Co-Occurring Disorders

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co-occurring addiction disorders

If you struggle with a co-occurring disorder, you are not alone. Research shows that about 50% of addicts have a mental health condition.

Co-occurring disorders can make treatment complicated. It is important to understand the relationship between addiction and mental health.

Treating a mental health condition and addiction increases the chance of staying clean. Treatment helps a person understand more about their co-occurring disorder.

Our alcohol recovery program allows you to keep work and family commitments while focusing on your sobriety.

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What is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

A co-occurring disorder is when a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder exist at the same time. There is no evidence to show that one causes the other. However, many times, people turn to substances to escape a mental health problem. Likewise, mental health problems can develop after long-term substance usage.

Mental health disorders such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, and others are co-occurring disorders. For a long time, physical health problems were not recognized as co-occurring disorders. That is changing as people learn the connection between mind and body. A co-occurring disorder is any condition that can:

  • Alter your mind.
  • Change the way you interact with the world around you.
  • Cause you to turn to substance use.


Depression is a mood disorder. It affects the way you feel, think and handle daily activities. These are things like sleeping, working, eating, or going to school. Depression is common but serious. It can have severe symptoms. If someone has experienced symptoms for two weeks or more, they are diagnosed with depression.

There are several types of depression. Those include:

  • Postpartum depression
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Seasonal affective disorder
  • Postpartum depression
  • Major depressive disorder or clinical depression

There are many symptoms of depression. These can be easy to miss. Often, they can be interpreted as something else. Symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad, anxious, or empty inside. These are persistent feelings.
  • Feelings of hopelessness.
  • Feeling irritable.
  • Feeling worthless, helpless, or guilty.
  • Losing interest in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyable.
  • Not having as much energy as usual.
  • Feeling extreme tiredness or fatigue.
  • Talking and moving slowly.
  • Difficulties concentrating.
  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Sleep issues. This may include problems falling asleep, waking up too early, or sleeping too much.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are conditions that cause intense worry or fear. Everyone experiences occasional worries in life. But, for those with an anxiety disorder, these worries do not go away. Most of the time, they get worse as time goes on. Anxiety disorder can have a huge effect on daily activities. This can include work, relationships, sleep and even leaving the house. A person with an anxiety disorder will usually need treatment to overcome it.

There are different types of anxiety disorders. They include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobias
  • Social anxiety
  • Separation anxiety disorder

There are common symptoms among those who have anxiety disorders. Those can include:

  • Feeling tired more often.
  • Muscle tension in their bodies.
  • Feeling restless or on-edge.
  • Irritability.
  • Difficulties controlling feelings of worry.
  • Sleep disturbances. This can be problems getting to sleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much.
  • Experiencing a sense of impending doom often.
  • Feeling out of control of themselves or their feelings.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder used to be called manic depression because of the highs and lows it causes. This disorder causes changes in a person‘s energy, mood, activity, and concentration. It affects their ability to carry out daily tasks.

There are three different types of bipolar disorder. They are:

  • Bipolar I Disorder: These are manic episodes that last at least seven days. Depressive episodes that can last two weeks are usually present, too. Symptoms can be so severe that they need hospitalization.
  • Bipolar II Disorder: A pattern of depressive and hypomanic episodes. The severe mania of Bipolar I is not present here.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia): Periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms that last at least two years. One year in children and adolescents.

Bipolar has a variety of symptoms. These can be dependent on the episode a person is experiencing. Those symptoms can be:

  • Feeling very up or very down.
  • Feeling excited or slowed down.
  • Not needing as much sleep, or sleeping too much.
  • Not having an appetite or wanting to eat more.
  • Talking fast about a variety of subjects or talking slowly and forgetting information.

Bipolar disorder is typically diagnosed during the late teen years or early adulthood. Children can sometimes have symptoms, but this is rare.

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Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are extremely serious and they can become fatal illnesses if they are not treated appropriately. When someone suffers from an eating disorder, they experience significant disturbances in their eating behaviors because of related thoughts and emotions. These individuals are often preoccupied with food, their body weight, and the shapes of their bodies.

There are three common types of eating disorders. Those are:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: People view themselves as overweight even if they are underweight. They become obsessed with weighing themself. They restrict their food intake to almost nothing. They exercise more than average. Some may use laxatives as a way to get ‘excess’ weight off.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: Frequent, recurring episodes of eating large amounts of food (binging). During this period, they have no control over themself or their actions. After binging, they force themselves to vomit (purging). They can do this physically. They also use laxatives, diuretics, fasting, and excessive exercise to purge.
  • Binge Eating Disorder: The loss of control over eating behaviors. Food is often used as a coping mechanism. Many times, overeating occurs during times of another mental health crisis, such as depression or anxiety. This often leads to obesity.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after a person experiences a traumatic event. These are things that are beyond typical, daily stressors. Some examples of traumatic events could be:

  • Losing a loved one.
  • Seeing someone die.
  • Being in or seeing a car accident.
  • Living through a natural disaster.
  • Participating in combat as a soldier.
  • Being the victim of some form of violence.

Those who experience PTSD can experience the following:

  • Frightening thoughts that persist.
  • Memories of the event keep coming up.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Feelings of detachment or numbness.
  • Being easily startled.
  • Impairment in daily functions such as work, home, and social functions. (Severe PTSD)
  • Flashbacks of the event.
  • Triggers that bring about these responses.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common disorder diagnosed in children. It can persist through adolescence and into adulthood, especially if left untreated. ADHD has a pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity. This pattern affects development and daily functioning.

People with ADHD may experience the following:

  • Make careless mistakes.
  • Miss important details.
  • Have problems with lengthy reading or conversations.
  • Have difficulties listening, even when being spoken to directly.
  • Difficulties finishing tasks.
  • Struggle with the organization.
  • Lose important things.
  • Get easily distracted.

The Link Between Co-Occurring Disorders and Substance Abuse

Many times, people who have co-occurring disorders are unaware of them. They may know that something is not right. Without a diagnosis for a mental health condition, they will not get proper treatment. This is when they look for a way to ‘self-medicate’ to try to make the problem go away. They seek out drugs or alcohol to make their problem disappear, even if it is temporary.

Some conditions may lead to certain types of substances because of their symptoms. Someone who has an anxiety disorder or a sleep disorder may look for drugs that are depressants (downers). Some examples are:

  • Alcohol
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Ativan)
  • Opioids (Oxycodone, Fentanyl, Heroin)
  • Illicit drugs (Roofies or GHB)

Someone who has a depressive disorder may turn to stimulants (uppers) drugs. Some examples are:

  • Amphetamines (Adderall)
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine

Substance use is only a bandaid for a mental health condition. It will help a person feel better for a short amount of time but will not help in the long run. They will need more and more of the substance (tolerance) to keep getting the same result. This is how addiction begins.

People with co-occurring disorders will gravitate to various drugs based on their symptoms. For example, if someone has an anxiety disorder, they may feel shaky and on-edge much of the time. They are likely to choose a drug that results in more depressive feelings, such as alcohol, opioids or benzodiazepines. Likewise, someone who is depressed may want to use Adderall, cocaine or methamphetamine.

But what a lot of people do not understand is the fact that while these drugs may work for a little while, they will not work forever. Eventually, the addiction will progress and the results from the drug will not be what they were in the beginning. This happens because people form a tolerance, which then leads them to either increase their drug dosage or add another drug to amplify the effects.

How Are Co-Occurring Disorders Treated?

Many times, an addict enters rehab intending to treat that addiction. With that as their focus, they do not realize how important it is to address the mental health condition, too. This may have been the root cause of their addiction. The co-occurring disorder may be what is driving the addiction to continue. It could amplify feelings, add to challenges, and warp judgment. Because of this, dual treatment is the best option. Therapy will deal with addiction and the mental health condition at the same time.

Rehab can help in many ways. Some benefits include:

  • Help managing symptoms
  • Finding the root cause of both disorders
  • Individual therapy
  • Group support
  • Peer wisdom from those who are struggling with similar issues

Can Co-Occurring Disorders Cause Addiction?

There is a strong connection between addiction and accompanying mental health disorders. Everyone is different. Not everyone with a mental health disorder will develop an addiction. Not everyone with an addiction has a mental health disorder. There is no way to predict if one will cause the other.

Some of the ways in that mental health issues and substance abuse interact include:

  • Some mental health treatments include addictive medicines. Some examples are Xanax, Ativan, and Valium. These drugs can be addictive and if misused, can lead to a larger problem.
  • Addiction can cause mental illness. Drugs and alcohol change the brain’s function. This leaves the brain vulnerable. Addiction also causes chaos in a person’s life. This can bring on a mental illness.
  • Mental illness causes a lack of judgment. This can make a person more vulnerable to mental illness.
  • Sometimes people turn to drugs as a way to escape the symptoms of mental illness.

Our alcohol recovery program allows you to keep work and family commitments while focusing on your sobriety.

Program Details

Signs of a Co-Occurring Disorder

Many mental health disorders range in severity. There can be many different signs of a mental health issue. Some common symptoms can include:

  • Chronic unpleasant feelings not related to anything specific. It could be anger, anxiety, happiness, or other intense feelings for no particular reason.
  • Obsessive thoughts that will not turn off.
  • Always feeling bad.
  • Difficulty enjoying activities.
  • Relying on drugs or alcohol to cope with painful emotions or experiences.
  • Childhood history of trauma or abuse.
  • Difficulty predicting the reactions of other people.
  • Nightmares, night terrors, or recurring intrusive memories.
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there.
  • A distorted perception of self. This is especially common among people with eating disorders.
  • Difficulty feeling happy even when good things happen.
  • An inability to effectively communicate with other people.
  • Loved ones say that behavior has changed or is out of character.
  • Difficulty in relationships with others. Relationships may end suddenly, or there may be more conflict.
  • Family history of substance abuse or mental illness.
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or others.
  • Feeling out of control of one’s emotions.
  • Difficulty relating to others.
  • Believing or thinking things that others do not understand.
  • Feeling trapped inside your head.

Co-occurring disorders can be devastating. Trying to deal with a mental health problem is hard enough. Adding an addiction to the mix makes it even harder.

Here at SpringBoard Recovery, we know how to treat both pieces of your co-occurring disorder.

Paying for Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment: Is it Covered by Insurance in Arizona?

Rehab in Arizona can be expensive. Without insurance, it can seem like a cost that is out of reach. Depending on the program, it could cost thousands of dollars. This intimidates many people and turns them away from receiving needed help.

There is good news. Health insurance companies are required to help cover the cost of addiction treatment. This includes treatment for co-occurring disorders and any necessary detox.

If you do not have health insurance, applying for it is easy. You can apply online at When you finish that process, call us here at SpringBoard Recovery. We will verify your insurance. We will make sure you get the most out of your benefits as possible.



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