What Are Co-Occurring Disorders?

a therapist talks to a teen about what are co-occurring disorders

Many teens who struggle with their mental health also face concerns relating to substance use. Typically, the most common co-occurring disorders arise because of mental health and addiction issues that need to be treated together in a professional mental health treatment program. Also referred to as a dual diagnosis, the most common co-occurring disorders can be addressed through an anxiety treatment program or depression treatment program to get to the root of a dependency on drugs and alcohol.

A co-occurring disorder treatment program for teens can help adolescents heal. If you’re concerned about your teen’s mental health or substance use issues, reach out to Imagine Fort Collins at 888.291.2309 today.

The Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders

Many of those with serious mental health concerns have reported engaging in drug or alcohol abuse. Living with a mental health issue can push teens to attempt to mask their suffering with substances. While appearing to offer a short-term solution, this self-medicating approach puts these individuals at a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder which will mean they will be battling both mental health and addiction going forward. In order to start on a path toward a complete recovery, both the mental health and addiction issues must be addressed. 

From grief and guilt to anger and self-esteem, there are countless intense emotions with the potential to lead to addiction issues. But when it comes to co-occurring disorders, the commonly diagnosed mental health issues that go hand-in-hand with addiction include:

Anxiety Disorder

An anxiety disorder is a diagnosis often assigned to people who experience frequent and recurring anxiety and panic attacks as well as sleep issues and general restlessness. Attempting to live with this level of intense anxiety without the assistance of an anxiety treatment program has the potential to push an individual to rely on drugs, alcohol, and/or prescription medication as a way of coping with their anxiety and negative thoughts and as means of functioning socially.


Children and young adults are usually the populations diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Identified by impulsive behavior and a lack of focus, as well as hyperactivity, ADHD is one of the common co-occurring disorders which leads to substance abuse because young people can begin to abuse their prescription medications and turn to alcohol or other drugs to further self-medicate.

Bipolar Disorder

People diagnosed with bipolar disorder are susceptible to an addiction to alcohol and drugs. This is because the chemical imbalance in the brain often leads them to self-medicate with substances to hopefully minimize the severity of the mania or depression. Unfortunately, this usually produces an increase in manic episodes and leads to severe addiction. Teens diagnosed with bipolar disorder can benefit from a co-occurring disorder treatment program to foster healthy habits, learn to manage their disorder, and enjoy a happier life.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common in those who have experienced an event or series of events, like being at war or being the victim of a violent crime. The extreme stress caused by these moments can be life-threatening and often causes teens to experiment with drugs in an attempt to relieve their emotional and physical pain. The substances may work to mask the issues temporarily, but addiction can form and lead to a greater emotional imbalance. To treat common co-occurring disorders like PTSD, a mental health treatment program is essential to restore balance in a teen’s mental and physical well-being.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders at Imagine Fort Collins

Through a customized mental health and addiction treatment plan, your teen’s specific situation and needs will be considered and addressed. A skilled team works to provide our patients with a safe and sustainable plan to eliminate alcohol or drug abuse while also treating the underlying causes of the addiction. Some of the therapies we might use include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Trauma therapy

It is scary to be fighting multiple battles to make it through each day, but there is help available. Don’t hesitate to seek out a co-occurring disorder treatment program to help your teen heal. Contact Imagine Fort Collins at 888.291.2309 to learn more.