What Is a Comorbidity?



If you are someone who is looking into a mental health diagnosis, you might find that you have many symptoms that do not seem to fit together. You might feel always on edge, but you also might feel fatigued. Perhaps you feel like some symptoms match one diagnosis, but other symptoms match another diagnosis. What you may not know is that it is possible to have more than one mental illness. In fact, many mental health disorders can exist together and even influence each other.


Having multiple diagnoses can complicate treatment, but being knowledgeable about everything that is going on can help ensure a more successful recovery. Mental healthcare professionals can address both disorders without missing crucial information and making the situation worse.


Mental Health Can Be Complicated


When receiving a diagnosis, keep in mind that it is not one-size-fits-all. There are plenty of factors that influence your mental health, from biology to environment to personal experiences. Psychiatrists need to consider every possible factor when it comes to assessing your mental health.


Perhaps you believe that you can only have one disorder at a time, or that it can only be one or the other. This might cause you to doubt your own feelings because it contradicts another feeling. Humans are very complicated, which makes diagnosis difficult. Despite these complications, being honest with yourself and your psychiatrist about all of your symptoms can make it easy to put the pieces together.


Why Do Some Disorders Exist Together?


There are many disorders that can exist together based on several different reasons. This can depend on environmental factors, genetics, or experiences related to mental illness. Some disorders originate at birth, and most research shows that they are most likely a result of genetics. There are some disorders that can be caused by genetics but can also be the result of experiences related to a pre-existing disorder. Such disorders are referred to as secondary disorders.


For example, if you are diagnosed with ADHD, you might have a secondary disorder that developed from the experience of having ADHD. If you were bullied because of your ADHD symptoms, you might develop depression as a result.


Treatment centers for substance use disorder (SUD) will often look for underlying mental health disorders since SUDs can be a result of coping with an untreated mental illness. Most treatment centers automatically screen for PTSD upon intake, while others screen for disorders such as bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and eating disorders.


Informed Treatment Can Save Lives


It is essential for mental healthcare practitioners and substance use treatment centers to be aware of the potential for overlapping disorders, Ignoring the signs of a disorder while treating the other can negatively affect the treatment process. While trying to develop healthy habits to recover from substance use, you might struggle if you have undiagnosed ADHD.


Alternatively, if you have bipolar disorder, you might not realize the way you use substances to cope with symptoms is problematic and therefore will not learn to develop healthier coping mechanisms. When you have a full understanding of your mental health, you can better understand yourself and know how to work with your disorder along with an appropriate treatment plan.


Common Comorbid Disorders


Many different disorders can exist together. The most common comorbid disorders are anxiety and depression. They can be found with countless other disorders and sometimes play as a symptom for an even deeper issue.

Substance use disorder can have many comorbid disorders underneath. Common comorbid disorders for SUDs are:

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Borderline personality disorder

  • ADHD

  • Schizophrenia

  • PTSD

  • Anxiety

  • Major Depressive Disorder

Treatment for Comorbidity


Treatment plans for disorders that co-occur can become complicated, but knowing the entire scope of a person’s mental health can make treatment more successful in the long run. The co-existing disorders can inform your doctor on what types of therapy work best for you, and what types could potentially make things worse.


Treatment plans can then be tailored with both disorders in mind. For example, the different disorders might influence the order in which symptoms are addressed. Some symptoms can work off of each other, thus making things worse.


Be Honest With Your Doctor


Even if you feel confused about your symptoms, be honest about all symptoms that are occurring at once. This can help your doctor or therapist understand everything that is lying underneath and how they can best help you.


It is unlikely that a doctor will not believe you if you have multiple symptoms, since therapists and psychiatrists are educated on common comorbidities. Keeping your doctor aware of everything going on can help you avoid a misdiagnosis.


While your symptoms might seem like they do not fit a pattern or that you have too much going on at once, there is a higher chance that you have multiple co-occurring disorders. This can be common, especially with those who have depression or anxiety. Knowing everything going on underneath helps healthcare professionals properly diagnose you and give you the most helpful, personalized treatment plan. Do not be afraid to be completely honest with your doctor, even if it does not make sense to you. Co-existing disorders are fairly common and expected. It can complicate diagnosis, but once the right diagnosis is found, you will find that healing becomes that much easier. To learn more about comorbidities, especially disorders that co-occur with substance use disorders, call Chateau today at (435) 222-5225. You deserve the right treatment that works for your situation. It is not too late to get better, and we are here to help.