7 Signs Of Co-Occurring Disorders

Many Ohioans with addiction also have co-occurring disorders such as depression, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. This is known as a dual diagnosis, and the most common signs include mood swings, risky behaviors, isolation, loss of motivation, and changes in appetite, sleep, or appearance.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 7.7 million people in the U.S. have a dual diagnosis. That means they live with drug addiction (substance use disorder) along with at least one other mental health condition.

This type of comorbidity often affects people with certain risk factors, such as a family history of mental illness and adolescent exposure to substance abuse. If you think you or someone you love might have a dual diagnosis, look for these seven signs.

1. Mood Swings

Many people experience rapid mood changes from time to time, especially during stressful situations. However, ongoing mood swings could signal a mental health issue, such as bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or borderline personality disorder (BPD). 

Some people with these conditions try to self-medicate their mood swings by abusing drugs. 

Unfortunately, drug abuse and addiction can also cause mood swings. 

For example, a person might experience euphoria (intense joy) when using drugs. When they’re no longer high, though, they may become sad, irritable, or angry. They may also develop mood swings as a withdrawal symptom if they can’t access drugs. 

2. Appetite Changes

A sudden decrease or increase in appetite may indicate a mental health concern, especially a mood disorder, such as major depressive disorder, or an eating disorder. The most common eating disorders include:

  • anorexia nervosa, which involves extreme food restriction
  • bulimia nervosa, which involves binging (extreme overeating) followed by some form of purging, such as vomiting, using laxatives, or over exercising 
  • binge eating disorder, which involves periods of binging that feel uncontrollable 

Your appetite can also change due to drug use. Stimulant drugs suppress your appetite, often leading to drastic, unhealthy weight loss. Other drugs, such as marijuana, can boost your appetite. 

Also, no matter what drugs you use, addiction can make you lose interest in food. That’s because your mind becomes consumed with substance use. When you spend all your time getting and using drugs, it’s easy to neglect your basic needs, including hunger.

3. Sleep Changes

Sleep problems frequently affect people with poor mental health. Some people sleep too much, while others struggle with insomnia. These problems may occur with various mental health conditions, from generalized anxiety disorder to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to schizophrenia.

Addiction can cause similar issues. For instance, people with opioid or alcohol use disorder may feel sleepy much of the time, while people addicted to stimulants (such as cocaine or meth) might never sleep at all. 

In addition, some people experience excessive sleepiness or insomnia as drug withdrawal symptoms.

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4. Risky Behaviors

Certain mental health problems, especially bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder (BPD), raise your risk of engaging in risky behaviors. These behaviors may include:

  • excessive spending
  • reckless driving
  • gambling
  • having unprotected sex with multiple partners
  • self-harm

Co-occurring addiction can also contribute to these behaviors. They may also take other risky actions to support their drug use. For example, they might drive while intoxicated, share unclean needles for injecting drugs, or steal money from loved ones to buy more drugs.

5. Isolation

If your mental health symptoms get bad, you might feel the urge to isolate yourself. 

Most people associate this behavior with major depression. However, according to mental health professionals, it can also result from PTSD, schizophrenia, and a variety of other mental health problems.

Isolation can also signal drug abuse or addiction. A person with addiction may isolate themselves for many reasons. 

For instance, they might not want their loved ones to find out about their substance misuse. They may also withdraw from their loved ones so they can spend all their time with other people who use drugs. 

6. Appearance Changes

When left untreated, addiction and co-occurring disorders can affect your appearance. Potential appearance changes include:

  • sudden change in weight
  • bloodshot eyes
  • smaller or larger pupils
  • unexplained and/or slow-healing wounds
  • increased dental problems, such as tooth decay or gum disease

Similarly, people with co-occurring disorders often find it difficult to maintain their personal hygiene. As a result, they may have unwashed hair, dirty clothes, or intense body odor.

7. Loss Of Motivation

When battling an untreated dual diagnosis, a person may become so overwhelmed that they lose their motivation in life. They will then struggle to keep up with their responsibilities at work or school. In some cases, they might even lose their jobs. 

Some people also stop caring for their loved ones, causing severe relationship damage. Fortunately, once someone receives dual diagnosis treatment, their motivation typically returns.

If you or a loved one experiences these symptoms, please reach out to Ohio Recovery Center

Our behavioral health care providers offer cognitive behavioral therapy, support groups, and other evidenced-based interventions to help you recover from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.

  1. Alcohol Health and Research World — The Challenge of Dual Diagnosis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6876494/
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse — Comorbidity: Substance Use and Other Mental Disorders https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/comorbidity/comorbidity-substance-use-other-mental-disorders-infographic
  3. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Dual Diagnosis https://medlineplus.gov/dualdiagnosis.html

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: July 12, 2023

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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