Is alcoholism a mental illness? This is a question that has long been debated. However, there is consensus among many treatment specialists that drinking excessive alcohol over long periods can lead to mental illness. In other instances, alcoholism may occur as a result of mental illness, worsening the illness the longer the individual consumes alcohol. For this reason, a person who is suffering from alcoholism must visit an alcohol detox center.
Much research needs to be done to provide more insight into the link between drinking and alcohol and mental illness. In the meantime, treatment centers offer a dual diagnosis treatment program as a way to treat both alcoholism and mental illness. Is alcoholism a mental illness? Let’s explore the answer to that question more below.
Why Do Some People Become Addicted to Alcohol?
One of the ways to answer the questions, “Is alcoholism a mental illness?”, is to look at all the factors that cause a person to drink excessively. Some of those factors may include:
- Mental illness
- Social influences
However, the biggest factor that causes someone to develop an addiction is the brain’s reward center. When the brain experiences pleasure in any form – music, recreation, food, sex, etc. – it releases a neurotransmitter known as dopamine. Dopamine increases the amount of please the user feels when drinking.
While dopamine creates a good feeling, the brain can easily become addicted to its effects. Thus, if a person drinks on a regular basis, the brain will become attached to the pleasure that the substance triggers. This is how binge drinking turns into an addiction that can expand into full-blown dependency.
This is the main reason why people become addicted to alcohol.
Is Alcoholism a Mental Illness?
There are two ways to look at this question:
Mental Illness Can Lead to Drinking
It is not uncommon for someone with a mental illness to abuse drugs, alcohol, or prescription medication. For instance, a person who is dealing with depression or anxiety disorder may turn to alcohol as a form of self-medication. They may drink to relax the mind and escape from their stress.
However, prolonged excessive alcohol use actually contributes to mental illness, making it worse on various levels. A person who drinks may not realize that they are bringing out aspects of their mental illness that intensify. They may continue to drink thinking that they are making the situation better, when, in fact, they are making it worse. This is why the first step to dealing with mental illness is to enter an inpatient alcohol rehab center.
Excessive Drinking Can Lead to Mental Illness
Numerous studies have shown that long-term alcoholism can lead to a variety of mental illnesses including psychosis, anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, or even bipolar disorder. The brain can only handle so much alcohol use over time. Drinking for several years can cause brain function to slowly decline.
This is another reason why alcohol addiction treatment includes forms of therapy such as evidence-based treatment or holistic therapy. An individual ending their addiction to alcohol needs psychiatric care in addition to physical healing. This is why many treatment specialists classify alcoholism as a mental illness.
Get Treatment for Alcoholism Today
Is alcoholism a mental illness? Find out more by visiting a treatment center and talking with a treatment specialist. You can get the help you need for your addiction plus long-term care that promotes a lifelong recovery. To find out more about your treatment options, visit an inpatient alcohol rehab center in your area. You can get on the road to recovery today.