Entries tagged with “Addiction”.


Understanding the relationship between alcohol and depressionThe relationship between alcohol and depression is deceptive. Since drinking is often a part of social gatherings, it may seem like a few beers would be a great way to take your mind off your troubles. However, alcohol can actually worsen depression symptoms. In some cases, it may even induce depression in someone with no previous signs of a mental health disorder.

Signs of Depression

Despite being one of the most common mental illnesses, depression is often misunderstood. Clinical depression is more than just having a bad day once in a while. Someone suffering from depression experiences noticeable changes in mood and behavior that significantly affect their overall quality of life.

Signs of depression can include:

  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of intense sadness
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or socialization
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling like you’re a failure or that you’ve let friends and family down
  • Having thoughts of self-harm or suicide

Symptoms that occur on all or most days for two weeks or more indicate a need to consult a medical professional.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

Studies indicate that nearly 1/3 of people suffering from depression also have a drinking problem. The link between depression and alcohol addiction is strongest in women and teenagers.

Signs of alcohol abuse include:

  • Believing you need alcohol to relax or feel better
  • Continuing to drink despite negative consequences in your personal or professional life
  • Drinking until you black out
  • Developing an increased tolerance for alcohol, so you require more drinks to feel impaired
  • Feeling powerless to stop drinking
  • Lying about your drinking to friends and family
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, shakiness, and trembling when you’re not able to drink

Understanding the Relationship Between Alcohol and Depression

Chemically speaking, alcohol is a depressant. A depressant is a substance that lowers neurotransmitter levels, reducing stimulation and arousal in the body.

The majority of people who suffer from both depression and alcohol addiction began drinking as a way to self-medicate their symptoms. However, since the genetic risk factors for both drinking and depression significantly overlap, alcohol abuse can sometimes trigger symptoms in people who weren’t previously depressed.

Other ways in which alcohol can affect depression include:

Fatigue. Drinking regularly can negatively affect your sleep patterns. Fatigue can worsen existing depression symptoms or trigger symptoms in people who are not clinically depressed.

Malnutrition. Alcohol satisfies the body’s calorie requirements, but contains no essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, or carbohydrates. It can also irritate the lining of the intestine, making it more difficult for the body to absorb needed nutrients. Someone who is malnourished lacks the energy needed to complete daily activities

Difficulty regulating blood sugar. When the liver’s resources are devoted to processing alcohol, it becomes more difficult to maintain stable blood sugar levels. This can lead to mood swings, including feelings of anger and irritability.

Folic acid deficiency. Folate deficiency is common in people suffering from depression, but regular alcohol use lowers levels of folic acid in the body.

Lower serotonin and norepinephrine levels. Alcohol can lower levels of these important mood regulating chemicals in the body, which can make a depressed person feel more depressed.

Impaired judgement. Alcohol decreases inhibition and impairs judgement. This can lead to risky behaviors, including self-harm or suicide attempts.

Decreasing effectiveness of medication. Alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of prescription antidepressants while increasing the risk of side effects such as drowsiness and dangerously high blood pressure

Getting the Help You Need

Someone who is suffering from both depression and alcoholism is said to have a dual diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder. In this case, both illnesses must be treated simultaneously. This is typically done with a combination of individual therapy, group therapy, and medication to focus on relieving specific symptoms and addressing the underlying factors contributing to both problems.

According to research published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, seeking treatment for alcohol addiction can quickly result in an improvement in depression symptoms. “Although it has been suggested that alcoholism and depression are manifestations of the same underlying illness, the results of family, twin, and adoption studies suggest that alcoholism and mood disorder are probably distinct illnesses with different prognoses and treatments. However, symptoms of depression are likely to develop during the course of alcoholism, and some patients with mood disorders may increase their drinking when undergoing a mood change, fulfilling criteria for secondary alcoholism. When depressive symptoms are secondary to alcoholism, they are likely to disappear within a few days or weeks of abstinence, as withdrawal symptoms subside.”

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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Personality traits related to addiction Although there is no one set addictive personality type, researchers who study the causes of addiction have found a number of traits that are closely linked to an increased risk of drug or alcohol abuse.

1. Impulsivity

Impulsive people are often viewed as fun to be around due to their spontaneous nature, but this personality trait has a serious dark side. People who are impulsive often don’t stop to think about the potential risk associated with a decision. They will go with whatever course of action seems like a good idea at the moment, which can often place them in risky situations involving drugs and alcohol.

The link between impulsivity and substance abuse can be seen in the high number of people with an ADHD diagnosis who also struggle with drug or alcohol addiction. Impulsivity is one of the defining personality traits associated with ADHD. Researchers have found that about 25% of adults in treatment for alcohol and substance abuse have been diagnosed with ADHD. This makes addiction five to 10 times more common in people with ADHD.

2. Nonconformity

People who are seeking addiction treatment often describe themselves as nonconformists. They consider themselves as fundamentally different from their peers due to their interests, values, and goals.

While the desire to embrace your individuality should be celebrated, feeling like you’re an outsider can lead to social isolation. This lack of perceived support from friends and/or family can increase the desire to turn to drugs and alcohol when faced with challenging situations.

3. Anxiety

People who suffer from anxiety can find themselves plagued with worries about personal relationships, fitting in, and managing everyday situations. They can suffer from physical complaints such as insomnia, panic attacks, stomach problems, dizziness, shortness of breath, and muscle tension that make it hard to focus on their daily activities. To calm the constant chatter in their minds, they may turn to drugs and alcohol.

People with high levels of anxiety often begin their journey to substance abuse by using cigarettes to calm their nerves. After they develop tolerance to nicotine, they start to add alcohol or benzodiazepines into the mix. The problem with this approach is that they eventually end up needing extremely high levels of all of these substances to approach the state of mental calm they crave.

4. Low Tolerance for Stress

Stress is a natural part of life. However, some people find it significantly more difficult to handle stressful situations, such as an argument with a romantic partner, a high stakes project at work, or an unexpected health crisis. People who don’t learn to develop positive coping mechanisms to handle their stress may turn to drugs and alcohol for temporary relief.

A low tolerance for stress is often associated with high anxiety levels. However, people can learn to increase their tolerance to stress with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

5. Sensation Seeking

Sensation seeking refers to the desire to constantly seek out new experiences when placed in situations without a lot of sensory input. Everyone engages in sensation seeking behavior to some extent, but people who report high rates of this activity are most prone to addiction.

Sensation seekers are risk takers who enjoy pursuits such as engaging in adventure sports, attending loud concerts or parties, and traveling to meet new people. They are also more likely to drive recklessly and prefer having multiple sexual partners over stable relationships. In general, men and young adults have the highest rates of sensation seeking behavior—which can help explain why these groups also suffer from substance abuse issues at the highest rates.

6. Blame Shifting

Blame shifting refers to finding it difficult to take responsibility for your own mistakes. Substance abusers tend to exhibit this personality trait in higher than average numbers, often arguing that their drug or alcohol use isn’t a big deal or that they could quit using if they really wanted to.

Extreme blame shifting accompanied by a lack of empathy for others is associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). One recent study suggests that about 12% of people with substance abuse problems also meet the criteria for NPD.

What It Means

Most personality type research suggests that basic personality traits are inborn and can’t be changed. However, this doesn’t mean that someone with traits that are linked to addiction is destined to develop a drug or alcohol problem. It simply means that he or she is at a higher risk for addiction and needs to learn ways to channel the negative aspects of certain personality traits into a more positive direction.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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co-occurring mental disordersCo-occurring disorders are mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or OCD, that occur in people who are also suffering from drug or alcohol addiction. This is sometimes referred to as a dual diagnosis.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that most mentally ill people who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction are men between 18 and 44. However, women and older adults can also have a dual diagnosis.

How Mental Illness Creates a Vulnerability to Addiction

Mental illness makes people more vulnerable to drug and alcohol abuse because there is an impulse to self-medicate symptoms that can have a negative effect on one’s qualify of life. For example:

  • Someone who suffers from severe anxiety in social situations might turn to alcohol to relax and feel more comfortable in a group setting.
  • Stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine are often abused by people who are suffering from depression because they temporarily increase focus, attention, and energy levels.
  • Benzodiazepines or prescription sleep aids may be abused by someone suffering from PTSD as a way to cope with the anxiety and insomnia associated with the condition.

Self-medicating may be done for several different reasons. Some people lack the resources necessary to obtain a proper diagnosis, while others are simply afraid to discuss their symptoms with a healthcare provider due to the societal stigma surrounding mental illness. In the case of severe illnesses such as schizophrenia, self-medicating can also be a response to unpleasant side effects associated with certain prescribed medications.

Self-medicating mental illness with drugs and alcohol is problematic because it’s only effective in the short term. Tolerance quickly develops, requiring higher doses of the abused substance to achieve the same effect. This leads to withdrawal symptoms when the substance is no longer being used and will eventually intensify the symptoms associated with the underlying mental illness.

Other factors that contribute to the high percentage of mental illness in people who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction include:

  • Effects of adolescence: The teen years are the time when signs of mental illness most often begin to appear. This is also the time when peer pressure and societal influences can lead vulnerable young people to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Since the brain is still developing during adolescence, substance abuse during this time can worsen the symptoms of mental illness.
  • Overlapping genetic risk factors: Research is still being done to understand how our genes affect addiction, but there appears to be a significant overlap in the genes linked to higher risks of addiction and those linked to a higher risk of mental illness.
  • Involvement of similar brain regions: Certain parts of the brain are affected by both substance abuse and mental illness. For example, depression, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric disorders are linked to abnormalities in the circuits of the brain that process the neurotransmitter dopamine. Addictive substances flood the brain with dopamine, creating a powerful motivation to continue using.

Mental Illnesses Caused by Addiction

While most people with co-occurring disorders exhibited symptoms of mental illness before developing drug or alcohol addiction, it’s possible for addiction to create symptoms of a mental illness. For example, long term abuse of ecstasy can create changes in the brain that lead to issues with depression and anxiety. There is also some evidence to suggest that substance abuse in the teen years increase the risk of developing a mental illness later on in life, since drugs and alcohol can affect the growth of brain.

Seeking Treatment

When seeking addiction treatment, it’s vital that you choose a program that addresses both substance abuse and the underlying mental illness. If you treat the substance abuse as an independent and unrelated problem, it’s difficult to maintain long-term sobriety because you’re not addressing the underlying issues that led to your addiction in the first place.

A recovery plan for someone suffering from a mental illness and drug or alcohol addiction should include the following:

  • Medically-supervised detox to rid the body of the abused substance while minimizing withdrawal symptoms
  • A complete mental health evaluation and diagnosis
  • A personalized treatment plan to address both mental illness and substance abuse concerns
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy to encourage connections with others and learn from the experiences of people struggling with similar issues
  • Family therapy to promote a stronger support system
  • A detailed aftercare plan with referrals to resources necessary to maintain sobriety while addressing ongoing mental health concerns

Making the decision to seek addiction treatment can feel a bit overwhelming, but know that is the first step in regaining control of your life and planning for a brighter future.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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