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Co-Existing Conditions


Disorders that occur at the same time are referred to as co-occurring, dual diagnosis or dual disorder. An example is when someone suffers from drug abuse and bipolar disorder.

The special terms used to describe people with dual disorder has evolved in the same way that the area of addictions and mental disorder treatment has grown and advanced.


The term co-occurring actually takes the place of the terms dual disorder and dual diagnosis. 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. Patients who have coexisting conditions can have one or more conditions associated with alcohol or drug dependency and also one or more mental condition. Co-occurring disorders can be diagnosed when a minimum of one disorder of each kind can be verified separate from the other disorder and it's not just a group of symptoms that stem from one of the disorders.

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. The most ideal term used is mentally ill chemically affected individuals because the term affected more aptly describes their condition and is not derogatory. Some of the other acronyms are: CAMI (chemical abuse and mental illness), MISU (mentally ill substance using), MISA (mentally ill substance abusers), SAMI (substance abuse and mental illness), ICO PSD (individuals with co-occurring psychiatric and substance disorders) and MIC'D (mentally ill chemically dependent).

Common examples of co-occurring disorders include the 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. 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.

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, each of the two disorders may be serious or mild, or one may be more serious than the other. However, with time, the extremity of both disorders might change. Degrees of impairment in functioning and disability might also differ.

Therefore, it is important to note that there is no single combination of co-occurring disorders; they actually vary depending on the mentioned factors. Specific treatment environments are, however, set up for patients that have alike combinations of dual disorders.


More than half of all adults with serious mental illness are further caused by substance use disorders (abuse or addiction related to alcohol or other drugs).


The differences between patients with a mental health disorder or only a co-occurring disorder problem and patients with dual disorders are that the latter frequently suffer more serious and long-lasting medical, emotional and social challenges. They are susceptible, since they have two disorders, to both further impairment of mental disorder and COD relapse. Also, a cycle is likely where once there is a relapse in addiction recovery, the patient becomes more prone to a psychiatric worsening which makes it much easier to relapse into an addiction. Therefore, preventing a relapse must be consciously devised for those who suffer from dual disorders. Dual disorder patients often need longer periods of treatment, have more crises and progress slowly in treatment in comparison to patients who have a single disorder.

Psychiatric disorders which is rampant among patients having dual disorders and can comprise of anxiety disorders, mood disorders, psychotic disorders and personality disorders.