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September 19, 2018

Alcohol and Mental Illness: Misery Loves Company

Driving in severe weather is a nerve-wracking experience. Your tires could slip on the road at any second. Your windshield wipers are working furiously to provide visibility, but to no avail.

It’s difficult to see the path ahead and the maneuvers that would be safe under normal conditions can become incredibly dangerous. Your mind, senses and reflexes all must operate at a high level to help you navigate the treacherous road and make it home safely.

Now, imagine that your perspective is warped, preventing you from noticing the inclement weather and hazardous road conditions.

To you, it looks like a bright, sunny day. You don’t realize it, but by behaving “normally” from your point of view, you are putting yourself and others around you at risk.

That hypothetical situation might sound farfetched, but alcohol rewires your brain and prevents you from seeing things clearly.

Heavy alcohol use can make profound changes to your brain chemistry without you realizing it, and you may find yourself in a dangerous situation, unaware of the peril facing you.

This is particularly true for those who are already struggling with a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression. Alcohol can worsen symptoms caused by a mental illness and may even play a role in their onset.

Surprising Facts about Alcohol and Mental Illness

Nearly one in five Americans struggle with mental health issues each year. Stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder and other painful conditions can cause you to seek relief wherever you can find it.

With 70% of the nation reporting they’ve had an alcoholic beverage in the past year and more than half admitting they drank in the past month, it’s easy to see that alcohol is often the self-medicating drug of choice.

However, the relief alcohol grants is temporary, and when used or abused for long periods of time, it can contribute to mental illness.

How Alcohol Rewires Your Brain and Leaves You Vulnerable to Mental Illness

While alcohol use might start as a way to deal with feelings of anger, fear or guilt, the changes it spurs in your brain can actually cause more anxiety and troubled thoughts.

That’s because it alters your brain’s chemistry. It depresses activity throughout your central nervous system, which can numb your anger, shame, guilt or other difficult feelings.

But as your body tries to adjust, a few things happen:

  • Your serotonin levels drop considerably.
  • Reduced serotonin can lead to a depressed mood, low energy and negative thoughts.
  • You get less quality sleep because your body can’t rest properly while trying to process alcohol.
  • With sleep deprivation comes extremely elevated risk of clinical depression or anxiety.

Ultimately, drinking helps you feel better for a little bit before it makes you feel worse, leading to a devastating cycle of escalating abuse for some individuals.

Manic Depression is a Frustrating Mess

The classic Jimi Hendrix tune is a great track, but that line is a gross oversimplification of how difficult manic depression, more commonly referred to today as bipolar disorder, can be.

Roughly 2.5% of American adults grapple with this condition, and 4 out of 5 cases are considered severe. Substance abuse is considered to be a contributing factor in developing bipolar disorder. Some of the difficulties encountered can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Physical Pain
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Drastic shifts between optimism and pessimism
  • Fatigue
  • Suicidal thoughts

Break Free from the Cycle of Alcoholism and Anguish at Cycles of Change

At Cycles of Change Recovery Services in Palmdale, CA, we are equipped to treat co-occurring conditions like alcoholism and mental illness. This dual diagnosis treatment can lead to lower rates of relapse in recovery.

Our experienced, caring staff will work with you to customize a treatment plan that meets your individual needs. We offer a variety of therapies, including treatment aimed at helping heal the family, as well as, the addict. If you need help organizing an intervention for a loved one, we have experienced interventionists on staff who can assist you.

Break the cycle of alcohol abuse and achieve positive, lasting change in your life. Start the process of healing and contact us today.

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