A dual diagnosis is a term used to describe a condition in which an individual is simultaneously struggling with substance abuse disorder and mental health issues. It is often common for those with mental health disorders like depression, bipolar, or borderline personality disorder to use things like drugs, alcohol, gambling and sex as a means to cope or self-medication. According to studies, it was found that self-medicating mental health issues with drugs or alcohol can worsen symptoms rather than alleviating them. Further studies show that one out of four adults who are suffering from mental health issues also have substance abuse or other forms of addiction. This is why getting the right treatment is essential so one can address the addiction and mental health illness simultaneously. If you are in this situation, how do you cope with dual diagnosis? Read on for more.

Types of Coping Skills

There are many ways a person can adopt healthy coping skills, and we will help you understand the different types. A person’s coping skills can be grouped into four categories: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. To an individual without substance abuse, these coping skills can work instinctively, but for those who are struggling with dual diagnosis, these coping skills can be compared to a tire without air. It does not function like it used to.

Addiction can disrupt the body’s natural ability to process signals from the brain of distress, relaxation, or any other important cues from outside stimuli that allow you to react accordingly to minimize negative feelings. For this reason, those who suffer from mental health issues and substance abuse disorder find it much harder to properly regulate their emotions. This leads to a breakdown of healthy coping skills.

Ways to Cope with Dual Diagnosis

Having dual diagnosis can cause a lot of grief for the person, and finding ways to cope with it can be challenging too. If you have a dual diagnosis, it is best for you to do the following:

  1. Get a proper diagnosis for your co-occurring disorder first – this means that you must first find a solid conclusion that you indeed have a co-occurring disorder. In order to get the right diagnosis, you must be assessed by a mental health professional with licensure that deems them capable of providing a diagnosis. During their assessment of you, they will check to see if you meet certain requirements. These are:
  • A history of substance abuse that has affected your health, family, relationships, etc.
  • Meet the criteria for diagnosing an additional mental health disorder.
  • Being a potential danger to yourself and others.

Once the mental health professional has determined that you meet all of these criteria, they will let you know if you are in need of treatment, and what kind of treatment they recommend to address both the substance abuse disorder and the co-occurring mental health problem. Being completely open and honest with your doctor is essential so that they are able to create a treatment plan that will work on both the substance abuse disorder and the mental health issues you have.

If you feel like you are suffering from an underlying co-occurring disorder, then ask yourself if you are experiencing the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Panic
  • Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Racing thoughts

You must also mention these to your physician so they can discern the type of addiction you have as well as the underlying mental health issues that you are exhibiting. This way a good treatment plan can be done to help you get better.

  1. Get physical – coping physically can be done through exercising. Take a walk if you are feeling down and get some fresh air. Running can also help clear your mind, meditation, doing yoga, learning relaxation techniques, deep breathing exercises, and doing exercises in general can help you clear your thoughts. Find ways to move your body in whatever way you see fit or that you’re physically capable of doing.
  1. Emotional coping – because substance abuse and mental health issues can be energy draining, it is important to check on how you are feeling. Listening to a good song can lift your spirits up, as well as praying (if you are religious), meditating, talking to a friend, hearing a funny story or simply finding someone you can talk to can help you work through your emotions. If you haven’t been talking about your feelings for a while, it’s time to do so. Acknowledging your feelings and doing something about them can help you cope with dual diagnosis.
  1. Coping mentally – reading positive phrases can help you cope. You should also imagine yourself as a happy, healthy, and sober individual. Think about turning your negative beliefs into positive ones by listening to encouraging words. Take time to talk to someone who has a positive influence on you. Listen to inspirational messages or read books that are encouraging. Listening to motivational speeches and music with encouraging words can help you in a good way.
  1. Take care of your spiritual life – if you are someone who believes in a god or higher power, praying or connecting with your religion can be of help to you. Participating in church activities and being in a caring circle and with people who are praying for you can also empower you. Set aside time to volunteer in church organizations, events, and other activities. If by chance you are not someone who goes to church, involving in a community group can also help your spiritual life. Be with people who are volunteering to feed the homeless people, driving activities for a good cause or do something kind for someone else. All of these can help lift the good side of you.
  1. Practice self-care – last but not the least, always know how to take care of yourself. If you want to have great coping skills, the first thing that you need to do is to take care of your well-being. This means eating the right food, getting lots of sunshine, exercise, drinking lots of water and getting enough sleep will make you feel better. Committing to become a better person despite your dual diagnosis is a miracle. So don’t stop taking care of yourself if you want to make lasting changes.

Overcoming the Impossible

If you are diagnosed with dual diagnosis, don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world and there are definitely ways to overcome it. It could come as a shock at first, but if you focus on getting better, then nothing is impossible. Acceptance is the first step towards recovery and there are plenty of ways to overcome barriers.

  • What you need to do is to learn more about your dual diagnosis. Read, research and understand what you have so this doesn’t sound scary or strange to you. Don’t just sit there and accept the diagnosis. Be informed about it, remember that you are fighting for your life back, so knowing what you have will also teach you different ways to cope.
  • You must also get the right kind of treatment. Keep in mind that when you are diagnosed with dual diagnosis, you must get a treatment for your substance abuse disorder AND your mental health issues at the same time. So finding the right physician that will work with you on your treatment is crucial.
  • Lastly, find support from your family, friends, loved ones, meetings, and groups. If you want to recover quickly, the support and love you get from these people will help you cope even better.

Coping with dual diagnosis might sound impossible at first, but if you go to the right people, do the right activities and get the right treatment, then things will eventually fall into place. Being prepared and feeling loved as well as supported are all essential in your journey. Be sure that you are on the right path towards recovery.

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