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Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders

Updated: Jan 27

Mental Health & Substance Abuse Disorders

October is Mental Health Awareness Month to educate the public about mental health and help society prevent and reduce the stigmas and discrimination that are usually associated with mental health or illness. More often than not, the terms mental health and mental illness are used interchangeably as if they refer to the same thing whereas the two words mean two separate things.


Mental health refers to an individual's state of well-being. In contrast, mental illness refers to a state where an individual’s mental health is affected which in turn affects their thoughts, feelings, emotions, behaviours, and interactions with others. Furthermore, there is confusion around the terms mental health and mental illness. With an easier well-known term, mostly when people hear mental health/illness they think ‘crazy’. People would rather discriminate and/or stigmatize someone with mental health problems than seek help and understanding to be able to provide the person with the support they most certainly need.


The ignorance in communities with regards to gaining knowledge and awareness towards mental health exceeds the willingness to change and learn. It is much easier to stigmatize and discriminate against someone than to give yourself time to learn more about their situation.


Stigma associated with Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders prevent people from getting Life-Saving treatment

In truth, anyone can be affected by mental health problems or illnesses regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, personal or financial background etcetera. Many different mental illnesses have different symptoms that impact people’s lives in different ways. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health can be described as a “state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or, her abilities, and can cope with the stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to his or her community”.


Anyone can be affected by mental health problems regardless of age, gender or race

Mental health includes an individual's emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how people think, feel, and act. Mental Health awareness contributes to enlightening people on how they can handle their day-to-day stress, relate to others with common problems, and make healthy choices.


Mental health problems range from the worries people experience as part of everyday life to serious long-term conditions. The majority of people who experience mental health problems can get over them or learn to live with them, especially if they get help early on.


Types of mental illness, not limited to:

· mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder)

· anxiety disorders.

· personality disorders.

· psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia)

· eating disorders.

· Trauma-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

· Substance abuse disorders.


Visit https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-types-illness for more detailed information about mental illnesses.


Most mental health symptoms have been classified as neurotic and/or psychotic symptoms.


Neurotic are those symptoms that can be specified as severe forms of normal emotional experiences such as depression, anxiety, or panic. Conditions formerly referred to as neuroses are now more frequently called common mental health problems.


Psychotic symptoms include hallucinations such as seeing, hearing, smelling, or feeling things that no one else can. They the less common in most individuals, which interfere with an individual’s perception of reality.


Mental health problems can start as less severe to become problematic if they go untreated or unmanaged.


They affect an individual’s thinking, feelings, and behaviours as a whole. It is always advisable for people to become self-aware and take care of their mental health.


Mental health illnesses are problems and conditions that can be diagnosed by a doctor, they are not personal weaknesses as people perceive them to be.


They can be viewed as a way of the body screaming for help in times where it has been neglected and also as a way for the body to communicate with an individual to take care of themselves, either mentally, psychologically, emotionally and in a broader spectrum of human functioning. (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/about-mental-health/what-are-mental-health-problems).



The first step is to acknowledge or notice that you are not coping and you may need help.


People tend to resort to substance abuse when they notice that they are not coping with life and they are constantly feeling overwhelmed. Lack of enough information about helpful resources and services to help individuals with day-to-day challenges leads to them resorting to unhealthy self-help techniques or coping mechanisms.


Substance abuse and mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety are closely linked.

Comorbidity refers to the fact that two conditions, such as a specific mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, often co-exist together. What this means is that in many people with addictions, there is an underlying mental health issue as well. While neither condition causes the other, they do often exist together. What's more, one condition can exacerbate the symptoms of the other.


The changes that take place in the brain due to substance abuse occur in the same brain areas that are impacted by depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Consequently, it should not be surprising that there is a high rate of comorbidity between addiction and other mental illnesses. While the link is complex, some mental health issues increase the risk factors for substance abuse. What this means is that some people with mental illnesses will turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with the pain of their mental health issues.


Disorders related to stress or trauma are common among people with drug use disorders

This not only delays a person’s healing process but also creates more problems for the individual. Moreover, people often resort to abusing alcohol or drugs as their way to ease the symptoms of an undiagnosed mental disorder, to temporarily cope with difficult emotions, or to change their mood. In addition, some individuals abuse medication prescribed or acquired over the counter as their way of managing their mental illness.


Unfortunately, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol causes side effects and in the long run, often worsens the symptoms they initially helped to relieve.



It is difficult to say if substance abuse directly causes mental disorders however, it can increase the underlying risk for mental disorders. If you are at risk for a mental health issue, abusing alcohol or drugs may push you over the edge. Mental health problems can arise from a complex interplay of genetics, the environment, and other possible factors. For example, there is some evidence that those who abuse opioid painkillers are at greater risk for depression, and heavy cannabis use has been linked to an increased risk for schizophrenia. After that, such abuse can also interact with medications such as antidepressants, anxiety medications, and mood stabilizers, making them less effective at managing symptoms and delaying your recovery which may sharply increase symptoms of mental illness or even trigger new symptoms.


What to do when you feel you have a mental health problem.

  • Pay attention to warning signs. Find yourself a doctor or therapist to help you through the journey. Work with your doctor or therapist to learn what might trigger your symptoms.

  • Get routine medical care. Do not neglect check-ups or skip visits to your primary care provider, especially if you are not feeling well.

  • Get help when you need it.

  • Take good care of yourself.


For more information on how to get help for a dual diagnosis of Addiction and Mental health, visit our website at www.prcrecovery.co.za and get in contact with our friendly staff members to help you through the process.


Mental Health & Substance Abuse Disorders Infographic

Summary:

Delve into the nuanced relationship between mental health and substance abuse. The text starts by clarifying the distinctions between mental health and mental illness, shedding light on the societal stigmas and discrimination associated with them. It emphasizes the importance of mental health awareness and the diverse range of mental health problems individuals may face. The narrative underscores the prevalence of comorbidity, particularly between substance abuse and mental health disorders. It explores how self-medication can exacerbate mental health issues, delaying recovery. The text concludes with practical steps for individuals recognizing mental health problems, urging them to seek professional help and providing information about dual diagnosis resources. Visit www.prcrecovery.co.za for more guidance and support.

Distinguishing Mental Health from Mental Illness

The article begins by highlighting the distinction between mental health and mental illness. Mental health refers to an individual's overall well-being, while mental illness is a state where mental health is affected, impacting thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and interactions. The author addresses the common misconception that mental health problems are synonymous with being "crazy" and discusses the prevalent stigmas and discrimination associated with these issues.

Ignorance and Stigmatization

Universality of Mental Health Issues

Types of Mental Illness

Neurotic and Psychotic Symptoms

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders

In conclusion, the article emphasizes the need for self-awareness, destigmatization, and seeking help for mental health issues. It specifically addresses the link between substance abuse and mental health disorders, highlighting the importance of early intervention and proper management to prevent worsening symptoms and delay recovery. The piece concludes by encouraging individuals to pay attention to warning signs, seek help when needed, and take care of their overall well-being.


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