Insight for the Journey: Addiction Complicates Mental Health Problems

Insight for the Journey: Addiction Complicates Mental Health Problems

Side by Side Problems 

Mental health problems are difficult to face and some people turn to alcohol, drugs, or other behaviors to distract themselves or ease their pain. Continued use can lead to destructive habits, patterns, and addictions. Mental health problems and alcohol or drug related disorders often occur side-by-side. The mental health disorder and the substance abuse disorder interact with each other and commonly increase the severity of both. The term co-occurring disorder, also called a dual-diagnosis disorder, refers to having a mental health and substance use disorder at the same time. 

Underlying Emotional Issues 

Substance use behaviors of any kind can be described as an intense effort to fill an underlying hunger. This is not a hunger for food or nourishment, but rather for comfort, approval, and a yearning to fill an emotional emptiness. The goal of alcohol or drug use is often to bring comfort to the sad and depressed, calm the anxious, and act as a distraction for the angry person. But the misuse of any substance or activity only brings temporary satisfaction. Addictions do not touch the important underlying emotional issues, and can create long-term physical and mental health consequences. 

Common Reasons Behind Addictive Behavior 

People use drugs and alcohol for a wide variety of personal reasons including escaping problems or as a distraction. Others use substances to relax, calm down, go to sleep or escape reality. Still others use to feel happy, laugh, fit in, and enjoy a good time. Unfortunately, serious consequences often follow long-term substance misuse. Common consequences include legal problems, increased anxiety, depression, damaged relationships, physical problems, occupational trouble and financial difficulties. 

Reaching Out 

Psychologists and counselors can answer common questions, provide support and therapy, and help with emerging habits. Continued follow-up with counseling and support groups can help you recognize early warning signs of relapse and provide intervention should problems develop. Counseling helps increase self-esteem, teaches skills to manage emotions, and develops positive coping abilities. These groups and programs can make seemingly impossible lifestyle changes possible and much more likely. Knowing when you need help, and being willing to ask for it, can make all the difference in your long-term recovery. 

Recovery is a Journey. Enjoy the Ride!

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