How Addiction Affects Mental Health: 5 Ways
Addiction is a multifaceted issue that profoundly impacts an individual's mental health. Beyond the physical dependency and chemical changes in the brain, addiction can severely affect a person's mental well-being.
Addiction's impact on mental health is profound and wide-ranging. It can result in withdrawal-induced anxiety, depression, diminished self-esteem, social isolation, and emotional dysregulation. People with mental health disorders may use substances to cope with their symptoms. This can contribute to a cycle of mental distress and addiction.
Compassion and access to mental health resources and recovery tools can play a pivotal role in helping individuals who get sober regain control over their lives and improve their mental health.
1. Anxiety and Withdrawal
One of the most noticeable effects of addiction on mental health is the development of anxiety when a person begins to experience withdrawal. When an addicted individual attempts to quit or reduce their substance use, their body and mind react adversely. For some people, this can be an alarm clock for finding and using the drug again. The cycle of addiction can be powerful.
Anxiety experienced during withdrawal can be overwhelming and debilitating. For some people who are getting sober, this can lead to heightened stress levels, panic attacks, and an overall decline in mental health. The fear of these distressing symptoms may help perpetuate the cycle of addiction. When people get sober, they can often take medication to reduce symptoms and learn coping mechanisms for anxiety.
2. Depression and Feelings of Hopelessness
The prolonged use of addictive substances can lead to chemical imbalances in the brain. This can also contribute to the onset of depression. Brain chemistry is always involved in addiction. The persistent release of pleasure-inducing chemicals like dopamine can lead to a depletion of neurotransmitters in the brain. This can cause emotional instability and feelings of hopelessness. When people “come down” from drugs, they may begin to feel these symptoms.
These emotional struggles are often exacerbated by the consequences of addiction, such as strained relationships, financial issues, or legal problems. These situations also can cause mental health challenges. People who struggle with substance use disorder often have co-occurring mental health disorders, and the addiction cycle can play off of the symptoms.
3. Diminished Self-Esteem and Mental Health
Addiction can erode an individual's self-esteem and self-worth. As addiction progresses, people may engage in behaviors they are not proud of. These secrets can lead to shame, guilt, and self-blame. For many addicted people, these feelings of inadequacy can become deeply ingrained. This can cause a lot of deterioration in a person’s mental health.
People struggling with addiction may perceive themselves as failures or unworthy of help, preventing them from seeking support or recovery. However, this is just a feeling, not a fact! Everyone is worthy of recovery, and within everyone, there is the ability to get sober and start anew.
4. Social Isolation
Addiction often leads to social isolation as individuals may withdraw from their support networks. People who withdraw from friends and family aren’t doing it to be rude. They usually do it because of feelings of embarrassment, fear of judgment, or the need to protect their addiction. This isolation can contribute to various mental health issues, including loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
The absence of positive social interactions and support can make it challenging to cope with life and the cycle of addiction.
5. Emotional Regulation
A substance use disorder can lead to emotional dysregulation, making it difficult for individuals to manage their emotions effectively. Many people in early recovery feel like they struggle to cope with unfamiliar emotions. This, too, shall pass!
A person in active addiction may use substances as a means to cope with stress, sadness, or anger. This reliance on substances for emotional regulation can create a cycle that hinders personal growth, emotional resilience, and overall mental health.
Getting Sober and Mental Health
Addiction's impact on mental health can be profound and wide-ranging. Some people are already struggling with mental health disorders, which can be exacerbated by substance use. Substance use disorder can result in withdrawal-induced anxiety, depression, diminished self-esteem, social isolation, and emotional dysregulation. Getting sober can feel overwhelming because of these things; however, people can work through their emotions in detox and treatment.
In treatment, people learn about their mental health and get treatment for co-occurring disorders. Recognizing these interconnected effects is crucial for providing effective support, treatment, and prevention strategies for both. Compassion and accessible resources play a pivotal role in helping people regain control over their lives and begin to improve their mental, spiritual, and physical health.
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