Treating dual diagnosis

Treating co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis can be extremely tricky as symptoms are often very similar and one problem often worsens the other, creating a vicious cycle. Moreover dual diagnosis is a field in which research and development is still active. Not many people are aware of the condition. What is certain is that an integrated approach is the best.

Image courtesy of Kaushik Narasimhan via Flickr

Image courtesy of Kaushik Narasimhan via Flickr

This method ensures that both the mental health issue and the substance abuse problem are tackled at the same time. In other words, both are treated simultaneously regardless of what came first. This could be a mixture of counselling sessions, group therapy and medication. It is important to remember that recovery will take a lot of time and will usually take longer than just recovering from one issue. It will take commitment, strength and bravery seeing as recovery can take a number of years. Relapses happen and they shouldn’t be treated as signs of weakness. Setbacks are typical but can be overcome with hard work and determination. Do not let them dishearten you.

Treatment should be combined for both the issues and importantly, they should be provided by the same team. It is curial to make sure that the program you choose is licenced and is suitable for your specific needs. Take some time to carry out some research into the methods used and assess whether they are relevant to your particular mental health issue. Some clinics will specialise in minor mental health issues such as anxiety and depression whilst others specialise in more extreme cases such as schizophrenia. Thought into what their after-care is like is also advised.

The stages of treatment do not differ so much. Honest engagement is required throughout therapy as is a basic desire to want to change and get better. Recognising triggers and the underlying problem is needed in active treatment and coping strategies are also outlined.

With dual diagnosis, the addict and sufferer plays an active role in decision-making and has a say in what strategies work best for them. A large part of the treatment also focuses on educating the patient about the mental health issue disorder and the substance abuse to give a better understanding of their situation and what they are dealing with. Help is given to find successful methods of coping, to re-build strong relationships and to even find employment. Counselling may be provided alone or as part of a group or a combination of both.

There are a number of thing that the addict can do themselves:

  • Know the triggers for your addiction and your mental health problem and implement the coping methods you come up with in therapy. If you can prevent stress, you are one step closer in preventing relapse.

  • Exercising regularly is a stress busting method used by many people. It provides distraction both mentally and physically and therefore, improves your entire spirit.

  • Get a regular sleeping pattern which consists of neither waking up too late or going to bed too late. Severe lack of sleep can lead to stress and depression.

  • Eating healthy also plays a big role as does eating regularly throughout the day. Have breakfast to kick start your days and try and get a balanced diet to ensure your body has energy and make you feel good overall.


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