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Understanding Issues Related To Dual Diagnosis Treatment


It is already difficult to handle a single issue, let alone managing the two together. Generally a combination of a mental condition and a substance abuse problem, these conditions are extremely difficult to diagnose because of overlapping symptoms and treating them one by one can be impossible. Therefore, a treatment program should be planned such that both the problems are attacked simultaneously. Usually, the mental condition develops first and substance abuse acts as an escape mechanism.

Treatment Difficulties In Dual Diagnosis

Treatment difficulties depend upon three distinct factors. They are social factors, environmental factors, and relapse or recurrence. Following are the difficulties based on these aspects.

  • Some mentally ill people are accepted readily by social groups that indulge in substance use
  • Due to their mental illness, some people live in marginal areas where they can get drugs easily
  • Relapse risk increases tremendously because of substance use
  • It is easier for the patient to handle the label of an “addict” rather than that of a “mentally ill” person
  • The use of substances interferes with the treatment of mental illness
  • Recurrence can cause the feeling of failure
  • Lack of will power and adequate defense mechanisms
  • Rehabilitation gets exceedingly difficult as they are not accommodated in rehabilitation centers because of their mental illness
  • There is no support system for people with dual diagnosis as they frequent hospitals and rehabilitation centers leading to a lack of support from the family.

Treatment For Dual Diagnosis

Treatment for dual diagnosis can be quite tricky as the patient struggles with both mental illness and chemical dependency. Mental health facilities are not equipped to deal with substance abuse and rehabilitation centers cannot cater to the needs of people will mental illness. More often than not, only one of the problems is diagnosed and treated, therefore, the other problem interferes with the one being treated. However, programs are being initiated that allow simultaneous treatment of both the problems and multiple teams combat the issues in tandem. The treatment involves medication, inpatient and outpatient hospitalization, support groups, life skills management, and extensive counseling.

The families and care takers of people with dual diagnosis have to be extremely careful as the severity of their problems can be easily overlooked because the individual makes covert use of substances and the behavior symptoms of substance use overlap those of the mental illness. Therefore, it is extremely necessary to observe such patients carefully and keep them under close scrutiny. Seek help from various support groups, hospitals, and counselors and get educated about dual diagnosis to avoid underestimating the problem.

meet dawn, our founder

Dawn T Barry Hulme, Director, Marriage and Family Therapist MFCC 50153, Masters in Psychology with emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy

As the founder and lead counselor of Windows of Hope Counseling Center, it was my hope to create a non-profit agency offering effective and affordable counseling to the community. It is my belief that everyone deserves to be nurtured and supported during their healing process. Many times while on our life journey we can become confused and experience difficulty finding our way. My hope is to help clients become anchored so that when life difficulties become part of their journey they stay flexible while keeping their direction intact. I specialize with couples and individuals using "Imago" therapeutic techniques along with mindfulness based practices.

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