Alcohol addiction is often not just a physical health problem. In many cases, it can be a trigger for mental health problems such as depression. In fact, 37% of alcoholics have an underlying mental illness. 

When undertaking rehabilitation, it is important to focus on solving these mental health issues. There are two main ways in which alcoholism and mental health issues can be connected:

  • Someone may have an underlying mental health problem that is triggered by alcohol. In these cases, giving up alcohol can cause the mental health problem to go away. Recovery may be easier in these instances.
  • Alternatively, someone may have a mental health problem and may use alcohol as a way of coping with it. Self-medicating alcoholics are much more likely to suffer from mental health problems when alcohol is taken away – which can make recovery a much bigger challenge.

Which mental health problems can be experienced during recovery?

Alcohol can be a way of dealing with mental health problems. When taking alcohol away, people may struggle to find a form of relief for dealing with these mental health problems. A few common mental health problems that may become worse during recovery include:

  • Depression
  • Social anxiety
  • PTSD

A form of relief is often needed for dealing with these mental health problems – one that is not alcohol. This can be particularly important for those suffering from severe mental health problems. Without a form of relief, a recovering alcoholic with depression or anxiety could find themselves in a very dark place. 

Why self-medicating with alcohol is not the answer

If you or a loved one use alcohol to cope with a mental health problem, you may wonder if it’s a good idea at all to take away alcohol. However, it’s important to remember that alcohol is not a substitute for mental health treatment. Any relief that alcohol may offer is only temporary. Studies also show that alcohol can make mental health problems worse in the long run – alcohol’s effect on the brain combined with withdrawal symptoms can make depression and anxiety more intense when sober. Alcohol numbs these feelings for a moment, but they then become worse once the alcohol wears off.  It’s worth also noting that long term heavy drinking damages the body over time. In fact, almost every organ in the body can be damaged by heavy drinking. 

Instead of turning to alcohol, those with mental health problems are better off seeking professional treatment and taking up healthy forms of self-medication such as exercise, music and meditation. Of course, overcoming the physical addiction of alcohol is also important. 

What treatment options are there for those struggling with alcohol addiction and mental health problems?

Those suffering from alcohol addiction and mental health problems can benefit from seeking dual professional treatment – both to overcome the mental health problem and the physical addiction. Unless both problems are treated simultaneously, it may be impossible to stay sober. 

Inpatient rehabilitation treatment can be one way of treating both alcohol addiction and mental health problems. This involves staying in a residential treatment center that offers 24 hour care. You’ll be able to distance yourself from the temptation of alcohol while seeking out treatments to help fight withdrawal symptoms. Counselling can meanwhile be provided to treat the mental health problems that may be causing you to further rely on alcohol. 

In order to prevent a relapse, long-term treatment is often necessary. This may include a rehabilitative program with continued mental health counselling after checking out of the residential treatment center. Such treatment could be useful for coping in the outside world where there are temptations around every corner. 

These types of rehabilitation programs are not just available to those struggling with alcohol addiction, but also those struggling with general drug addiction. You can explore some of these different treatment options on our site. We offer a range of treatment options, which we can cater to each patient based on their individual needs. To get in touch about starting a rehabilitation program, contact us here

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