Drinking too much alcohol can harm your health Learn the facts

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Alcoholism is the lay term for alcohol use disorder (AUD), which is a brain disorder affecting nearly 15 million people aged 12 and older in 2019, according to a national survey. Some people may also know it as alcohol abuse, alcohol addiction, or alcohol dependence. No matter the severity, the key characteristic in people who have AUD is an impaired ability to control their alcohol use despite consequences. For healthcare professionals who are not mental health or addiction specialists, the following descriptions aim to increase awareness of signs of co-occurring psychiatric disorders that may require attention and, often, referral to a specialist. Problem drinking has multiple causes, with genetic, physiological, psychological,and social factors all playing a role. For some alcohol abusers, psychological traits such as impulsiveness, low self-esteem and a need for approval prompt inappropriate drinking.

is alcohol use disorder a mental illness

For more information on behavioral treatments and medications for SUDs, visit NIDA’s Drug Facts  and Treatment  webpages. For more information about treatment for mental disorders, visit the National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) Health Topics webpages. Substance use disorder (SUD) is a treatable mental disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior, leading to their inability to control their use of substances like legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications. Symptoms can be moderate to severe, with addiction being the most severe form of SUD.

What Are the Effects of Alcohol on the Body?

Drinking alcohol affects the physical and mental health of some people differently than others, and in some leads to alcohol-related disorders. Researchers at NIMH and around the country conduct many studies with patients and healthy volunteers. We have new and better treatment options today because of what clinical trials uncovered years ago. Talk to your health https://ecosoberhouse.com/article/how-to-stop-drinking/ care provider about clinical trials, their benefits and risks, and whether one is right for you. If you are feeling like ending your life or feel unable to keep yourself safe, please call 999 or go to A&E and ask for the contact of the nearest crisis resolution team. These are teams of mental health care professionals who work with people in severe distress.

is alcohol use disorder a mental illness

Some individuals drink to cope with or “medicate” emotional problems. Social and environmental factors such as peer pressure and the easy availability of alcohol can play key roles. Poverty and physical or sexual abuse also increase the odds of developing alcohol dependence. Primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists are pivotal in educating patients and raising awareness about the detrimental effects of alcohol consumption. Within inpatient settings, it is essential to offer counseling services, especially to individuals who are identified as having AUDs.


Not only is alcohol a depressant, which can make you feel low, ‘the fear’ is a nagging worry that you did or said something you shouldn’t have. You may also feel angry or disappointed in yourself for drinking too much. Alcohol affects your brain’s chemistry and increases the risk of feeling anxious or depressed. If you’ve been drinking more recently and have noticed you’ve been feeling low, giving up alcohol could help.

It’s important to recognize warning signs and seek help if you’re concerned about having a relapse. Treatment of AUD focuses on relieving symptoms of alcohol withdrawal in the short term and then suppressing alcohol cravings in the long term. For example, any alcohol consumption by a pregnant person can be considered is alcohol use disorder a mental illness alcohol misuse, as well as drinking under the legal age of 21. Drinking alcohol too much or too often, or being unable to control alcohol consumption, can be a sign of alcohol misuse and, in some cases, alcohol use disorder (AUD). If you have alcohol dependence, it can be unsafe to suddenly stop drinking.

Causes and Risk Factors of Alcohol Use Disorder

As shown in the schematic, AUD and other mental health disorders occur across a spectrum from lower to higher levels of severity. For patients in the middle, with up to a moderate level of severity of AUD or the psychiatric disorder or both, a decision to refer should be based on the level of comfort and clinical judgment of the provider. It is common for those with mental health problem to turn to alcohol as a means of escape. The individual may be completely unaware that their symptoms are due to some type of underlying condition; they might just know that when they drink they feel a bit better about things. In the beginning, alcohol can be effective at helping individuals hide from their problems. By the time the person realises that drinking is actually making things much worse, they are usually already well on their way to addiction.

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