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The Most Common Disorders that Co-Occur with Addiction

Co-occurring Disorder

One of the fundamental principles on which the best rehabs operate is that addiction rarely occurs in isolation. Rather, addiction is a mental illness that co-occurs with other disorders. Often, it is these other disorders that trigger the addiction. It can also be the other way around, with a dependence on drugs or alcohol leading to other mental health concerns.

Rehabs which take this approach are called dual-diagnosis treatment centers. They focus on treating the addiction along with any other co-occurring disorders, as one cannot be properly addressed without the other.

If you or a loved one are battling addiction, you may be wondering about co-occurring disorders. These are the most common disorders that co-occur with addiction.


Depression is a very common co-occurring disorder linked to addiction. Anyone who has suffered from depression can understand this. Depression is an extremely painful illness and facing it sober can be incredibly difficult. As such, people battling depression turn to substances to numb out the pain or to temporarily feel good.

Over time, they become dependent on substances in order to get through the day. In order to recover from addiction, recovery from depression is crucial. Without treating the depression, it is likely to lead an individual to relapse.


Anxiety in many forms commonly co-occurs with addiction. This generally takes one of two forms. In some cases, people suffering from anxiety use substances to block out the agitating thoughts. This is particularly common with people suffering from anxiety disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People suffering from OCD have obsessive thoughts that are difficult to shut out.

The other way people use substances to deal with anxiety is in order to give them so-called ‘liquid courage’. While the term itself refers to alcohol, it applies to other substances as well. People who struggle with social anxiety disorders or general anxiety disorders use substances in order to psyche themselves up to deal with anxiety-inducing situations.

Many people with social anxiety, for example, actually enjoy social activities. It is the anxiety which can make these interactions feel unbearable. Using substances, a person can feel their inhibitions loosen. Over time, they become dependent on substances.


Insomnia is a common co-occurring disorder, especially with substances like alcohol and tranquilizers. Insomnia can be very distressing, as one spends hours with thoughts racing through their minds. Alcohol and tranquilizers like sleeping pills can temporarily block out these thoughts and help the person fall asleep.

However, as a person’s tolerance grows, these substances become less effective, leading the person to use more and more, with diminishing returns. In rehab, it is necessary to treat the insomnia so as to avoid relapse when one is subsequently unable to fall asleep.

There are many other co-occurring disorders with addiction. The above are the most common examples to look out for.