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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 instance, a person may not only suffer from bipolar disorder but from substance abuse too.

Just like the area of treatment for drug use and psychological disorders has developed to become more exact, the terminology that is employed to describe people who suffer both from psychological disorders and drug use has also become more precise.


The two terms dual diagnosis and dual disorder are replaced by the term, co-occurring disorders. The said terms although usually used to refer to both drug and mental disorders as accompanying conditions, it can be easily misconstrued since they may also mean the combination of other health conditions like mental ailment or mental delay.

Also, there can be more than just two disorders present, while these terms are implying otherwise. People who have co-occurring disorders also referred to as COD, often have at least one mental disorder and at least one disorder springing from alcohol or substance abuse as well. When a minimum of one disorder of both types can be confirmed which isn't dependent on the other, we can talk about diagnosing co-occurring disorders and it isn't just a bunch of symptoms that are caused by just one disorder.

In this article, the term dual disorders will also be used, even though the term co-occurring disorders is currently utilized among professionals.


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For people that suffer from COD, another term is commonly used and it is MICA, which means Mentally Ill Chemical Abusers in cases where patients suffer from an extreme and constant mental disorder like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. A better word that is more preferred in terms of its connotation is Mentally Ill Chemically Affected. 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).

Some typical examples of co-occurring disorders are the combinations of cocaine addiction with major depression, occasional polydrug abuse with borderline personality disorder, panic disorder with alcohol addiction and polydrug addiction and alcoholism with schizophrenia. Some patients have more than two disorders even if the focus of this is on dual disorders. The set of ideas which is relevant to dual disorders is as well used for multiple disorders.

Combinations of mental disorders and co-occurring problems differ across crucial aspects like seriousness, level of impairment in functioning, duration and disability. As an example, both disorders can be mild or serious or one disorder can be more serious than the other disorder. Truly, the seriousness of both disorders can be modified eventually. Degrees of impairment in functioning and disability might also differ.

Therefore, there isn't a specific combination of dual disorders; in reality, there's a big difference among these. Although patients with the same combination of dual disorders most of the time are met in some treatment programmes.


Further impairment to adults who face severe mental disorders as a result of substance abuse or dependence such as alcohol or other drugs is common.


Patients that have co-occurring disorders commonly feel stronger and chronic medical, emotional and social issues compared to those that only have a mental disorder or COD without the other. They are vulnerable to both COD relapse and a worsening of the psychiatric disorder because they have two disorders. What's more, an addiction relapse frequently results in psychiatric decompensation and when mental problems worsen it frequently results in addiction relapse. Thus, for patients with dual disorders relapse prevention must be specially designed. Patients who battle with dual disorders frequently need longer treatment, experience more emergencies and advance more slowly in treatment than patients who battle just a single disorder.

Personality, psychotic and mood disorders are among some of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders diagnosed in dual patient disorders.