In the treatment community the term “dual diagnosis” is used as a sort of catch all for people with a number of conditions. Officially it’s anyone who has both a substance abuse issue as well as an underlying mental condition. This can range from people with schizophrenia to people with more benign issues like bipolar disorder or anxiety and depression. Often times people with a dual diagnosis condition can be difficult to treat because their addiction to drugs and alcohol is usually rooted in their underlying condition. And the problem may also be more common than previously realized. According to a recent study at least 40% of people with mental illnesses or mood disorders also have a co-occurring substance abuse issue. Doctors and counselors often talk about how these people need more personalized care, since each dual diagnosis patient presents unique issues and because each diagnosis must be treated individually.
What isn’t often discussed are the unique hardships experienced by the family and loved ones of these people, who often find it difficult to comprehend their actions. To a non-addict, or as they’re more colloquially known, a normie, drug addiction seems like a truly insane form of behavior. It’s almost impossible to understand in a rational sense. The fact that people will keep drinking or using as their life slowly deteriorates is hard to comprehend. Add to this the often erratic mood swings and illogical actions of someone dealing with bipolar disorder and it’s easy to understand how hopeless many families must feel.
Another of the more baffling aspects of this illness is the capacity that people with bipolar disorder have for manipulation. They can often be charismatic, artistic, and intelligent. Couple that with the need to continually fuel their addiction and the manipulative behavior soon follows. They can become skilled at influencing others against each other or in convincing people to help them in their quest to continue using drugs and alcohol. For addicts who are not dual diagnosis, many counselors advocate a tough love approach. There is often talk of not becoming an enabler and many family members have to cut their loved ones out of their lives until they are ready to get help and enter treatment. However when an addict has a co-occurring mental disorder, this doesn’t always work. Sometimes, the addict may come to blame their family and turn to manipulating others instead. The important thing to remember is you are not responsible for other people’s actions. The person you fell in love with is still in there, under all the lies and the broken promises. And as much as you want to flip a switch and have everything go back to normal, the road to recovery is much more arduous.
The good news is that people with dual diagnosis still have a shot at recovery just like any other addict. And when they finally do get sober they’re going to need even more support. The important thing is to not give up because when they’re finally ready you could be the person that finally gets through.