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Co-Occurring Disorders


Co-Occurring disorders are present when there are two or more disorders at the same moment and these disorders were also called dual diagnosis or dual disorder. For example, an individual may suffer from bipolar disorder as well as substance abuse.

While the scope of treatment for drug dependency and mental conditions has emerged to be rather specific, the same thing goes as well for the terms used to refer to individuals who both have problems with drug dependency and mental conditions.


The two terms dual diagnosis and dual disorder are replaced by the term, co-occurring disorders. Even though these replaced terms have usually been used when discussing a mix of mental disorders and substance abuse, they are also referring to other combinations of disorders (like mental disorders and mental retardation), which can sometimes cause confusion.

Furthermore, the terms relate that there are only two disorders occurring at the same time, when truly there may be more. Patients who have coexisting conditions can have one or more conditions associated with alcohol or drug dependency and also one or more mental condition. A diagnosis of co-occurring disorders is caused when at least one disorder of each type can be managed independent of the other and is not the simple bunch of symptoms resulting from the on disorder.

Even if co-existing condition is the latest term being used in the medical field, for this specific article, we will use the term dual disorder reciprocally.


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Mentally Ill Chemical Abusers in which the acronym MICA is derived from is sometimes used to describe individuals who have co-existing conditions and an evidently serious and stubborn mental condition like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Mentally ill chemically affected people is the phrase that is preferred because the word affected is not pejorative and it designates their condition in a better way. The other acronyms used are as follows: MIC'D (mentally ill chemically dependent), MISA (mentally ill substance abusers), SAMI (substance abuse and mental illness), MISU (mentally ill substance using), ICON PSD (individuals with co-occurring psychiatric and substance disorders) and CAMI (chemical abuse and mental illness).

Combinations of alcohol addiction with panic disorder, major depression with cocaine addiction, borderline personality disorder with episodic polydrug abuse, and alcoholism and polydrug addiction with schizophrenia are some of the most usual cases of co-occurring disorders. Some people might have more than two disorders, even though the cornerstone of this is on dual disorders. Multiple disorders go by the same rules that apply to dual disorders.

The severity, degree of impairment in functioning, chronicity and disability are some of the factors that differ in the occurrence of combinations of psychiatric disorders alongside substance abuse problems. For instance, in the event if having two disorders, one may be either serious or mild or that one may be more serious than the other. In fact the seriousness of both disorders can alter as time passes. Levels of impairment and disability in functioning may also differ.

That means that, in fact, there are many differentiations among co-occurring disorders, not just one combination. However, certain treatment settings are often encountered for patients with similar mixtures of dual disorders.


More than 50 per cent of adults who suffer from a serious mental disorder are also weakened by substance use disorders (addiction or abuse connected to alcohol or other substances).


Patients with dual disorders go through much more emotional, social and chronic medical problems in comparison to patients who only have a mental health disorder or a co-occurring disorder caused by substance abuse or dependence only. They are vulnerable to both COD relapse and a worsening of the psychiatric disorder because they have two disorders. Additionally, dependency relapse most of the time causes psychiatric functional deterioration and worsening of psychiatric difficulties which further results in dependency relapse. Thus, for patients with dual disorders relapse prevention must be specially designed. Compared with patients who have a single disorder, patients with dual disorders often have more crises, require longer treatment, and grow more gradually in treatment.

Mental disorders that are most common amongst dually diagnosed people are personality disorders, mood disorders, psychotic disorders and mood disorders.