When people talk about the causes of alcoholism, they typically discuss the five most recognized contributors to alcohol addiction: dependency, genetics, brain chemistry, social pressure and emotional stress. But addiction experts recognize that there is a strong relationship between mental health and alcoholism that needs to be part of the public discussion about alcohol addiction and its treatment.
The connection between mental health and alcoholism is complex. Not only can mental health conditions lead to alcohol abuse and eventual addiction; but alcoholism can mask or exacerbate mental health issues, preventing proper treatment.
Causes of Alcoholism
Alcohol addiction and mental health share many common causes.
1. Dependency. The chemicals in alcohol react with your body on a cellular level. Prolonged alcohol exposure can cause your brain to become dependent on alcohol and can also contribute to the development of mental illness such as depression.
2. Genetics. A family history of alcoholism can double your risk of alcohol addiction. More than 50 chromosomal variations have been linked to addiction. Many mental health conditions carry similar genetic tendencies.
3. Chemical imbalance. Long-term alcohol changes the brain’s chemical balance. Many mental health conditions are also related to an imbalance of brain chemicals.
4. Social pressure. Social, job and family pressures can trigger both alcohol use and destructive mental health responses.
5. Emotional stress. Alcoholics often use alcohol to mask emotional stress and the mental health conditions at their root. Failure to obtain needed treatment prolongs addiction.
Mental Illness Impact
People who suffer from alcohol addiction frequently suffer from a co-occurring mental illness, called dual diagnosis. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) a third of people with mental illness are substance abusers and a third of alcoholics also suffer from mental illness.
Effective addiction recovery requires that addiction treatment also address the patient’s mental health issues. Transitions Recovery is a recognized expert in dual diagnosis treatment; contact us today for more information.