Addiction is a Mental Illness
Addiction alters the way a person’s brain functions. It decreases their chances of leaving a happy and productive lives. The inability to regulate their own behavior is also one of the traits of many mental illnesses. So, it makes sense to classify addictions as mental illness.
Most medical professional distinguish between two different kinds of mental illness that are included in addiction: substance abuse versus substance dependence. “Dependence” is the term used by the World Health Organization. However, both are part of obsessive compulsive disorder. Addicts feel compelled to keep taking their drug of choice, even though they may consciously register that this is destructive.
Just like addiction issues, a personal is more likely to suffer from mental illness if there’s genetic predisposition for it. Many alcoholics come from families in which one of more family members had problems with alcohol abuse. Addiction can also a learned behavior. However, there are also certain ethnic and racial groups whose genetic composition puts them at greater risk for substance abuse. Example, Native Americans have different combination of enzymes, which makes it harder for them to process alcohol in their system.
Recent studies have shown some disturbing connections between ADHD that goes undiagnosed in children and later substance abuse as adults. The studies support the view of the medical field.
Doctors can often have difficult time diagnosing patients with an alcohol or drug problem because those substances falsely alter moods. Alcohol, for example, is a depressant and can mimic the symptoms of clinical depression even if that mental health issue is not normally present except when triggered by alcohol consumption. From a clinical standpoint, the issue can also be one of cause and effect:
- Patient consumes alcohol because he or she suffers from anxiety and depression.
- Alcohol consumption causes the anxiety and depression.
- Physical dependence on alcohol causes the anxiety and depression.
Often it is difficult to separate out all of these symptoms of mental illness.
Treatments for addiction are similar to those for mental illness. Many of the medications designed to curb addiction effect the release of dopamine in the brain. Antipsychotic medications and antidepressants also function to regulate brain chemistry.
Many people close to substance abusers don’t understand why they just can’t stop using drugs or drinking alcohol when such activities are having negative effects on their lives and the lives of those the love. But just someone who suffers from a mental illness, it isn’t their fault. It’s because their brain chemistry has changed and no longer see the same reality as those around them.
After nearly two decades of drinking and destroying just about every relationship in my life, I decided to get help. I didn’t know what to expect (and in some ways, I still don’t), but getting sober has been the most rewarding, fulfilling decision I’ve ever made. In the years since I entered treatment, secured an AA sponsor, and forged friendships in sobriety that rival all the others in my life, I feel like a completely different person. It’s as if I woke up in another person’s life.
Most of my recovery has been spent writing about my experiences, and I’ve been fortunate to have my work picked up by The Fix, AfterParty Magazine, The Literary Review, and The Live Oak Review, among others. I want to help others find meaningful, lasting sobriety in any way that I can, which is part of the reason I’m so committed to Genius Recovery. More than that, though, I sincerely believe in the vision, aims and purpose of Genius Recovery. I’m as passionate about recovery as I am about discovering levels to my life that I didn’t know existed. After all, addiction recovery is about hope as much as it is about possibility. Through my writing, I hope to guide others to discover what’s possible for them, too.– Paul