Is Alcoholism A Mental Illness?

The recurring question that has been researched and discovered is, “Is alcoholism a mental illness?” According to one of the most recent editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM-5), alcohol use disorder (AUD) or alcoholism is a diagnosable mental illness that occurs in individuals who undergo at least two of the 11 criteria for this disorder. The two entities have always been connected. 

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence describes alcoholism as “a mental obsession that causes a physical compulsion to drink.” 

When an individual engages in alcohol use, it can lead to experiencing mental health anguish without undergoing treatment can result in individuals utilizing alcohol as a way to cope. Therefore concludes with mental health symptoms. 

Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism, is an extremely complex disease presenting the following components: 

  • Psychological
  • Biological 
  • Social 

The second recurring question is, “Is alcoholism a chronic disease?” Absolutely, and just like any other chronic disease, it involves cycles of relapse and remission. Many individuals can engage in alcohol use and even overindulge on certain occasions but do not become addicted to the substance. 

However, for other individuals, alcoholism and mental illness are known to completely invade their livelihood. 

What Is Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) and What Does It Consist Of?

AUD is an alcohol use disorder. This disease does not discriminate on the following when it comes to disrupting an individual’s life. 

  • Geographic location 
  • Ethnicity
  • Location 
  • Gender 
  • Income
  • Age

Alcohol use disorder has the power to impact an individual:

  • Community
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Job 

Alcohol misuse is a contributing factor to about 88,000 deaths in the US every year. This disorder is chronic, progressive, and often fatal as it coincides with the following mental health conditions:

  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Bipolar disorder 
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety

AUD is known to affect the following states of an individual:

  • Behavioral 
  • Physical
  • Mental 

What Are the Stages of AUD?

Problematic Drinking

With problematic drinking, the individual’s close friends and family members normally begin to take notice. As psychological and physical dependence, also known as chemical dependence, sets in, withdrawal symptoms will begin to be experienced. During this stage, many individuals will engage in attempting to conceal their drinking habits from others. 

The problems that can occur in this stage include:

  • Poor work and school performance
  • Declining physical health 
  • Financial struggles

Severe Alcohol Abuse

During this stage, individuals become more psychologically and physically dependent on liquor. The symptoms that typically occur here are:

  • Aggression 
  • Depression 
  • Irritability 
  • Anxiety 
  • Out of control cravings

During this stage, individuals begin to experience:

  • Withdrawing from friends and family 
  • Avoiding responsibilities
  • Becoming secretive 
  • Relationship issues

Obsessive Alcohol Abuse

This is the final stage which could typically occur for years. During this stage, individuals experiencing AUD will experience being under the influence of alcohol more often than not. The psychological fixation with liquor becomes compelling and all-consuming with an added heightened sense of physical dependence. 

The end-stage is identified as intense distress to an individual’s alcoholism and mental illness. People dealing with alcohol addiction can undergo the following medical issues here. 

  • Proper nutrition and personal hygiene neglect 
  • Liver damage 
  • Cirrhosis

How Does Alcohol Affect Our Brain Chemistry? 

According to a report by the U.S. Surgeon General in 2016, there is well-documented evidence suggesting that an alcohol use disorder leads to dramatic modifications in the way that a brain functions. 

Alcoholism Normally Follows a Three-stage Cycle

  • The first step involves an individual binge drinking to the point of intoxication or with an exceptionally high tolerance, the point of reaching a sense of “normalcy.”
  • When the alcohol effects wear off, the withdrawal symptoms kick back in, including physical and greatly uncomfortable mental sensations. 
  •  Until more liquor is acquired or consumed, an individual struggling with alcoholism becomes obsessively preoccupied with the thought of consuming alcohol. 

When the AUD is extreme, the cycle can result in dramatic shifts in brain function. When this occurs, it becomes almost impossible for a person struggling to control their drinking habits. 

Also, the Surgeon’s General report outlines how alcohol addiction disrupts the three areas of the brain:

  • The basal ganglia are mainly responsible for the extended amygdala, which is involved in reward cognition, motor control, and the prefrontal cortex, which supports an individual’s essential cognitive functions such as moderating social behaviors and decision making. 

The brain disruptions above significantly increase the desire to drink alcohol, reduce overall impulse control, and heighten feelings of stress. Many of the defining characteristics of alcoholism are behavioral and mental. 

The physical effects in the final stages could be detrimental:

  • Complications due to infections 
  • Cardiovascular problems 
  • Respiratory disease 
  • Alcoholic hepatitis 
  • Heart disease 
  • Liver damage 
  • Dehabiliton 
  • Malnutrition 
  • Tremors 

Does Drinking Make You Depressed? 

There is a massive connection between drinking and depression. Depression can be defined as a low sense of energy that lingers and interferes with daily life. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, one in five individuals will be affected by depression at some point in their lives. 

The common triggers of depression include:

  • Relationship issues
  • Bereavement 
  • Unemployment
  • Divorce

It’s important to note that alcohol is a depressant. Alcohol is known to alter the fragile chemicals in the brain. As an individual drinks an alcoholic beverage, the alcohol begins to affect the section of the brain that is associated with inhibition. 

 When the two entities are combined, drinking and depression can present a vicious cycle. As an individual engages in drinking regularly and heavily, symptoms of depression can arise. Alcohol is known to affect various nerve-chemical systems, which are vital in regulating mood. 

As the series is further studied, it is evident that individuals can undergo feelings of depression after consuming an alcoholic beverage. It is shown that stopping or reducing drinking can improve an individual’s mood. 

It’s pivotal to note that prescribed medications for depression should not be mixed with alcohol. The most commonly used prescribed antidepressants tend to increase the risk of relapse in individuals who immerse in heavy drinking in individuals who are trying to abstain or cut down usage. Therefore, antidepressants should be taken with great caution. 

Once depression symptoms are caused by alcohol dependence, stopping alcohol use should result in a significant improvement. Matter-of-factly, individuals often find that taking alcohol out of their life entirely for just four weeks sees a clear difference in how they feel. After lowering alcohol consumption for a couple of weeks, many individuals feel brighter. 

Is Being an Alcoholic A Mental Health Issue? 

Being addicted to alcohol is a mental health issue. Mental health issues refer to the scope of conditions that prevent individuals from interacting normally with others, as well as the environment. The most common types of mental health issues are:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder 
  • Personality disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Eating disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia 
  • Depression 
  • Psychosis 

This condition can intentionally affect an individual’s ability to deal with everyday life, ultimately becoming so bad that the individual might need to reside in long-term care. When individuals struggle with mental health conditions, there can be an intense deal of embarrassment surrounding it. It’s important to note that over a quarter of the population will develop this type of issue later in life. 

There is a stigma associated with alcoholism and mental illness that prevents individuals from receiving help. As a result, many individuals self-medicate with substances such as alcohol. The mental state of an individual can be bothered to such an extent that it can be a struggle to interact normally with their environment. 

Is Alcoholism A Mental Illness?

Alcoholism is a real disease of the brain. As an individual engages in overconsumption, their brain chemistry is altered. Once tolerance to alcohol increases, the person has to utilize more and more alcohol consumption to reach the same climax of feelings. Therefore, further damaging their body and their brain. Once an individual is dependent on alcohol, they seem to drink at the expense of fundamentally everyone and everything, even the people they love dearly. 

Addiction Shares the Following Attributes With Fellow Chronic Diseases

  • An influence of environmental behaviors or conditions 
  • A tendency to run in the person’s family
  • The ability to respond to the appropriate treatment method

The Three Main Areas the Disease Manifests Negative Effects 

A Lack of Control 

Once an individual has become addicted to alcohol use, the brain becomes affected by the substance to the extent that intense willpower will not be enough for a healthy lifestyle to be maintained. Several individuals engage in quitting drinking on their own only to return right back to it. The loss of control use contributes to the following factors:

  • How much is used 
  • Stopping use 
  • When they use

When a loved one isn’t able to simply quit, it means that their brain has been altered psychologically by addiction, and the normal sense of willpower has been ultimately compromised. The typical determination and energy for goals to be pursued has been unavailable when it comes to addressing addiction on its own. This is where we come in as alcoholism, and mental illness treatment centers aimed to enhance long-lasting recovery.

Damage to the Brain

 When a person engages in long-term and heavy drinking, extensive structural changes are performed on the brain. The extent and nature of the physical toll on a person’s overall brain health varies and depends on the following factors:

  • The amount of alcohol being consumed
  • Age of the person

Brain damage can present the following factors:

  • Decision making refers to reaction times
  • Inhibited functioning 
  • The ability to learn new things

Damage to the Body

When chronic abuse of alcohol is engaged in, there is incredible damage performed on the body. For that reason, it is the cause of exceedingly frequent preventable and avoidable deaths. It is well known the detrimental effects alcohol has on one’s heart, brain, and liver. 

However, the other effects include:

  • Injury or death from falls, drowning, suicide, homicide, motor vehicle crashes, fetal alcohol syndrome, and domestic violence
  • Conditions caused by risky sexual behaviors relating to alcohol use
  • High blood pressure
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Mouth cancer 
  • Stroke

Recovery Awaits at Sana Lake BWC

Here at Sana Lake BWC, we believe in the importance of long-term recovery. Alcoholism and mental illness are challenging conditions, but it’s not impossible to beat. No addiction should be fought alone. Contact us today to hear more about our evidence-based therapies and programs.