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Is Alcoholism a Mental Illness?

Is Alcoholism a Mental Illness?

If you or a loved one suffer from alcoholism, is it because it is a mental illness? What help is out there to become sober again?

The disease of alcoholism is an internal disease of the mind and emotions. The term ‘alcoholism’ implies that their disease will end or go away when someone quits drinking, and this is not true. Alcoholism is an allergy to alcohol, meaning this person cannot safely or moderately drink. It occurs as a result of trauma. Most often, alcoholics are survivors of early childhood sexual or physical abuse or neglect and unknowingly live with undiagnosed PTSD, anxiety, and depression. 

At the heart of alcoholism is that these individuals are self-medicating. Unfortunately, most alcoholics survive using alcohol to treat their minds and emotions, not realizing that they need therapy and not alcohol. Alcoholism is a mental illness that is not cured when someone stops drinking. Their discomfort gets worse once the alcohol is removed.  

A wide range of psychiatric conditions—including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder—is characteristic of alcoholism. (NIAAA

Is Alcoholism a Mental Illness?

How Alcoholics Think?

The core element of alcoholism is that all alcoholics deny that their drinking is a problem. They simply do not want to be without their medication. People will lose their jobs, get DUIs more than once, and suffer financial hardships, but still justify their drinking as only problematic. Other alcoholics will admit their drinking is out of control but can’t give up or have tried many times to stop. Denial and the unawareness that they have a mental illness and need professional care are why they don’t quit. The truth is they cannot let go of what helps them, and who can blame them? They are suffering.

What’s a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

A high-functioning alcoholic may not endure severe consequences due to drinking, but that does not mean they are not experiencing problems. High-functioning alcoholics commonly will have health problems because of heavy drinking. However, an alcoholic who can function does not mean that they are not still suffering. The number of health problems that occur from heavy drinking includes liver damage and failure, pancreatitis, numerous types of cancer, malnutrition, elevated ammonia levels causing blood toxicity, esophageal lining damage, and numerous severe health conditions from the effects of too much alcohol.  

Is Alcoholism a Mental Illness?

Yes, alcoholism is a mental illness that requires in-depth therapy and long-term treatment. Alcoholics need a lot of emotional support and ongoing counseling and help them remain sober and, more importantly, achieve peace of mind. Many alcoholics attain sobriety but are miserable. 

They are white-knuckling it, and many will commit suicide, relapse, overdose on alcohol or drugs, or end up in a psychiatric facility or jail. The reality is that alcohol treats the mental and emotional pain that is the disease of alcoholism. It is not about alcohol but mental health. Alcohol was the medication used to feel better. Still, alcoholics can never consume alcohol as they will not stop. Their inability to stop represents the level of the pain their minds and emotions are in.

How to Help an Alcoholic?

First and foremost, alcoholics need medications and emotional support to help them understand their disease and why they need to drink alcohol to feel better. Most alcoholics are also physically dependent on alcohol and will need to detox. Medically supervised detox provides medications that calm alcohol detox symptoms. For many alcoholics they must keep alcohol in their system to avoid the following alcohol withdrawals:

  • High blood pressure, rapid pulse
  • Severe anxiety
  • Insomnia and depression
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Shaking and cold sweats
  • Suicidal thoughts

What Do The Experts Explain About Alcoholism?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism now identifies alcoholism as an Alcoholic Use Disorder or AUD. This identification allows for specifying how severe alcohol use is. 

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. It is considered a brain disorder and can be mild, moderate, or severe. Lasting changes in the brain caused by alcohol misuse perpetuate AUD and make individuals vulnerable to relapse. The good news is that no matter how severe the problem may seem, evidence-based treatment with behavioral therapies, mutual-support groups, and medications can help people with AUD achieve and maintain recovery. (NIAAA

Help For Alcoholism is One Phone Call For Same Day Admission

To get help for a loved one’s drinking or yourself, do not hesitate to call, and one of our clinical staff members will begin your admission. We are available to help you end your drinking or your loved ones struggle with alcohol today. All patients start in the alcohol detox unit and progress to an evidence-based treatment program that is personalized for their needs. So call to be admitted right now.