These Disorders Commonly Co-Occur With Depression

Oliver Jay

These Disorders Commonly Co-Occur With Depression

Presented by BetterHelp.

Learning how to channel the power of positivity is a great skill to have, but sometimes you can’t seem to get out of a slump that leaves you sad, exhausted, hopeless, or deeply indifferent. These feelings might be indicative of depression, which commonly develops in people who are currently navigating another disorder, like social anxiety, substance use, or cancer. 

This article will explore why disorders often co-occur, and what disorders most commonly occur alongside depression. 

Why do mental disorders often co-occur? 

Co-occurring disorders, also called comorbid disorders, refer to more than one disorder occurring in a single person. These disorders may be mental or physical. For example, if someone is diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder, they have comorbid anxiety and depression. If someone is diagnosed with diabetes and major depressive disorder, these disorders are also considered comorbid. 

According to the University of Colorado Boulder, more than half of people diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder will be diagnosed with at least one more in their lifetime. In part, the common overlap of psychiatric disorders can be explained by genetic architecture that puts many people at a heightened risk of multiple disorders. 

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For example, a study published in the journal Nature Genetics found that 70% of the genetic structure associated with schizophrenia is also associated with bipolar disorder. And there’s a strong genetic overlap between people with internalizing disorders, like depression and anxiety. 

Disorders that co-occur with depression 

While nearly all psychiatric and physical diagnoses can co-occur with depression, depression is strongly associated with the co-occurrence of the following disorders: 

  • Executive dysfunction 

Executive function refers to a set of learned skills that utilize mental processes like working memory, cognitive flexibility, and self-regulation. These skills are important for daily functioning. People with executive dysfunction may be at a higher risk of experiencing depressive symptoms. 

  • Anxiety disorders

Anxiety and depression and often comorbid, meaning they occur at the same time. According to some estimates, 60% of people with anxiety symptoms also experience depressive symptoms

  • Substance use disorders
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Substance use disorders frequently co-occur with other disorders, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression. Over 60% of adolescents in community-based treatment programs for substance use disorder also experience symptoms of another diagnosable mental disorder. 

  • Eating disorders

Eating disorders are frequently comorbid with depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, substance use disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

  • Physical symptoms and diseases

Some medical conditions, such as stroke, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, can increase the risk of depression. This may occur when serious or chronic illnesses harm an individual’s sense of purpose or ability to live life the way they want to, or when the cause of depression and physical illnesses are mediated by similar biological systems. 

According to Mental Health America, “It is a myth that depression is a “normal” emotional response to another illness; it’s extremely important to simultaneously treat both medical illnesses.” If you’ve been diagnosed with a serious physical disorder, you may feel down. But if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression that impact your daily functioning or quality of life, it’s probably time to reach out to a professional. 

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The importance of getting help

When disorders are comorbid, they may lead to worsening symptoms of both disorders, making it important to get the appropriate help as soon as possible. Depression can be a very serious disorder, but it’s usually highly responsive to treatment with a combination of talk therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. 


Many physical and mental disorders can co-occur with depression, but the most commonly co-occurring disorders include anxiety disorders, executive dysfunction, substance use disorders, eating disorders, diabetes, stroke, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. 

If you receive a diagnosis of any physical or mental disorder, it’s important to get prompt and attentive care, which can reduce the likelihood of developing comorbidities. 

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