates a roundabout effect. The patient who received mental health treatment but not addiction treatment continues to use, which aggravates their mental health condition. The patient who received addiction treatment, but not mental health support, struggles to remain sober. This person without proper care is more likely to relapse, due to the effects of their mental health condition. 

Harmony Recovery Group has six centers in the United States that offer these services. If you or a loved one are struggling with co-occurring disorders or addiction please call (423) 708-4961 or email [email protected]. We are here to help and support you. 

Contact us for help today

Ready to start? We’re here for you.

Send us a message