May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a month where we look at the many mental illnesses that can affect the population. Because of the awareness that campaigns such as Mental Health Awareness Month have brought, mental illness has been less stigmatized than ever before.
With that said, there is one mental illness that people stigmatize, and that is substance addiction. It’s a disease that can destroy families, take forever for you to recover from, and you may not recover fully, and many people will shame addicts.
A Choice or an Illness?
There is a false dichotomy lately when it comes to addiction, with people saying that those who are addicted did so by choice, and because of that, addiction should not be treated as a mental illness.
At first, someone may understand where that argument is coming from. If someone is addicted to heroin, in most cases, they ultimately made the decision to take it.
- People can become addicted to prescription meds. If someone needs to take painkillers, it can be hard to come off of them and that person may find themselves turning to illegal drugs to get the same high once the prescription drugs run out.
- You can become addicted to substances for pleasure that are less socially stigmatized. For example, alcohol. A normal person can drink on occasion and not feel addicted, but someone who is mentally prone to alcohol addiction may take a few drinks and this can become a downward spiral.
- Many diseases are also a choice. If you know someone has the flu and you decide to be near them, you made that choice, but you still have a disease.
- Finally, people can become addicted to some odd, or even essential, things. People can become addicted to the Internet, or be addicted to food. It doesn’t always have to be a hard drug.
With that said, let’s look at how addiction has an impact on your mental health.
Addiction’s Impact on Mental Health
Addiction can have a terrible impact on your mental health, and here are a few reasons why told in a way that anyone can understand.
When you take a strong drug like heroin, for example, you feel an immense feeling of pleasure, and your brain starts to revolve itself around looking for that pleasure. This is known commonly as chasing the dragon.
It may take stronger doses for you to feel the pleasure you once felt, and ordinary activities that once made you happy make you feel apathetic.
It Can Cause Mental Health Problems
Because of addiction, you may develop a slew of mental health problems. You may develop depression, anxiety, insomnia, bipolar disorder, or these mental illnesses that may worsen if you already had signs of them.
For example, you may feel increasingly anxious or depressed unless you get your fix. It’s a hard cycle to break.
It Can Change You for the Worse
The people around you may not want to associate with you as much once you start becoming addicted. People such as your friends and family may feel skeptical when you want something from them, and they may not know how to break it to you that you’re an addict.
It’s hard for an addict to admit they’re one, and oftentimes, they must bottom out before they can get help.
Getting Help is Hard
We have made some great strides in getting people withdrawn from addictive substances, and addiction is something that many people don’t want to seek help for. Here are a few reasons why.
- Some people are stubborn and don’t want to admit they have a problem.
- They may feel like they will be socially stigmatized and possibly be thrown into prison for admitting they have an addiction. This is honestly a valid concern with how the US conducts its war on drugs.
- Some people are afraid of the cost and don’t realize there are affordable and even free options out there.
But Getting Help is Essential
If you or someone you love has an addiction, it’s important that you seek help by anyway, shape, or form. One way you can seek help is through online counseling. Therapists can talk to you and help you find ways to get off and stay off. Withdrawal can be annoying at best, deadly at worst, and a counselor knows how they can help you withdraw in the safest and most possible way for you.
So try to seek help if you feel like you have an addiction. Your body, mind, and family will thank you for it.