At a glance

“Comorbidity refers to the occurrence of more than one disorder at the same time. It may refer to co-occurring mental disorders or co-occurring mental disorders and physical conditions.” (Australian Department of Health.)

This simply means that someone has more than one condition or illness at the same time. Other terms used, but meaning the same thing, include dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders.

“Coexisting” is the preferred term in a recovery approach. “Comorbid” or “comorbidity” is more likely to be used as a medical or clinical term.

How can coexisting conditions complicate a person’s wellbeing?

  • Conditions can be harder to diagnose or can go undiagnosed.
  • The person may not recognise that they are experiencing more than one condition.
  • The person may not want to acknowledge an issue (particularly with substance use).
  • Treatment may be complicated, as what helps one condition may affect the other.
  • The combination of conditions can impact a person’s access to specialist health and support services.

What are some examples of coexisting conditions for people with mental health conditions?

  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Brain injury
  • Intellectual disability
  • Gambling addiction
  • Physical conditions
  • Multiple mental health conditions

Mental health conditions affect everyone differently. This also applies to people with coexisting conditions.

Resources

People with mental health conditions and other disabilities
This links to a section of the Mental Health Coordinating Council (MHCC) Mental Health Rights Manual for people with mental health conditions and other disabilities.
Type: Manual (publication with additional links)
Estimated reading time: 15 minutes
Produced by: Mental Health Coordinating Council

People with coexisting conditions and complex care needs
This is a link to information and tips for practitioners and providers about coexisting conditions and complex care needs.
Type: Web page
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Produced by: AUST | Department of Health

Current as at: Wednesday 17 August 2022
Contact page owner: Mental Health Branch