Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism NIAAA

Treating alcoholism as a mental illness necessitates a multifaceted and comprehensive approach that goes beyond addressing the physical dependence on alcohol. It involves delving into the underlying psychological factors that contribute to the development and perpetuation of alcoholism. This loop is a cycle where the consumption of alcohol affects and alleviates symptoms of mental distress initially, such as anxiety or depression. However, this relief is temporary, and as the effects of alcohol wear off, it can actually lead to the development or intensification of anxiety and depression symptoms. It aligns with the view that alcohol dependence is not a choice or a moral failing, but a medical condition that requires appropriate care and treatment. Recognizing alcoholism as a mental illness helps in destigmatizing the condition, promoting empathy, and encouraging more effective treatment approaches.

Get moving: Exercise and physical activity

is alcoholism a mental illness

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that alcohol is a ‘toxic, psychoactive, and dependence-producing substance’. Learn more about NIMH newsletters, public participation in grant reviews, research funding, clinical trials, the NIMH Gift Fund, and connecting with NIMH on social media. Find out how NIMH engages a range of stakeholder organizations as part of its efforts to ensure the greatest public health impact of the research we support. 2021 NSDUH report includes selected estimates by race, ethnicity, and age and is the most comprehensive key findings report to date.

Depression and overall mood

is alcoholism a mental illness

While results from observational studies such as this one cannot prove cause and effect, they point to how a combination of modifiable behaviors may mitigate Alzheimer’s risk and identify promising avenues to be tested in clinical trials. Staying connected with others may help boost your mood and improve your overall well-being. Scheduling time each day to connect with others can help you maintain connections.

is alcoholism a mental illness

Recovery and Recovery Support

Meet new people by taking a class to learn something new or hone a skill you already have. Learn about substance use in older adults and get tips on how to stop drinking alcohol or drink less alcohol. Although many studies focus on the effects of physical activity on weight and BMI, research has found that even if you’re not losing weight, exercise can still help you live longer and better. Try being physically active in short spurts throughout the day or setting aside specific times each week to exercise. Many activities, such as brisk walking or yoga, are free or low cost and do not require special equipment. As you become more active, you will start feeling energized and refreshed after exercising instead of exhausted.

  • To answer these questions, it’s important to recognize that there are countless types of diseases and mental illnesses, all of which can manifest very differently in different people.
  • The ability to plan ahead, learn and hold information (like a phone number or shopping list), withhold responses as needed, and work with spatial information (such as using a map) can be affected.
  • A 2020 review of research found that CBT allowed people with AUD to build coping and emotional regulation skills.
  • A comprehensive study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows that alcohol consumption among older adults, especially women, is on the rise.

Inclusion and exclusion criteria

is alcoholism a mental illness

At that time, the patient had been transferred to the hospital’s alcoholism treatment unit after 2 weeks, where he had learned some of the principles that had led to his longest abstinence of 18 months. Recognizing that this was an emergency situation and that alcoholics have an increased rate of suicide (Hirschfeld and Russell 1997), the emergency room clinician admitted the patient to the acute psychiatric ward for an evaluation. Despite the patient’s denial of alcoholism, this interview with a collateral informant corroborated the clinician’s suspicion that the man had long-standing problems with alcohol that dated back to his mid-20s. Moreover, a review of the patient’s medical records showed a previous hospitalization for suicidal ideation and depression 2 years earlier, after the patient’s mother had died. Schematic representation of a diagnostic algorithm for evaluating psychiatric complaints in patients for whom alcoholism may be a contributing factor. The algorithm helps the clinician decide if the compliants represent alcohol-induced symptoms, or an alcohol-induced syndrome that will resolve with abstinence, or an independent psychiatric disorder that requires treatment.

Furthermore, the greater the abuse or neglect experienced, the more severe their drinking problem was. Therapy can help people who suffered as a child to address those challenges and develop healthier coping skills. As mentioned in this article, you can support recovery by offering patients AUD medication in primary care, referring to healthcare is alcoholism a mental illness professional specialists as needed, and promoting mutual support groups. See the Core article on recovery for additional, effective strategies that can help your patients prevent or recover from a relapse to heavy drinking, including managing stress and negative moods, handling urges to drink, and building drink refusal skills.

How is alcohol use disorder diagnosed?

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. An entire generation of people with severe mental illnesses developed their disorders during the era of deinstitutionalization. These people resided predominantly in their communities rather than in hospitals; they received few vocational, recreational, and social opportunities but experienced regular exposure and ready access to AOD’s. As a result, the rates of diagnosed AOD-use disorders in mental health settings have continued to rise.