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Helping a Family Member Through Dual Diagnosis

June 17 2014 - By:

dual diagnosisIt is tough watching a friend or a family member struggle with issues, whether that means seeing them struggle with an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, or watching them struggle with an undiagnosed mental illness. But when you are watching a loved one struggle with both — this is called dual diagnosis — it is particularly troubling.

Dual diagnosis is when the two conditions of a mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety or depression, and an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, are co-occurring. While the two conditions often go hand-and-hand and are linked in several ways, one condition does not actually cause the other.

When there are some underlying risks of mental illness in someone, abusing alcohol or drugs can actually increase the underlying risk of the mental illness. When someone is trying to cope with a mental illness, they will often drink or do drugs in an effort to self-medicate the symptoms of the illness. This often causes the mental illness symptoms to worsen, which in turn, causes more abuse of drugs and/or alcohol.

It can be difficult to tell if your loved one is suffering from dual diagnosis. You will need to observe both symptoms of drug and/or alcohol abuse, as well as signs of a mental illness. Some common addiction signs include trying to cut back on drinking or drug use but being unable to, lying about their drug consumption or alcohol intake, and just having friends or family concerned about their drug use or alcohol consumption.

There are several common co-occurring mental illnesses that can be present in dual diagnosis and each one — such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder — all have different symptoms. Symptoms of depression include, but are not limited to: difficulty concentrating, feeling of hopelessness and irritability. Anxiety disorders include, but are not limited to: social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms of bipolar disorder include, but are not limited to: up and down episodes of mania and depression, irritability and erratic behavior.

When the person you care about is sober but is still presenting a symptom of a mental illness, such as showing depressed behavior or exhibiting anxiety, they may be dealing with a mental health issue on top of their addiction issue.

If you feel your loved one is suffering from dual diagnosis, help them find the right rehab that will treat both co-occurring issues. Many rehabs, such as the Affordable Rehab of Worcester offer integrated treatment approaches for those suffering from dual diagnosis. This means that in addition to treating the addiction, they will simultaneously be treating the mental health issue. This will give your loved one the best chance at recovery.

Life with dual diagnosis is hard. But there is hope. There is help available.

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