Is Addiction a Mental Illness?

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Addiction and drug abuse are some of the most devastating and severe forms of mental illness affecting people worldwide. As many as 21 million Americans are diagnosed with substance use disorders, with millions more likely living with undiagnosed substance use disorders.

Addiction is a complex mental disorder, involving intense and uncontrollable cravings for drugs or alcohol that can lead to physical dependence, as well as psychological dependence on the substance. People suffering from alcohol or drug addiction may have difficulty functioning normally in daily life due to constant or desperate cravings for a drug or substance, as well as the negative consequences that result from drug use.

Addiction is a diagnosis that affects the brain’s structure, brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, and behavior patterns, so why is there still a question of whether or not addiction is a mental illness? This article highlights the importance of recognizing addiction as a mental illness and emphasizes the importance of proper treatment and support for people suffering from or living with addiction.

What is Mental Illness?

In the medical field, mental illnesses and mental disorders are comprehensively outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). In addition to defining all known mental disorders, the DSM-5 also outlines criteria for what constitutes as a mental disorder. A mental illness is defined by the DSM-5 as “a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual and that is associated with present distress (e.g., a painful symptom) or disability (i.e., impairment in one or more important areas of functioning) or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom.” In other words, mental disorders are a collection of symptoms that are characterized by atypical patterns of thinking, emotions, or behavior.

What is Addiction?

Addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a chronic and relapsing mental disorder characterized by compulsive drug use, despite negative consequences and with an inability to stop or control use.

The DSM-5 outlines a range of symptoms associated with addiction, including:

  • Hazardous drug use
  • Social and interpersonal problems related to drug use
  • Neglecting major roles to drug use
  • Legal problems
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Tolerance to the substance
  • Used higher quantities for longer
  • Repeated attempts to quit and control drug use
  • Much time is spent using the substance
  • Physical/psychological problems related to drug use
  • Activities given up to use

Dual Diagnosis and Co-occurring Disorders

Addiction often leads to other problems related to mental health, such as depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “substance abuse can lead to changes in some of the same brain areas that are disrupted in other mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, anxiety, mood, or impulse-control disorders.”

These conditions can also appear as co-occurring mental disorders. Co-occurring disorders are those that occur side by side with addiction, leading to worsening addiction and vice versa.

There are a wide range of mental health conditions that have a devastating impact on people’s lives. However, some of the most common that, as mentioned above, might be affected by substance abuse include:

  • Depression: A condition marked by feelings of despair and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed.
  • Anxiety Disorders: Conditions that involve fear and worry that are out of proportion to the actual situation or danger.
  • Mood Disorders: Illnesses characterized by serious disturbances in moods that can lead to difficulty functioning in everyday life.
  • Impulse Control Disorders: Conditions where an individual has difficulty controlling their emotions or behavior.
  • Schizophrenia: A disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves.

These are just some of the many mental illnesses that can be affected by substance abuse. In addition, having a comorbid disorder or co-occurring mental disorder makes recovery incredibly complex. Having an understanding of the complexity of both issues is important for providing effective treatment and support.

Is Addiction a Mental Illness?

The DSM-5 and the broader scientific and medical community recognize addiction as a distinct mental health condition, indicating its seriousness and importance for proper diagnosis and treatment. It is essential for individuals struggling with addiction to seek help and treatment. Addiction is a complex condition and one that should not be taken lightly.

Like other mental illnesses, substance use issues can be tied to environmental factors and genetics and can have a profound and devastating effect on both physical and mental health.

Effect on Everyday Life

Just like mental illness, people in active addiction don’t have the same quality of life as those who are not suffering from a mental illness. Addiction can have profound consequences on an individual’s ability to function in everyday life, making it difficult for them to go about their daily routine. Some of the common problems associated with addiction include financial difficulties, relationship issues, and troubles at work or school.

In addition, like mental illness, addiction is all-consuming and can lead to profound feelings of hopelessness and despair. This can make it difficult for an individual to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle, as they may feel like there is no hope for recovery.

Inability to Control Behavior

Addiction and mental illness both involve difficulty controlling behavior or emotions. People suffering from addiction often find themselves engaging in activities that are harmful to their physical and mental health, despite knowing the consequences. For instance, studies show teens with poor impulse control are also susceptible to developing substance use disorder. Similarly, individuals with mental illness may struggle to control their emotions and thoughts, leading to risky behavior.

Social Isolation

People struggling with addiction may also feel socially isolated due to their substance use, which is another symptom commonly seen in people living with mental illness. Substance abuse can lead to a withdrawal from family members and friends, leaving the addict feeling disconnected and alone. For this reason, it is essential that addicts receive comprehensive treatment that includes both medical and psychological care so they can build up strong support networks and reconnect with others.

Why It’s Vital to Recognize Addiction As Mental Illness

It’s vital to see the connection between addiction and mental health and to understand why it’s vital to view substance use disorder as a mental illness. Below are some of the many benefits of recognizing addiction as a mental illness:

Reduce Stigma Associated With Addiction

Unfortunately, many people still believe that addiction is simply a choice, as opposed to the serious medical condition that it is. By understanding addiction as a mental illness, we can reduce the amount of stigma associated with this disorder and increase access to appropriate resources and treatment options. In addition, for people hesitant to seek professional help, understanding addiction as a medical issue can be empowering and make them more likely to reach out for the assistance they need.

Improve Access To Treatment

By classifying addiction as a mental illness, we can improve access to treatment options that are tailored specifically to individuals with substance use disorders. This will ensure that people struggling with addiction get the comprehensive, individualized care they need in order to achieve long-term sobriety and optimal wellness.

Improve Quality of Treatment

By recognizing addiction as a mental illness, healthcare providers can provide better quality treatment and support. This includes developing more comprehensive treatment plans that address both physical and psychological needs, as well as providing additional services like counseling, therapy, and social support.

Today, many rehab centers incorporate dual-diagnosis treatment for co-morbidities. However, it’s vital for all addiction treatment providers to recognize addiction as a mental illness, so they can provide the best care and support possible.

Better Outcomes for Patients

Recognizing addiction as a mental illness allows patients to get the help they need in order to achieve full recovery. Treatments are tailored to meet each individual’s unique needs and address the environmental factors and emotional factors that play into their addiction, so they can learn how to manage their symptoms and live healthier lives. In addition, addressing the underlying mental health issues that can contribute to addiction can help reduce relapse rates and ensure better long-term outcomes for patients. Some treatment options that can help improve outcomes for those with SUD or AUD include:

  • Psychotherapy that addresses underlying issues like trauma, depression, and anxiety
  • Group therapy to offer support from peers in similar situations
  • Medication-assisted treatment to help manage cravings
  • Holistic therapies such as yoga and mindfulness

Overall, it’s important to recognize the connection between addiction and mental illness so we can provide more effective treatments and resources for those struggling with substance use disorder. With proper support, individuals can learn how to manage their symptoms and find a path toward recovery.

Find a Path Toward Sobriety Today

The importance of recognizing addiction as a mental illness cannot be overstated. Doing so will help reduce the stigma associated with this disorder, improve access to treatment options, and allow for better outcomes for patients in recovery. Ultimately, understanding the complexity of substance use disorder is key to helping individuals regain control of their lives and achieve lasting sobriety.

At Clear Recovery Center, we’re here to help you or your loved one find a path toward recovery and offer judgment-free, high-quality treatment options. Contact us today to learn more about our evidence-based treatment options and how we can help improve your mental health and find the path toward recovery.

Is Addiction a Mental Illness?

Addiction and drug abuse are some of the most devastating and severe forms of mental illness affecting people worldwide. As many as 21 million Americans are diagnosed with substance use disorders, with millions more likely living with undiagnosed substance use disorders.

Addiction is a complex mental disorder, involving intense and uncontrollable cravings for drugs or alcohol that can lead to physical dependence, as well as psychological dependence on the substance. People suffering from alcohol or drug addiction may have difficulty functioning normally in daily life due to constant or desperate cravings for a drug or substance, as well as the negative consequences that result from drug use.

Addiction is a diagnosis that affects the brain’s structure, brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, and behavior patterns, so why is there still a question of whether or not addiction is a mental illness? This article highlights the importance of recognizing addiction as a mental illness and emphasizes the importance of proper treatment and support for people suffering from or living with addiction.

What is Mental Illness?

In the medical field, mental illnesses and mental disorders are comprehensively outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). In addition to defining all known mental disorders, the DSM-5 also outlines criteria for what constitutes as a mental disorder. A mental illness is defined by the DSM-5 as “a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual and that is associated with present distress (e.g., a painful symptom) or disability (i.e., impairment in one or more important areas of functioning) or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom.” In other words, mental disorders are a collection of symptoms that are characterized by atypical patterns of thinking, emotions, or behavior.

What is Addiction?

Addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a chronic and relapsing mental disorder characterized by compulsive drug use, despite negative consequences and with an inability to stop or control use.

The DSM-5 outlines a range of symptoms associated with addiction, including:

  • Hazardous drug use
  • Social and interpersonal problems related to drug use
  • Neglecting major roles to drug use
  • Legal problems
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Tolerance to the substance
  • Used higher quantities for longer
  • Repeated attempts to quit and control drug use
  • Much time is spent using the substance
  • Physical/psychological problems related to drug use
  • Activities given up to use

Dual Diagnosis and Co-occurring Disorders

Addiction often leads to other problems related to mental health, such as depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “substance abuse can lead to changes in some of the same brain areas that are disrupted in other mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, anxiety, mood, or impulse-control disorders.”

These conditions can also appear as co-occurring mental disorders. Co-occurring disorders are those that occur side by side with addiction, leading to worsening addiction and vice versa.

There are a wide range of mental health conditions that have a devastating impact on people’s lives. However, some of the most common that, as mentioned above, might be affected by substance abuse include:

  • Depression: A condition marked by feelings of despair and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed.
  • Anxiety Disorders: Conditions that involve fear and worry that are out of proportion to the actual situation or danger.
  • Mood Disorders: Illnesses characterized by serious disturbances in moods that can lead to difficulty functioning in everyday life.
  • Impulse Control Disorders: Conditions where an individual has difficulty controlling their emotions or behavior.
  • Schizophrenia: A disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves.

These are just some of the many mental illnesses that can be affected by substance abuse. In addition, having a comorbid disorder or co-occurring mental disorder makes recovery incredibly complex. Having an understanding of the complexity of both issues is important for providing effective treatment and support.

Is Addiction a Mental Illness?

The DSM-5 and the broader scientific and medical community recognize addiction as a distinct mental health condition, indicating its seriousness and importance for proper diagnosis and treatment. It is essential for individuals struggling with addiction to seek help and treatment. Addiction is a complex condition and one that should not be taken lightly.

Like other mental illnesses, substance use issues can be tied to environmental factors and genetics and can have a profound and devastating effect on both physical and mental health.

Effect on Everyday Life

Just like mental illness, people in active addiction don’t have the same quality of life as those who are not suffering from a mental illness. Addiction can have profound consequences on an individual’s ability to function in everyday life, making it difficult for them to go about their daily routine. Some of the common problems associated with addiction include financial difficulties, relationship issues, and troubles at work or school.

In addition, like mental illness, addiction is all-consuming and can lead to profound feelings of hopelessness and despair. This can make it difficult for an individual to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle, as they may feel like there is no hope for recovery.

Inability to Control Behavior

Addiction and mental illness both involve difficulty controlling behavior or emotions. People suffering from addiction often find themselves engaging in activities that are harmful to their physical and mental health, despite knowing the consequences. For instance, studies show teens with poor impulse control are also susceptible to developing substance use disorder. Similarly, individuals with mental illness may struggle to control their emotions and thoughts, leading to risky behavior.

Social Isolation

People struggling with addiction may also feel socially isolated due to their substance use, which is another symptom commonly seen in people living with mental illness. Substance abuse can lead to a withdrawal from family members and friends, leaving the addict feeling disconnected and alone. For this reason, it is essential that addicts receive comprehensive treatment that includes both medical and psychological care so they can build up strong support networks and reconnect with others.

Why It’s Vital to Recognize Addiction As Mental Illness

It’s vital to see the connection between addiction and mental health and to understand why it’s vital to view substance use disorder as a mental illness. Below are some of the many benefits of recognizing addiction as a mental illness:

Reduce Stigma Associated With Addiction

Unfortunately, many people still believe that addiction is simply a choice, as opposed to the serious medical condition that it is. By understanding addiction as a mental illness, we can reduce the amount of stigma associated with this disorder and increase access to appropriate resources and treatment options. In addition, for people hesitant to seek professional help, understanding addiction as a medical issue can be empowering and make them more likely to reach out for the assistance they need.

Improve Access To Treatment

By classifying addiction as a mental illness, we can improve access to treatment options that are tailored specifically to individuals with substance use disorders. This will ensure that people struggling with addiction get the comprehensive, individualized care they need in order to achieve long-term sobriety and optimal wellness.

Improve Quality of Treatment

By recognizing addiction as a mental illness, healthcare providers can provide better quality treatment and support. This includes developing more comprehensive treatment plans that address both physical and psychological needs, as well as providing additional services like counseling, therapy, and social support.

Today, many rehab centers incorporate dual-diagnosis treatment for co-morbidities. However, it’s vital for all addiction treatment providers to recognize addiction as a mental illness, so they can provide the best care and support possible.

Better Outcomes for Patients

Recognizing addiction as a mental illness allows patients to get the help they need in order to achieve full recovery. Treatments are tailored to meet each individual’s unique needs and address the environmental factors and emotional factors that play into their addiction, so they can learn how to manage their symptoms and live healthier lives. In addition, addressing the underlying mental health issues that can contribute to addiction can help reduce relapse rates and ensure better long-term outcomes for patients. Some treatment options that can help improve outcomes for those with SUD or AUD include:

Overall, it’s important to recognize the connection between addiction and mental illness so we can provide more effective treatments and resources for those struggling with substance use disorder. With proper support, individuals can learn how to manage their symptoms and find a path toward recovery.

Find a Path Toward Sobriety Today

The importance of recognizing addiction as a mental illness cannot be overstated. Doing so will help reduce the stigma associated with this disorder, improve access to treatment options, and allow for better outcomes for patients in recovery. Ultimately, understanding the complexity of substance use disorder is key to helping individuals regain control of their lives and achieve lasting sobriety.

At Clear Recovery Center, we’re here to help you or your loved one find a path toward recovery and offer judgment-free, high-quality treatment options. Contact us today to learn more about our evidence-based treatment options and how we can help improve your mental health and find the path toward recovery.

Last Updated on January 31, 2023

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