Here are some things to know, and things to remember, as you approach helping a friend, loved one, or family member deal with dual diagnosis. (source: This article from Healthy Place, culled from NAMI)
Know how you can help, but also know your limitations
You can't "fix" your loved one. You don't have the power to cure your loved one with dual diagnosis. Mental illness and addiction are biologically based disorders. Just as diabetes or asthma require treatment and therapy from medical professionals, so too does dual diagnosis.
- Despite your best efforts, your loved ones symptoms may not go away, they may get worse, or they may get better.
- You can help by addressing social, familial, or relationship complications-which can be helpful as your loved on goes through treatment.
- You can be there to support them on the road to recovery.
- You can acknowledge the remarkable courage your loved one shows in facing their dual diagnosis.
- You can choose to work through your own denial, anger, and sadness to come to a place of acceptance.
- You can can educate yourself about your loved ones mental illness and substance use. Understanding and acceptance will lead to compassion.
- You can remember to separate the person from the disorder. Learn to recognize which behaviours are a part of their personality, and which are symptoms of their disorder. Keep in mind that symptoms can change over time while the disorder causing them remains the same.
- You can request the diagnosis, and an explanation from treatment professionals, indeed you should!
- Don't be afraid to ask your loved on if they are thinking of hurting themselves! Dual diagnosis can increase the risk of suicide. If you think they are at risk call the national suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-TALK
Remember to practice self care!
It is not okay to neglect yourself while trying to help your loved one. You have emotional needs and wants too. They are important and deserving of attention.
- If you can't care for yourself, you won't be able to take care of someone else.
- The needs of your loved one do not necessarily always come first.
- Setting clear limits and boundaries is important both for you and for your loved one.
- If you are feeling extreme resentment, you are probably giving too much.
- It may be necessary to renegotiate your relationship with your loved one to protect your own emotional health and well being.
- You have the right to protect your own safety. Dual diagnosis can increase the risk of violence. If you are in a violent or abusive situation, extract yourself from it. You can call the national domestic violence hotline for immediate assistance: 1-800-799-SAFE
You shouldn't go it alone. Seek treatment and support.
You are not alone. Seeking out a support group of people who are going through or have gone through the same kinds of issues you and your loved one are can really help combat the loneliness and isolation people often feel when facing dual diagnosis.
- Seek out a mental health professional skilled in the unique needs of people with dual diagnosis. Trust your gut. Mental health professionals have varied degrees of competence. Work to find a treatment professional you and your loved one trust.
- Remember that the best treatment for dual diagnosis integrates treatment for the mental illness and the substance abuse problem. It is harder to find treatment centers and professionals who use this approach, but it is worth seeking them out. Your loved one is much more likely to benefit from this type of approach.
What does all this boil down to? Educate yourself, know what you can and can't control, establish boundaries, don't neglect your own emotional needs or personal safety, and seek help! The right treatment program and mental health professional can make a world of difference. Seek support, there are support groups out there for you, and for your loved one, and they can make the journey you are both on feel much less lonely.
Here are some resources to get you and your loved one started on the path to recovery:
For help finding integrated treatment for dual diagnosis:
- If you are in Illinois the Illinois Drug Rehabs site can help. They also have links to treatment directories for residents of California, New York, Florida, and Texas. Remember, when searching the directories, to look for facilities that specialize in dual diagnosis.
- Choose Help has a hotline you can call for assistance in finding dual diagnosis integrated treatment options. They can also provide you with the first step in treatment for dual diagnosis: a comprehensive free assessment.
- Your local NAMI chapter can help you to find treatment options, and support groups, in your area.
Some support groups, both for you and your loved one.
- Dual Recovery Anonymous: Is an independent non-professional 12 step program for people living with the unique issues associated with having both a mental illness and a substance abuse problem.
- Al-Anon and Al-Ateen Are confidential support groups for the family and loved ones of alcoholics.
- Mental Health America has an extensive database of support groups. They are also an excellent resource for anyone seeking help, and guidance for mental health and substance use issues.
Need more information about a specific mental illness or aimed at teens or college students?
ETD's resource page lists lots more resources grouped by disorder and age group.