A person with a dual disorder has two biological illnesses. They are not to blame for these illnesses. They did not cause them. They did not choose to be affected by them. And they do not deserve them. Both illnesses are diagnosable, medical conditions. With proper medical treatment and the support of self-help groups such as Dual Recovery Anonymous, a person with a dual diagnosis can learn to become responsible for working on both illnesses in a constructive and positive way.
Mental or psychiatric illnesses are disorders of the brain that can disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, moods, and ability to relate to others. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas that may require medications to stabilize blood sugar levels, psychiatric illnesses are brain disorders that may require medications to help balance certain chemicals in the brain.
Chemically dependant people don’t choose to be alcoholics and addicts – they just are. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to know if someone is chemically dependant until they start drinking or taking drugs. By the time they realize there is a problem they have lost the power of choice and ability to stop on their own.
Neither illness is caused by moral weakness or personal shortcomings. Nor can they be overcome by “pulling oneself up by the bootstraps” or by an act of willpower. Both are diseases that do not see age, sex, race, IQ, religion, or economic status.
Unfortunately, a great deal of social stigma and misinformation surround both diseases and this sometimes keeps people from getting the help they need. These are truly “no-fault” illnesses, and any approach to them that feeds or produces irrational guilt and shame, blocks recovery.