Importance of Mental Health Awareness

It wasn’t too long ago in human history that mental health was poorly understood. Depression was just a matter of needing to make yourself happier, while other debilitating disorders like bipolar and schizophrenia were written off as someone being “crazy” and not worthy of society. We know much better now, but better mental health awareness is still needed. 

The truth is, mental health issues and disorders like addiction often go hand-in-hand. Sadly, there is a lingering negative stigma associated with both addiction and mental illnesses in modern-day society. As a result, the majority of people suffering from mental health issues do not receive the care and treatment they need. For many, this leads to unsafe self medication and trying to cope through drug and alcohol abuse. 

The good news is that spreading awareness and education about mental illnesses can help end the stigma. And by better understanding mental illnesses and their effect on the human body and behavior, we can work to treat them and better the lives of people everywhere. 

Taking Mental Health Seriously 

A mental illness isn’t just feeling sad or anxious — it is a physical illness manifested in the brain that can affect a person’s ability to function and lead a normal, healthy life. We still have a lot to learn about mental illnesses, but modern research has revealed that they are most commonly the result of chemical imbalances in the brain. Other contributing factors are genetics, brain structure, trauma, and even other health conditions. 

When mental illnesses are left untreated, they can lead to unhealthy behavior (like drug abuse and addiction) and also result in poor work or school performance, feelings of suicide and social struggles. Many people with undiagnosed mental disorders also rack up high medical bills from self harm or even physical symptoms that are reminiscent of other illnesses. 

Common Mental Illnesses 

There are more than 200 different kinds of classified mental illnesses. However, there are two classes of mental illnesses that are particularly common and have a close correlation with drug abuse and addiction:

  • Anxiety Disorders Anxiety disorders manifest themselves in many forms, including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder and intense phobias.
  • Mood Disorders – Depression is one of the most common mood disorders and can have debilitating effects on sufferers when left untreated. Another common mood disorder is bipolar disorder (including bipolar depression), characterized by intense mood swings and challenges in keeping mood regulated.

Now, it’s important to know that just getting diagnosed with a mental illness does not automatically mean you are going to start engaging in substance abuse. Instead, it’s best to avoid using substances and seek professional treatment for your mental illness to prevent an addiction from forming. 

Promoting Good Mental Health

Spreading awareness about mental health and the benefits of treating its disorders is the first line of defense in the battle against mental illness. However, there are many other things you can do to look after your own mental health and decrease the chances of developing mental illness:

  • Get plenty of sleep – Underlying mental illness can be significantly worsened when lack of sleep is involved. 
  • Exercise regularly – Exercise will not only help keep your body healthy; it also releases energizing endorphins. This natural hormone helps stabilize your mood. 
  • Work out your brain – Just as it’s important to keep your muscles limber, it’s important to keep your brain sharp. Research has shown that reading and doing activities that involve critical thinking (like puzzles) help keep cognitive thinking clear and can help prevent mental illnesses from forming.
  • Eat a balanced diet – Practicing good nutrition goes a long way in keeping your mood regulated and cognitive thinking clear. Making sure you are meeting your daily vitamin needs will also help.
  • Get plenty of Vitamin D – Make sure you are spending time outdoors and in the sunshine for a natural source of Vitamin D for a mood booster. Fresh air and brightness have also been shown to help keep your brain’s chemistry regulated. 
  • Avoid alcohol, drugs and smoking – Research has shown that even small amounts of alcohol, drugs and smoking can have a negative effect on mood. 
  • Maintain your social life – Having good relationships with family and friends is crucial in keeping yourself in a good place mentally. Though everyday life is often busy, try to set some time aside each week to spend with the people you care about. 

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment Works for Both Mental Health and Addiction

At Principles Recovery Center in Davie Florida, we understand the close link between mental illness and addiction. This is why we offer dual-diagnosis treatment, which focuses on assessing and treating both mental health and addiction at the same time. By doing so, we can get to the source of the addiction problem and greatly reduce the risk of future relapse. 

Neither mental illnesses nor substance abuse discriminates among demographics or social backgrounds. Our family-focused treatment program offers services to people from backgrounds, and we believe in the importance of spreading awareness among all. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our program! 

Substance Abuse & Sex Addiction: Co-Occurring Disorders & Recovery

Addiction comes in many forms, most addictions involve the abuse of a psychoactive substance such as illegal drugs or alcohol. The word “addiction” comes from the Latin phrase, “ad dictum,” which means “to the dictator.” That alone is very instructive. But addiction might best be described as a progressive disorder of choice where the sufferer persists in a given harmful behavior despite both the pernicious consequences and a desire to stop.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Of course, few addictions come as stand-alone behaviors with no compulsive build-up involving other compulsive, destructive behaviors. It is much more common for one compulsive behavior to coincide with, or compliment, another. Alcohol and tobacco abuse often go hand in hand, for example. Likewise, overeating and compulsive TV or Internet use also tend to work in tandem.

In addiction medicine, we treat co-occurring disorders very seriously. Also known as co-morbid disorders- addictive behaviors that come in pairs or clusters- can be extremely destructive, and startlingly dangerous.

Sex Addiction in Tandem with Other Addictions

So it should not be surprising that substance abuse and sex addiction – what might better be referred to as a compulsive intimacy disorder – would also tend to coincide for many people.

Sex addiction might best be described as persistent and recurring compulsion to engage in harmful levels or amounts of sexual activity. This could mean abusing pornography, spending inordinate amounts of time and/or money on erotic materials. It could mean compulsively seeking out more and more sex partners. It could also mean excessive masturbation.

Common signs of sex addiction include, but are not limited to;

  • Sex with multiple partners despite wanting to quit
  • Libido interferes with other responsibilities and commitments
  • Excessive sexual activity, even when the addict does not want to
  • Failure to curb sexual activity
  • Behavior restricted only to those that could lead to sex
  • Canceling obligations to pursue sex
  • Sexual behavior that damages other important relationships
  • Escalating intensity of the behavior to achieve the same effect
  • Feeling like a “failure” during long periods of abstinence

Whether sex addiction comes in the form of pornography and masturbation, or the seeking out of sexual adventures – it is extremely common to pair these behaviors with other drugs. Alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs associated with hyperactive social seeking are common drugs of abuse which pair with the compulsive behavior of the sex addict.

Alcohol, for example, is a powerful dis-inhibitor and anti-anxiety substance. Cocaine, on the other hand, gives the user a powerful (albeit brief) boost of endorphins and energy, and can drive the user to be inordinately enthusiastic about social situations.

Co-occurring addictive behaviors can be mutually triggering, one leading to the other – or one being necessary to obtain the other. Some people may use sex to obtain drugs, while others may use drugs to obtain sex. Whatever the case may be, the destructive downward cycle can be devastating to the user and to the people who care about her or him.

Recovery from Co-Occurring Sex and Substance Abuse Disorders

As with any addictive disorder, recovering from co-morbid sexual and substance abuse, addiction can only happen when the addicted person is ready to admit that he or she has a problem and is willing to do the necessary work to achieve lasting recovery.

Addiction is an impairment of the facility of choice. It is a condition wherein the afflicted person’s ability to make healthy, long term decisions is impaired. It is not a moral failing or a sign of weakness, but a medical condition that requires treatment.

The good news is that evidence-based therapies and techniques exist and have been in use for many years that have been shown to make recovery much more obtainable. All that is needed is for the addiction sufferer to commit to treatment. Sometimes, reaching the bottom is the only way for the addicted person to see that treatment is necessary.

If you or someone you love is suffering from a sexual compulsion and substance abuse co-morbid disorder, programs exist with proven track records of helping those who are ready to change. Lasting recovery may be months or years away, but it can only start by reaching out for help.

Your decision to pick up that phone and contact us might be the first step to achieving a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life – free of the cycle of abuse and addiction. Principles Recovery Center is here to help.