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Is Alcoholism a Type of Mental Health Problem?

Alcoholism can be classified as a type of mental health problem, but there is also a strong physical component to the condition as well. Abusing alcohol could trigger psychiatric problems or exacerbate an existing condition such as depression. When it comes to dealing with the issue, the most effective solutions involve treating the mental as well as the physical components of this condition.

What is a Mental Health Problem?

Mental health problems refer to a range of conditions that prevent affected individuals from interacting as normal with others as well as with their environment. Some of the most common types of mental health issues include depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, psychosis, and personality disorder. This type of condition can seriously affect a person's ability to deal with life, eventually getting so bad that the individual may need to stay in long-term care.

There can be a great deal of embarrassment around mental health conditions, despite the fact that over a quarter of the population will develop this type of problem at some point in their life. The fact that there is such a stigma associated with mental health problems prevents many from getting help, meaning that they may try to self-medicate with substances such as alcohol.

Alcoholism as a Mental Health Problem

Alcoholism involves a physical addiction, but, as mentioned above, it also interferes with the person's mental state to such an extent that they may struggle to interact normally with the environment, so it is for this reason that it is referred to as a mental health problem. As well as the physical dependence, the individual also has a psychological dependence, which means that they experience cravings and just cannot cope without alcohol. The need to continue with the behaviour involves a mental compulsion, and it involves denial.

Alcoholism and Self-Medication

It is common for those with mental health problem to turn to alcohol as a means of escape. The individual may be completely unaware that their symptoms are due to some type of underlying condition; they might just know that when they drink they feel a bit better about things. In the beginning, alcohol can be effective at helping individuals hide from their problems. By the time the person realises that drinking is actually making things much worse, they are usually already well on their way to addiction. A significant number of alcoholics would fall into the category of self-medicating, but they may be completely unaware that this is what they are doing.

Alcoholism as a Trigger for Mental Illness

Many alcoholics who go on to develop a dual diagnosis (addiction with a mental illness) do not start with any type of mental health problem. They fall into addiction for other reasons, so as alcohol is not only a toxic substance for the body but for mental health as well, it means that the person can develop a problem like alcohol-induced depression. In this type of situation, the individual's condition will usually be resolved once they stop the substance abuse.

Mental Health Problems in Recovery

It is vital that once a person breaks away from alcohol, they have any mental health problems dealt with. If they do not do this, it can mean that life in recovery could become a real struggle; the individual could then use this as an excuse to relapse. There are many treatments available to help manage the symptoms of mental health conditions; the hardest part is acknowledging there is a problem that needs fixing.

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