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Co-Existing Conditions


Co-existing conditions which is also referred to as dual diagnosis or dual condition pertains to the existence of more than one medical condition at the same time. For instance, a person may not only suffer from bipolar disorder but from substance abuse too.

While the scope of treatment for drug dependency and mental conditions has emerged to be rather specific, the same thing goes as well for the terms used to refer to individuals who both have problems with drug dependency and mental conditions.


The term co-occurring actually takes the place of the terms dual disorder and dual diagnosis. These latter terms, though used commonly to point to the mixture of substance abuse and mental disorders, are confusing in that they also point to other mixtures of disorders (like mental retardation and mental disorders).

Also, there can be more than just two disorders present, while these terms are implying otherwise. People who suffer from co-occurring disorders (COD) have one or more disorders that have to do with mental disorders and one or more disorders that have to do with the use of drugs and/or alcohol. A diagnosis of co-occurring disorders is caused when at least one disorder of each type can be managed independent of the other and is not the simple bunch of symptoms resulting from the on disorder.

Dual disorder is used interchangeably in this article to refer to co-occurring disorders although the latter is the most recent development in the lingo as used in the medical field.


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The acronym MICA, which constitutes the phrase Mentally ILL Chemical Abusers, is eventually used to nominate people who have a COD and markedly serious and continued 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. Other acronyms include SAMI (Substance abuse and mental illness), MISA (mentally ill substance abusers), MISU (mentally ill substance using), CAMI (chemical abuse and mental illness), ICO PSD (individuals with co-occurring psychiatric and substance disorders) and MIC'D (mentally ill chemically dependent).

Some typical examples of co-occurring disorders are the combinations of cocaine addiction with major depression, occasional polydrug abuse with borderline personality disorder, panic disorder with alcohol addiction and polydrug addiction and alcoholism with schizophrenia. Even if the emphasis for this dwells on dual disorders, there are a number of patients who have more than two conditions. The fundamentals that have to do with dual disorders normally also have a bearing on multiple disorders.

The mixture of psychiatric disorders and COD problems differ along important dimensions like chronicity, disability, severity, and degree of impairment in functioning. For instance, one disorder can be more extreme than the other, or both can be equally mild or extreme. Indeed, the seriousness of both disorders may alter over time. Degrees of impairment in functioning and disability might also differ.

Therefore, no single combination of dual disorders exists and there's indeed significant lack of consistency amongst these disorders. Although patients with the same combination of dual disorders most of the time are met in some treatment programmes.


Over half of adult individuals having serious mental illness also have drug use disorders which can come in the form of misuse or dependency associated with the use of alcohol and drugs.


Compared patients who have a COD use problem alone or a mental health disorder, and more serious and chronic medical, social and emotional problems are often experienced by the patients with dual disorders. They are vulnerable to both COD relapse and a worsening of the psychiatric disorder because they have two disorders. What's more, an addiction relapse frequently results in psychiatric decompensation and when mental problems worsen it frequently results in addiction relapse. This is why relapse prevention should be particularly made for patients having dual disorders. Patients who battle with dual disorders frequently need longer treatment, experience more emergencies and advance more slowly in treatment than patients who battle just a single disorder.

Mood disorders, personality disorders, psychotic disorders and anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental disorders present among patients that suffer from co-occurring disorders.