Learning to discern between an alcohol-induced mental illness and something that existed prior to an alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be a difficult task. Clinicians have to question if those who are coming into their office are there because the disorder preexisted the AUD or if it is a new thing induced by alcohol. Looking at the family history, the patient’s gender, and the time length of the illness, may bring faster accuracy. As the patient grows abstinent from alcohol, the clinician should be open to change.
What Does Alcohol Do To Your Mental State?
Heavy alcohol abuse can create psychological problems. The clinician’s role is to go through the patient’s information in order to decipher if they are suffering from an alcohol-related illness or one from before hand. Sifting through alcohol-related problems is key to diagnosing the patient properly. Getting an understanding of if certain conditions are alcohol-related symptoms versus alcohol-related syndromes, will bring a proper term to what’s happening—whether it’s a syndrome or an illness.
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Heavy drinking can lead to psychiatric symptoms, and in more severe instances, longer-lasting psychiatric syndromes. When abstinence occurs, these conditions are more likely to improve, which is what creates the difference between the severe psychiatric disorder which they mirror.
What Does Alcohol Do To The Brain?
Drinking alcohol is a very common practice among Americans. Just over half of the people in America, 12 years and older, have spoken up that they currently drink alcohol. In 2014, 139.7 million consistent alcohol consumers were within that category. Specifically, 23 percent of them were labeled binge drinkers and 6.2 percent were considered heavy drinkers. In total, 17 million had an alcohol use disorder over the past year.
Alcohol starts to disrupt brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) and also interferes with the hormonal system which is linked to the progression of most mental disorders, such as an anxiety or mood disorders. An alcohol addiction may suddenly show similar signs to psychiatric symptoms. Some of these symptoms are why an alcoholic patient reaches out for help. Psychiatric symptoms are contingent on the dependance, how much alcohol was involved, and how vulnerable the patient was when they consumed the alcohol.
Was The Mental Illness Already There?
In some people, small amounts of alcohol may produce a euphoric feeling, however, when they consume a greater amount, it may lead to changes in mood, aggression, or nervousness. Psychiatric symptoms can occur, but are conditional on the dependence factor, when the patient last drank, withdrawal, or other such symptoms. If the patient starts to complain about psychiatric issues during such times, it’s much different than if the patient had these symptoms before their alcohol problem.
The stress on the brain, when drinking heavily (financial, relationship issues, legal, etc.), can be a contributing factor to a continuation of alcohol-related issues such as despair, anxiety, or sadness. It can be difficult to decipher an independently occurring psychiatric disorder from an alcohol-induced disorder, since the two so closely mimic one another. The one saving factor is after the alcohol addiction has been dealt with, the psychiatric problems the patient was facing typically improve.
What Kind Of Mental Illness Can An Alcohol Addiction Cause?
Brain injury is a problem that can happen from alcohol abuse. The issues that start to form, when related to alcohol, are called alcohol-related brain impairment (ARBI). When someone faces ARBI, they confront issues with thinking-related activities, physical coordination, and problems with memory. Age, nutrition, gender, and how much alcohol is consumed are huge factors in how much the brain is affected. Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders start to appear as well, when dealing with alcohol addiction.
What Happens To The Brain And Body From Alcohol?
Alcohol abuse and addiction may cause damage to a person’s brain and body. Here are some things that happen.
Alcohol use disorders:
- Interfere with the absorption of vitamin B1 (thiamine), which is an important brain nutrient.
- Result in changes to metabolism, heart functioning, and blood supply.
- May be associated with poor nutrition.
- Have a toxic effect on the central nervous system (CNS).
- Can lead to falls and accidents that injure the brain.
Drinking over the course of many years in a binge-like or chronic fashion are what may cause brain impairment. A dip in cognitive-related actions is a slow progress, and it all depends on the consumption and the length of time the drinking occurred for. An ARBI can also happen over the course of a short period of time, especially when the drinking is binging.
What Other Disorders Can Occur?
Alcohol use disorders may lead to the following alcohol-related disorders:
- Cerebellar atrophy: The cerebellum is the part of the brain responsible for muscle coordination. Damage results in struggles with walking and balance, which is called ataxia.
- Hepatic encephalopathy: Many people with alcohol-related liver disease develop particular psychiatric symptoms, such as mood changes, confusion, and hallucinations.
- Peripheral neuropathy: The body’s extremities are affected by pain, numbness, and sensations of pins and needles.
- Frontal lobe dysfunction: The brain’s frontal lobes are involved in abstract thinking, planning, problem solving, and emotion. Damage results in cognitive (thought) difficulties.
- Wernicke’s encephalopathy: This is a disorder caused by a severe deficiency of vitamin B1. Some of the symptoms include confusion, ataxia, and problems with vision.
- Korsakoff’s amnesic syndrome: This includes a loss of short-term memory, an inability to acquire new information, and “confabulation” (the person fills in gaps in their memory with fabrications that they believe to be true). Combined with the above, these conditions are termed Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
Help For Alcohol-Related Mental Illness
Gaining an understanding of an alcohol-related mental illness is key. Uncovering the symptoms that happened before and after will unlock the truth of what is happening when someone is facing alcohol addiction. Alcohol addiction does affect the brain and may create mental illness. Find a co-occurring disorder treatment program today.