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Co-Occurring Disorders


Co-occurring disorders (previously called dual disorder or dual diagnosis) describe the existence of two or more than two disorders at the very same point in time. Someone might have a problem with substance abuse along with bipolar disorder, for instance.

Just as the field of treatment for substance abuse and mental disorders has developed to become more accurate, so too has the terminology used to narrate people with both substance use and mental disorders.


Dual disorder and dual diagnosis terms 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. An identification of co-existing condition is made when there is an existence of at least one disorder of each type which is also separate from the other, not just a series of indications stemming from a particular 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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The acronym MICA, which constitutes the phrase Mentally ILL Chemical Abusers, is eventually used to nominate people who have a COD and markedly serious and continued mental disorder like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The definition of Mentally Ill Chemically Affected people is liked better as "affected" describes their state better and it isn't derogatory. Other acronyms include SAMI (Substance abuse and mental illness), MISA (mentally ill substance abusers), MISU (mentally ill substance using), CAMI (chemical abuse and mental illness), ICO PSD (individuals with co-occurring psychiatric and substance disorders) and MIC'D (mentally ill chemically dependent).

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. The set of ideas which is relevant to dual disorders is as well used for multiple disorders.

The existence of combined co-existing conditions and those of psychiatric disorders can differ in several significant aspects like chronicity, gravity, disability and level of impairment in bodily operations. For instance, each of the two disorders may be serious or mild, or 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.

Therefore, there isn't a specific combination of dual disorders; in reality, there's a big difference among these. Though, patients with combinations of dual disorders that are alike are regularly found in specific treatment environments.


Further damage is inflicted in more than 50 % of all adults that have severe mental disorder as well as substance abuse disorders (abuse or addiction to alcohol or illicit drugs).


Compared patients who have a COD use problem alone or a mental health disorder, and more serious and chronic medical, social and emotional problems are often experienced by the patients with dual disorders. As they suffer from two disorders, they're at risk of a co-occurring disorder relapse and their mental disorder could also worsen. What's more, an addiction relapse frequently results in psychiatric decompensation and when mental problems worsen it frequently results in addiction relapse. That means that patients with co-occurring disorders require a specific relapse prevention plan. 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.

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