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What is comorbidity?

A comorbidity is a primary disease or condition that co-occurs with but is often independent of, another disease or disorder. There are some conditions that are more likely than others to be comorbid with one another. As well as being a term that is used broadly in medicine, comorbidity is frequently referred to in psychology. In the context of psychology, comorbidity refers to more than one mental disorder that exists alongside a primary diagnosis, or the reason that a patient is referred to in the first place. An example of this in psychology would be a patient who may have schizophrenia combined with a personality disorder. This may be because the doctor is not able to tell much of a difference between the two conditions.

What are examples of comorbidity in psychology?

The following examples are commonly comorbid:

Depressive disorders – these often coexist with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and serious illnesses.

Anxiety disorders – these disorders can be combined with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress amongst others.

Schizophrenia – this condition is comorbid with depression, anxiety and addiction.

Addiction – patients develop other psychological disorders as a result of their addictions.

How are comorbid illnesses treated in psychology?

The combination of conditions affects case management for treatment in patients who experience comorbidity. There is no one size fits all approach to the condition.