Effects of Co-occurring Disorders


Imagine your doctor telling you that you have cancer. After the initial shock, your mind might explode with questions. . . How bad is it? How long will I live? What are my options? Fortunately, they caught it in time. Now, the choice is up to you to take that next step.

What if you’re diagnosed with co-ocurring disorders?

Perhaps you understand that a dual diagnosis describes a person that has both a mental health disorder and substance abuse problem. But, maybe you are wondering. . . Exactly, what does that mean? How badly do co-occurring disorders affect my life? Is treatment necessary?

The effects of co-occurring disorders should motivate you to seek proper treatment.

Effects of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse alone can destroy your life. There are many consequences for untreated addiction:

  • Higher risk of mental illness
  • Financial problems
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Legal problems
  • Tense or lost relationships with family and friends
  • Mood swings
  • Anger issues
  • Lack of motivation
  • Paranoia
  • Physical damage (varies with substance and extent of use)
    • Cardiovascular problems: from abnormal heart rate to heart attacks
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Kidney damage
    • Liver damage
    • Lung cancer
    • Brain damage: leads to problems with memory, attention, and decision-making; alters brain chemistry

Effects of Mental Illness

  • Suffering from a mental illness may make life seem unbearable because it makes you have…
  • A higher risk of substance abuse
  • Disrupted thinking
  • Disrupted feelings and moods
  • An inability to relate with others
  • Difficulty in coping with the ordinary demands of life –friend and family relationships, jobs, school
  • A higher risk of physical health problems

The symptoms vary in degree depending on which mental illness you have and the severity of that mental illness.

Substance Abuse + Mental Disorder

Just imagine, what will happen when you combine the effects of substance abuse and the effects of mental illness!  . . . As you can see, dual disorders result in multiple negative consequences, harming your physical and psychological health in various ways. They will do so increasingly because both disorders feed off each other as they propel one in the downward spiral of mental health problems and addiction.

If untreated, you have a higher likelihood for…

  • Medication noncompliance
  • Relationship problems with family and friends
  • Financial problems
  • Employment problems
  • Violent behavior
  • Legal problems, which may lead to jail or prison time
  • Living in neighborhoods where drug use is common
  • Unstable housing or homelessness
  • STD’s and other health issues
  • Suicide or premature death

There’s Always Hope

A fulfilling life can be yours. You no longer have to suffer from the multiplied effects of substance abuse and mental illness.

The choice is up to you. Will you take the next step and seek treatment?

“I’ve tried to get treated, but it doesn’t work”

Maybe you have been in and out of hospitals and programs trying to find treatment for dual diagnosis and no matter how hard you try, nothing seems to work. Many times doctors only detect one side of the problem because the symptoms for both are very similar. They try to treat one disorder, which causes you to relapse due to the other, untreated disorder.

It is vital that treatment for co-occurring disorders treats both disorders at the same time. Learn more about integrated treatment ->

Helpful Resources

Dual Disorders:




Effects of Drug Abuse:



Mental Illness: