Alcohol-Use Disorder and Severe Mental Illness PMC

In any case, Northbound has found that treating substance abuse and mental health simultaneously is more effective than addressing them separately. AUD is a progressive, chronic, and sometimes fatal disease — and it often coincides with mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, or bipolar disorder. However, AUD affects a person’s physical, mental, and behavioral state, and to ignore the non-physical aspects would be a failure in fully understanding the disease. Alcohol-use disorder1 (AUD) is the most common co-occurring disorder in people with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. This article reviews several aspects of AUD among mentally ill patients—prevalence and etiology, clinical correlates, course and outcome, assessment, and treatment—emphasizing practical clinical implications within each of these categories.

is alcoholism a mental illness

Long-term heavy drinking can also cause permanent changes to the brain, such as problems with understanding, remembering, and thinking logically. If you binge drink alcohol, your depression and anxiety may also worsen. Binge drinking is when you drink a lot of alcohol in one day — more than 8 units of alcohol per day for men and more than 6 units of alcohol per day for women, with 1 unit of alcohol being equal to half a pint. To stay alcohol- or drug-free for the long term, you’ll need to build a new, meaningful life where substance abuse no longer has a place. Treatment for your mental health problem may include medication, individual or group counseling, self-help measures, lifestyle changes, and peer support.

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Some clinical features of AUD may also precipitate sleep disorders, such as a preoccupation with obtaining alcohol and AUD-related psychosocial stressors. Moreover, tolerance to alcohol can increase alcohol intake, which in turn may exacerbate sleep symptoms. PTSD is characterized primarily by alterations in arousal and recurrent intrusive thoughts that follow a traumatic event.

  • These sudden mood changes are unpredictable and symptoms vary from person to person.
  • Many people with alcohol use disorder hesitate to get treatment because they don’t recognize that they have a problem.
  • When alcohol or drug use increases, the symptoms of mental illness can intensify.
  • Many people with alcohol use disorder do recover with behavioral therapies, medications, or a combination of the two.

Individual factors include age, gender, family circumstances and socio-economic status. Although there is no single risk factor that is dominant, the more vulnerabilities a person has, the more likely the person is to develop alcohol-related problems as a result of alcohol consumption. Poorer individuals experience greater health and social harms from alcohol consumption than more affluent individuals. Depression is a type of mood disorder that affects a person’s thoughts and actions.

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Support for the role of AUD in causing poor adjustment, however, comes from findings indicating that severely mentally ill patients who become abstinent show many signs of improved well-being. These patients either resemble severely mentally ill people who have never experienced AUD (Drake et al. 1996a) or rate between non-AOD users and current users on many clinical and functional measures (Kovasznay 1991; Ries et al. 1994). Because of the ways in which AOD-use disorders complicate severe mental illness, comorbidity rates tend to be particularly high among young males and clients in high-risk settings, such as hospitals, emergency rooms, and homeless shelters. The high rates of AOD-use disorders, especially among young adults, may be due partly to changes in the United States’ mental health care system during the past few decades.