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Is There A Link Between Alcoholism And Psychiatric Disorders?

The Link Between Alcoholism And Psychiatric Disorders

Mental health issues often fuel alcoholism because alcohol abuse is prevalent among many people with underlying psychiatric disorders.

According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 85.6 percent of people ages 18 and older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime, 69.5 percent reported that they drank in the past year, and 54.9 percent (59.1 percent of men in this age group and 51.0 percent of women in this age group) reported that they drank in the past month.

Although alcohol is considered socially acceptable to consume in most parts of the world and is heavily advertised on television and on the streets, heavy alcohol use can prove to be deadly to a person’s physical and mental wellbeing and the overall physiological health of their brain. Heavy or long-term alcohol use can result in learning and memory issues and can also eventually lead to the development or worsening of psychiatric disorders.

The Link Between Alcoholism And Psychiatric Disorders

Negative Effects of Excessive Drinking

Most of us are aware of the short-term issues and consequences of alcohol: hangover, vomiting, blackouts, maybe a heated argument that would not usually happen if sober and maybe even a DUI. All of these and more can happen if we drink to the point of intoxication on occasion but the long-term effects are much more dangerous.

The brain is a very delicate and intricate organ of the body that must maintain a careful balance of chemicals, called neurotransmitters, for a person to function properly. Intoxication of alcohol can disrupt this fine balance, disturbing the brain’s natural equilibrium and when used long-term, over long periods of time it forces a person’s brain to adapt in an effort to compensate for the effects of alcohol.

What Psychiatric Disorders Do Alcoholics Struggle With?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), three psychiatric disorders most commonly comorbid with alcoholism are major depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorder. Less frequently co-diagnosed with alcoholism are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dependent personality disorder, and conduct disorder.

The Effects of Alcoholism and Depression

It seems to not make sense to abuse alcohol when you feel depressed since alcohol is a nervous system depressant. Dopamine that floods the brain when you drink is linked to feelings of euphoria, pleasure, and improved mood. When clinically pressed individuals drink alcohol, they feel temporary relief from depression and sadness. However, after the drunkenness wears off, their depression comes roaring back. In addition, when one is addicted to alcohol and stops drinking, the person experiences withdrawal symptoms, such as worsening depression, anxiety, and flu-like body pain.

The Effects of Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder makes people cycle through “low” moods and “high” moods. Bipolar disorders are much more severe than depression or anxiety. The manic phase of bipolar disorder makes people feel incredibly anxious and agitated. They can’t slow down racing thoughts or control impulsive behavior that often creates difficulties in relationships and finances. Consequently, alcohol abuse is often seen in people with bipolar disorder as their way of dealing with their issues.

The Effects of Alcoholism and Anxiety

In addition to increasing dopamine in the brain, alcohol also fuels endorphin release. Like dopamine, they boost feelings of pleasure and well-being. Endorphins also help reduce pain caused by physical injuries. People with generalized anxiety disorders or panic disorder often self-medicate with alcohol to suppress symptoms and temporarily feel like they are in control of their anxiety. In many cases, individuals taking prescription anti-anxiety medications use alcohol to increase the side effects of Valium or Xanax. This increases the risk of accidental overdose as well as an addiction to pills and alcohol.

The Effects of Alcoholism and Anxiety

Dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder is a term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance abuse problem simultaneously. At Evoke Waltham Center, we know that these poor outcomes result as much from these separate and contradictory systems of care as from the diagnoses themselves.

Experience the difference with Evoke Waltham Center in how we treat alcoholism and underlying psychiatric disorders. Our team of experienced treatment specialists knows that no two situations are exactly alike. Each patient requires an individualized approach to achieving his or her recovery goals. As a result, we offer both day treatment and intensive outpatient levels of care to cover the gap between different levels of progression in the disease of addiction. This way, everyone that reaches out to Evoke Waltham for help is able to begin healing in an appropriately structured program and recovery environment.