Sharing Problems, Seeking Guidance Make It Easier to Deal With Dual Diagnosis


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Dual diagnosis is one of the most complex brain disorders. Usually a combination of psychiatric illness and substance use disorder (SUD), it is comparatively severer and more complex than either of the two disorders as it involves the interplay between two equally complex conditions. Dual diagnosis, known as co-occurring disorders in the common parlance, is characterized by errant behavior, petty criminal offenses, and fluctuating moods due to the comorbidity of SUD and mental disorder.

Depending on the kind of substance abused, users develop different combinations of coexisting disorders, such as alcoholism and depression. The repercussions of dual diagnosis are not restrained only to the individual grappling with the challenges of the disorder but equally impacts family members and friends as well.

The family of the person suffering from dual diagnosis finds itself struggling with a new challenge every now and then. These problems can include arranging a ride to the hospital in odd hours, finding funds for treatment, and dealing with his or her exaggerated and irrational hallucinations or paranoia. This could be cumbersome for the members of the family, leaving no time for recreation and rejuvenation. Most are harried and hassled, and heave a sigh of relief when it is time to send the patient to a recovery home for treatment.

Though they may not show it explicitly, family members could feel resentment and hatred toward their condition due to the patient. Despite all efforts, there is an increased risk that things could turn for worse, spiking the likelihood of a relapse. They feel let down by the patient, when he or she expresses no gratitude for their all help and care.

Ways to handle dual diagnosis patients in family

The risk of exacerbating the problem runs high when family and friends use violence and intimidation to control the patient. In order to nip the problem in the bud, the family should instead try the following tips:

Keeping control over spending: Instead of giving money to a dual diagnosis patient, which could fuel addiction, the family should appoint a caregiver to take care of his/her expenses. It is necessary to keep money away from the reach of such patients. Furthermore, with the help of a community mental health worker, counsellor or therapist, a person can be dissuaded from splurging money on drugs and alcohol.

Dealing with agitation and paranoia: The families of people living with the co-occurring disorders must learn to deal with the most common symptoms of dual diagnosis, such as agitation, paranoia and hallucinations. In certain conditions, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the signs of an impending flare up are evident prior to the actual episode. Therefore, it is vital for the family to develop mechanisms for dealing with such episodes, such as providing medications or taking help of a community organization or health care center. In case, there are children in the family, it is necessary to keep them out of harm's way. Such psychotic episodes can have a deeper impression on the mind of a child compared to adults.

Staying firm: Although people with dual diagnosis have as much right to decide their lifestyle and way of living as any other person, it is necessary for their families to stay firm and communicate clearly in case their habits are negatively impacting the members, especially children.

Taking professional help when required: One should not shy away from taking professional help, not just for the patient but also for himself or herself, if needed. Participating in community awareness and skill training programs related to dual diagnosis keep one abreast of the latest developments. Also, one can develop better coping mechanisms and feel more stressed out by meeting other families living with the same set of problems through such community programs. These community programs related to harm minimization strategies help people in keeping the patient and the family safe.

Progressive family members support each other

Dual diagnosis is a complex problem that requires treatment by a clinical expert in addition to the love and support of the family. In certain instances, when the condition is beyond control, the person suffering from dual diagnosis would be required to prolong his/her stay in inpatient settings.

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