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Did you know that co-occurring disorders are fairly common? In fact, up to 50% of people who have one mental disorder also have a co-occurring disorder. So, how can you tell if you or someone you love falls into this category? Here are a few ways to tell whether you or a loved one has a co-occurring disorder.

Learn the signs, symptoms, treatment options for co-occurring disorders.

What is a co-occurring disorder and how do you know if you have one?

A co-occurring disorder, also known as dual diagnosis, most commonly refers to a person who meets the criteria as specified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5):

  • At least one mental health disorder and one substance use disorder (Hawkins, 2009).
  • These disorders must be independent of each other, not a cluster of symptoms that result in a single disorder (Hawkins, 2009).

This is sometimes difficult to determine, as the effects of substance use and abuse can often resemble mental health symptoms and vice versa (Hawkins, 2009).

According to the most recent research, substance abuse frequently causes mental health problems, and mental health problems frequently cause substance abuse.

Understanding Potential signs and symptoms of co-occurring disorders a.k.a. Dual Diagnosis

Symptoms of mental health disorders are frequently very similar to those of substance abuse and addiction (Elkins, 2020).

Some common symptoms of substance use disorders include withdrawal from family and friends, sudden behavioral changes, engaging in risky behaviors, developing a high tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. In addition, feeling like you need to use a drug in order to function on a daily basis (National Alliance for Mental Illness, 2020).

Depending on the disorder, the manifestations of a mental disorder vary considerably. Extreme mood swings, cognitive confusion or difficulty concentrating, avoiding friends and social activities, and suicidal ideation are common warning signs (National Alliance for Mental Illness, 2020).

How to get help for co-occurring disorders

The first thing that needs to be done is recognizing that you or a loved one may be suffering from a co-occurring disorder and gaining an understanding of what exactly a co-occurring disorder is (what is included and what it encompasses). Acknowledging that you or someone you care about has a co-occurring disorder is another component of this step. This step requires you to essentially be honest with yourself and/or your loved one about what is going on both mentally and physically.

The next thing that needs to be done is to look for treatment centers that deal with co-occurring disorders and offer assistance and treatment for those disorders. In order to provide you and/or your loved one who is going to get treatment with the highest possible level of care, the treatment center you choose should have a medical staff that is highly trained and professional.

After scheduling a facility tour and discussing your or your loved one’s needs with the medical and or clinical director, you will be guided in designing a personalized treatment plan that includes 24-hour care (if necessary, which, more often than not, is needed).

Treatment options

The best option for treatment of a co-occurring disorder is called integrated treatment, where both the mental health disorder and the substance use disorder get treated simultaneously (National Alliance for Mental Illness, 2020).

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The first major hurdle to tackle in treating co-occurring disorders is the detoxification process (National Alliance for Mental Illness, 2020). Inpatient detoxification is typically the better option, as it allows the individual to receive 24/7 care and supervision by the center’s highly trained medical staff (National Alliance for Mental Illness, 2020). The staff may administer gradually decreasing doses of the substance the individual was addicted to, allowing them to gradually wean off the substance and mitigate withdrawal symptoms (National Alliance for Mental Illness, 2020).

Recovery Process from co-occurring disorders

After leaving treatment, one of the first steps is to attend an anonymous meeting (e.g., Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous) and work through the 12-step program or other similar programs tailored for patients’ post-treatment.

Individual or group therapy is another important step in the recovery process; both are beneficial, and it is important to select the modality that best suits you. These key considerations are all a part of the recovery process for co-occurring disorders that lasts a lifetime.

PCI Centers provides treatment for dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. Every co-occurring disorder and dual diagnosis is treated as a distinct diagnosis requiring the utmost care. No two conditions are identical; consequently, each individual’s treatment plan is unique and tailored to their specific needs.

We take the utmost care and consideration when tailoring treatment plans to the specific needs of individuals. When you come to PCI, you will be under the care and supervision of highly trained, licensed professionals and knowledgeable staff, all of whom are trained and educated at the Master’s and Doctoral level.

You can learn more about our various recovery paths, should you choose to seek treatment, by visiting our website or reading more about our services here.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out and give us a call at (818) 629-2176 to schedule a tour of our beautiful facility in either Westlake Village or Malibu and get started on the path to recovery.




Elkins, C. (2020, February 28). Co-occurring disorders. Drug Rehab. Retrieved August 10, 2022, from

Hawkins, E. H. (2009). A Tale of Two Systems: Co-Occurring Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders Treatment for Adolescents. Annual Review of Psychology, (60), 197–227.

National Alliance for Mental Illness. (2020, May). Substance use disorders. NAMI. Retrieved August 10, 2022, from