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Signs of Co-Occurring Disorder

Signs of Co-Occurring Disorder

Co-occurring disorders refer to the presence of both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder in an individual. Detecting the signs of co-occurring disorders can be difficult because symptoms often overlap and can influence one another. There are, however, common signs and symptoms that can make it more evident for a person.  

Common Signs and the Effects of Co-Occurring Disorder

Regularly partaking in substance use, such as alcohol or drugs, is a ubiquitous sign. If they are required to cope with emotions, stress, sleep, or other mental health issues, it is prevalent that there is an issue at hand. This can be attached to mood swings and emotional instability; an irregular change in someone’s emotional state is a sign of a co-occurring disorder. Experiencing symptoms like anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, or suicidal thoughts may be related to a mental health disorder, substance use, or both. Struggling with everyday responsibilities at work, school, or home is another common sign to look out for. This may include declining performance, absenteeism, or difficulty in maintaining relationships. If the craving for substance is distracting you from any of these things or you are beginning to see these signs in your or a loved one’s life, it is vital to reach out and seek help.  

How Do I tell if Someone I know has a Co-Occurring Disorder?

It can be hard to see someone you know and love struggle with substance use and mental health. It is important to note that only a professional can diagnose substance use disorders, but if you see some of these signs in someone you know, you may want to encourage them to seek professional advice and help. You should address the issues with caution, empathy, and without judgment. From an outside perspective, if you notice someone you know having significant changes in behavior, such as excluding themselves from social events or responsibility rather than being their more engaged self. They may engage in more risky behavior and seek poor decision-making activities instead. A constant reliance on substances for activities and everyday tasks is a common sign of substance use, and mental mood swings and depression can show signs of mental health struggles. If both are co-occurring, they should be seeking professional help.  

How to find Freedom from Co-Occurring Disorder

Searching and seeking freedom from co-occurring disorders is the first step in the right direction. Desiring to find change in one’s life reflects maturity and growth because you understand the faults and shortcomings and are desiring change for the better, and it can get better. The first step is seeking professional help. You cannot do this alone, and finding someone who has helped others find the freedom you seek is imperative. Since co-occurring disorders are both a mental and physical struggle, it is crucial to address both simultaneously. This could include a combination of medication, therapy, and support services. Proper medicines prescribed by a doctor can help manage symptoms and begin healing. These medications need to be prescribed and should be monitored by a healthcare professional to ensure that abuse of the drugs does not occur. There are many different therapy areas, and you should seek the one where you feel you will find the most growth and be the most engaged. One-on-one therapy is an excellent place for open conversations, and trust can be quickly built. Many unique groups will help carry each other’s burdens and support one another guilt-free. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Dual Recovery Anonymous can provide valuable support and a sense of community.  


In closing, co-occurring disorders are a severe and challenging issue to identify, as substance use and mental disorders can easily overlap and feed into each other. If you believe that you may be struggling, it is paramount that you seek professional help and engage in therapy and proper proscribed medication so you can begin on the road to freedom. If you know someone struggling, it is crucial to approach the situation with empathy and without judgment. If you suspect someone you know has a co-occurring disorder, encourage them to seek help and remain in their corner through the process. The path to recovery is challenging, but the freedom on the other side is worth more than anything else, so please contact NorthStar Regional and begin your healing journey today.