The link between alcohol abuse and mental health

For many people, having a beer or drinking a glass of wine can help them unwind and relax at the end of a busy work week or at a social outing. For others, alcohol is essential to life. Without it, alcoholics struggle to perform everyday tasks – they can’t function at home or in the workplace. They can often struggle just to sleep at night.

Alcohol abuse is more commonly found among people with severe mental health problems. While alcohol consumption does not necessarily cause mental illness, evidence shows that people who consume high amounts of alcohol are more vulnerable to an increased risk of developing mental health problems. Alcohol is often a contributing factor to issues like depression and anxiety.

One of the primary factors used to determine true addiction is whether alcohol is consumed in solitude. Sadly, alcoholism can drive people away from community. As a result, many alcoholics suffer through their addiction alone rather than seeking professional help.

People who struggle with alcohol abuse lack the ability to control how much they consume, experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop drinking, so they find it nearly impossible to stop. Alcoholics may also lack the ability to address underlying issues through basic problem-solving skills, causing a downward spiral into mental health issues.

The common misconception surrounding alcohol is that it allows for a short-lived relief from anxiety, depression or overwhelming feelings. Dr. Jesse Viner, Executive Medical Director of Yellowbrick Psychiatric Center, said excessive alcohol consumption raids the central nervous system and shifts the normal processes within the body and brain.

In his guide Ten Mental Health Reasons Not to Drink Alcohol, Viner explains that alcohol is a “direct central nervous system depressant that interferes with mood and stability.” It also promotes depression and may provide a short-term break from anxious feelings, but leads to “rebound anxiety.”


The prevalence of alcoholism in America

A 2017 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examined the prevalence of alcohol use in the United States. The study analyzed the drinking habits of 80,000 participants and revealed that between 2001 and 2013, alcohol intake had increased at a rate that was “substantial and unprecedented relative to earlier surveys.”

Interestingly, the JAMA study noted: “These increases constitute a public health crisis that may have been overshadowed by increases in much less prevalent substance use (marijuana, opiates, heroin) during the same period.” Unfortunately, the study continued, treatment rates for alcohol abuse remain low.

A focus on education, prevention and intervention strategies is needed to address the rising rate of alcoholism in America. Mental health issues related to alcoholism can often be treated through counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy and other support services.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental health disorder related to alcoholism, contact a treatment facility for help. To learn more about the breadth of services offered at Havenwood Behavioral Health, visit call us at (864) 660-6217. With proper treatment and support, you can overcome mental illness.