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Alcohol affects millions of people all around the world – and it can impact all areas of your life. It can impact your physical health, mental health, finances, relationships, and general well-being.

Alcohol addiction and alcohol use disorder/ AUD are both informally referred to as alcoholism. However, medical professionals avoid the terms ‘alcoholic’, ‘alcoholism’, ‘alcohol addiction’, ‘alcohol abuse’, and ‘alcohol dependence’ as they are considered harmful and can stigmatise those with addiction.

AUD is a chronic disease characterised by the lack of control over alcohol consumption, whether it be the amount you drink, the times you drink, the frequency you drink, or when you stop drinking.

There are clear links between alcohol and mental illness. Alcohol abuse can exasperate existing mental health conditions, and some people consider alcoholism a mental illness, much like depression and anxiety.

Alcoholism is commonly referred to as a mental health problem as well as a physical problem because it can impact how you interact with the environment around you.

When it comes to addiction, physical dependence typically comes with psychological dependence. This means that you may experience physical withdrawal symptoms as well as cravings and mental health issues.

The Links Between Alcohol and Mental Health Disorders

Although there is some debate as to whether alcoholism is categorised as a mental health disorder, it’s clear that there are many links between alcohol and mental health problems.

Mental health conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, trauma, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder may be linked to alcohol use disorder.

Dual diagnosis is when you have co-occurring mental health disorders with addiction. A person with dual diagnoses will experience a substance use disorder – for example, addiction to alcohol – and a mental health issue at the same time.

For example, a person with depression may be more likely to drink alcohol excessively as a form of self-medication – to alleviate unpleasant symptoms such as insomnia and irritability.

Those who contact mental health services with a history of alcohol problems may be at higher risk of suicide. In the ten years between 2007 and 2017, there were almost 6000 suicides in mental health patients who had a history of alcohol misuse – which equates to around 10% of all deaths by suicide in England.

There are policies in place that help manage patients with co-morbid alcohol and drug misuse – and these have reduced suicide rates in patients by 25%.

Anxiety and Alcohol

Anxiety is a symptom of several mental illnesses. Some anxiety disorders include panic disorder, phobias (e.g. agoraphobia), social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It is characterised by a feeling of unease that can range from mild to severe. Some physical symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • Nausea and churning sensation in the stomach
  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed
  • Headache and other aches
  • Sweating and/ or hot flushes
  • Panic attacks
  • Faster breathing

 

People with anxiety may drink alcohol to feel good and relieve symptoms in the short term. However, this is not a solution to anxiety and can lead to the problem worsening. If you drink alcohol to ease anxiety symptoms, then you may be at an increased risk of developing alcohol use disorder.

Drinking more and more alcohol over time can lead to alcohol dependence, which means if you stop drinking or lower your typical amount, then you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms – which can worsen feelings of anxiety. Likewise, feeling hungover can worsen anxiety.

Instead of using alcohol to ease anxiety, find more positive and healthy ways to relax – for example, exercise, yoga, and meditation. Therapy can also be effective at treating GAD – for example, counselling or CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy).

Depression and Alcohol

There are many links between depression and alcohol – with alcohol abuse and addiction being linked to symptoms of depression. People who have depression may find that their symptoms improve within the first few weeks after stopping drinking.

If you notice that stopping drinking alcohol makes your depression improve, then alcohol could have been causing the depression. However, if the depression symptoms persist after stopping drinking, seek help from your GP. You may be referred for counselling or therapy, or given medication such as SSRIs to treat the symptoms of depression.

Most prescription medication for depression isn’t recommended to be taken with alcohol. This is because alcohol can increase the side effects of certain depressants. If you’re unsure, speak to your doctor or a medical professional. If you’re trying to lower your alcohol consumption, some antidepressants could increase the chances of you relapsing.

A study that looked into alcohol use and treatment for depression compared alcohol habits in adults diagnosed with depression in primary care with the general population in Sweden. The study found that alcohol problems and hazardous drinking (e.g. binge drinking) were much higher among patients seeking treatment for depression in primary care, compared to the general population.

The study also found that adults in the age groups of 28-50 and 51-71 years old showed higher rates of alcohol issues than younger adults between the ages of 17 and 27.

Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol

Addictive behaviours, including alcohol addiction and alcohol misuse, are common among those with bipolar disorder.

Some scientists believe that alcohol use, alcohol withdrawal, and bipolar disorder affect the same chemicals or neurotransmitters in the brain, and can cause the symptoms of one condition to trigger the other.

A 2006 study found that somebody with bipolar doesn’t need to drink an excessive amount of alcohol to feel the negative effects. A direct link has been found between bipolar manic episodes and depressive episodes and alcohol – even when small amounts of alcohol were consumed.

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Mental Health Disorders and Recovery

During the recovery process, it’s important to check in with your mental health. Alcohol withdrawal can affect your mental health. Some people experience hallucinations, anxiety, and insomnia when withdrawing from alcohol.

It isn’t just the first stages of recovery that can impact your mental health. Recovery, in general, can be a mental struggle. Whether you have existing mental disorders or not, it’s important that you have the right support throughout your recovery. This is in order to not only improve your well-being in general but also prevent relapse.

The good news is that there are many treatments that can help you manage symptoms of mental health conditions – for example, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), counselling, and group therapies.

Take The First Steps Towards Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Taking the first step toward rehabilitation can feel scary – especially when you are unsure of what to expect from treatment. In this section of the page, we are going to give you all the information you need to know about the alcohol rehab process – including detoxification, alcohol rehab therapy, and secondary treatment.

The first stage of rehab treatment involves detoxing from alcohol. This is known as detoxification – the removal of substances from your body. Once the physical aspect of addiction has been addressed, you’ll move on to therapy.

Therapy can build your confidence and teach you valuable coping techniques. There are many options, and one size does not fit all with rehab treatment. For example, you may opt for group therapy, online therapy, CBT or one-to-one counselling. Support groups can also be helpful.

Help4Addiction was founded by a former drug addict who needed rehab to save his life. After he received the right treatment, he vowed to use his personal experience with addiction to help other people with substance use disorders.

If you think you or a loved one may be struggling with drug abuse/ substance abuse or alcohol addiction, contact us today to start the recovery journey.

We have been connecting people with suitable addiction treatment programmes for years and can help you too. We will take the time to understand your story, your circumstances, your requirements and your preferences to find the right rehab treatment plan for you – at the most suitable rehab facility.

Remember, you don’t have to deal with alcohol addiction alone. We are rooting for your long-term recovery.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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