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5 Mental Health Tips for Recognizing Addiction

a person sits on a floor with their head in their knees

Every year in the US, over 70,000 people die of addiction-related causes related to drugs or alcohol. Sometimes these people pass without anyone noticing the danger signs that are about to tip them over the edge. Addiction can cause the sufferer to become exceptionally devious and expert at hiding their affliction. Often addiction arrives in the guise of mental afflictions like addiction and anxiety too. So it’s difficult to detect early on. Learning how to how to recognize addiction could save someone’s life. Read these mental health tips for spotting the tell-tale signs of addiction before it’s too late.

1. One Thing Leads to Another

The relationship between mental health and substance abuse is closely intertwined. Statistics tell us that about 50% of people with mental disorders also have a substance abuse problem, and vice versa. There’s also a strong genetic connection when it comes to alcoholism and mental illness. A family history of substance abuse and/or mental illness increases your chances of developing the same affliction. Remember, active substance abuse isn’t always an indicator of an addictive nature. If your grandfather had a problem, your mother or father may avoid drugs and alcohol all their lives. In this way, active substance abuse often ‘skips’ a generation. So, if you’re looking for genetic clues, make sure you’re viewing the whole picture. Unfortunately, doctors keen to help their patients, are often unaware of these genetic risks. So, they may prescribe addictive opioids to help their patients cope with mental issues. If you develop signs of mental illness, always investigate your family history first and consult an addiction specialist for advice on safe treatment methods if necessary.

2. Using Alcohol or Drugs to Cope

Taking a drink or a tranquilizer to calm down or cope with shock isn’t unique to those with substance abuse disorders – it’s a societal norm. The difference is that people with addictive disorders don’t stop there. Drugs and alcohol are their first port of call for dealing with any kind of difficulty. When someone’s suffering from ongoing stress, anxiety, pain, or depression, it’s easy to see how they can fall into the trap of daily use to calm their fears and lift their mood. The problem is that mind-altering substances, rarely help, they only serve to worsen the original problem. A dual-diagnosis rehabilitation program is the best way to stop this devastating cycle. In this contained, professional environment, the addict feels safe enough to learn new coping mechanisms without their ‘crutch’.

3. Personality Changes

Unexplained personality changes often signify that something’s not quite right. Some of the most common deviations from the norm include the following:

  • Sudden lack of interest in favorite activities and hobbies
  • Negative attitudes toward friends and family
  • Losing contact with close friends or avoiding them
  • Skipping work and important engagements
  • Unusually risky behavior
  • Disregard for negative consequences due to their actions
  • A change in sleep patterns and resulting chronic fatigue
  • Secretive behavior
  • Lying about their substance use

It’s common for those suffering from addiction to withdraw from social interactions to become absorbed in their world of drugs or alcohol. For instance, if someone loses interest in going out with friends in favor of sitting at home nursing a bottle, it’s a reason for concern. When an addict reaches the stage where they start to lie about their consumption, they’re already aware that their behavior is abnormal. Unable to do anything about this, they’ll rather lie about their habits than face the truth about their situation.

4. Mental Disorders Commonly Associated With Addiction

Mental maladies are among the most common signs of addiction. Excessive drinking or drug use can lead to intensifying depression and anxiety. These bewildering and sometimes terrifying mental afflictions create a tendency to turn to alcohol or drugs as a source of relief. Alcohol and drugs can provide an uplifting high at first. Yet, a crashing low soon follows their use, especially in cases of overindulgence. Anti-anxiety medications, like benzodiazepines, provide soothing relief for the terrifying symptoms of anxiety, but these drugs are extremely addictive. Drinking alcohol while taking benzodiazepines can worsen the symptoms of anxiety and lead to increased dependence on anti-anxiety medications. Anyone who needs to increase their dosage of ‘benzos’ regularly, should consider alternative treatment for their anxiety.

5. Familiar Signs

If you or a loved one’s received addiction treatment before, you’ll know the tell-tale signs of a pending relapse. People deal with the challenges of addiction in their own way. Some may become quiet and withdrawn, while others are prone to outbursts of anger, or dramatic mood swings. They might stop attending their outpatient treatment, or even increase their attendance to try and hide the problem. So, look out for behaviors that remind you of the previous bout. Not everyone relapses after treatment, but you can never act too cautiously when it comes to picking up on the signs of substance abuse. The vital thing is to act quickly. Once the addict is too deep into a cycle of substance abuse fueled by mental illness, you’ll have a hard time reasoning with them. The decline might occur faster the second time around. Addiction doesn’t ‘heal’ while it’s controlled, so you can expect to see the same behaviors re-emerge in full force if the addict succumbs again. There’s no gentle re-introduction to substance abuse. Mental issues usually remerge in full force from the time you pick up again.

Get More Addiction-Related Mental Health Tips

Taking a better-safe-then-sorry approach is the ideal when it comes to staying on your guard against substance abuse. It’s much easier and quicker to treat a substance abuse problem in its early stages, before denial sets in. If you’d like to learn more mental health tips on how to avoid substance abuse or detect it early on, browse some more of our blog articles, or get in touch for assistance.

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