The Connection Between Mental Health & Addictions
Prioritizing strong mental health is important in today’s highly volatile and turbulent world. Part of preserving mental health is understanding the influences that can damage or stress one’ mental health and cognitive functions.
One of the biggest detriments to one’s mental health can take the form of addiction. Addictions can be developed more easily than some of us might think and are extremely pervasive. When not identified and addressed, addictions can cause significant and long-term damage to one’s mental health as well as one’s physical condition, quality of life, relationships, and more.
Common Types of Addictions
A wide range of addictions exist that can vary from substances to activities and more. Many of these are ones with which many people would be familiar, and others may be surprising.
Alcohol abuse is one common form of addiction that affects large numbers of people around the world. Gambling can manifest as an addiction and can have devastating effects on not only the addicted individual but his or her dependents or significant others. Sugar – an additive in huge portions of the items we eat every day – is a highly addictive substance we often don’t recognize as such.
Nicotine (in the form of vaping, cigarettes, and more) is another form of addiction that can be highly pervasive and difficult to curb. Similarly, addictions to restricted substances or drugs is another form that can become highly controlling and damaging. And another addictive “substance” that many people don’t often recognize is the use of smartphones.
Our technology has been designed to trigger psychological responses that increase our engagement time. Many of our ways of life have become fundamentally attached to engaging with smartphones at highly frequent intervals throughout the day.
Individuals’ psychological, physiological, and emotional responses to, for instance, losing access to their smartphones are very similar to symptoms of withdrawal observed in those that have other types of substance addictions.
All these and more create the cohort of substances and activities available to us in our everyday lives that can develop into addictions if we’re not careful.
Recognizing Possible Addictions
How does one know when something might be, or become, an addiction in his or her life? One indication of a possible addiction is what happens when one gives up (or even contemplates giving up) an item, substance, or activity. If giving something up causes physical stress, creates anxiety, or is practically impossible, this should be noted. That thing could be the object of the makings of an addiction.
Addictions can have widespread effects on different facets of life including performance at work or school, relationships, sleep, finances, and more – including areas of mental health.
Effects of Addictions on Mental Health
Addictions come in a variety of shapes and sizes. But they all can negatively impact mental health. Here are a few of these harmful effects:
Addictions can create large amounts of anxiety that, when not treated, can develop into clinically diagnosable forms that can require medication to subdue.
Damage to Social Relationships
Addictions can cause people to withdraw from social relationships around them. They can also cause those relationships to deteriorate due to altered behavior. These effects can hamper relationships with even close friends or family members.
Maintaining healthy relationships is a huge component of protecting mental health – damaging them, or limiting or mitigating their presence, can be harmful to one’s mental state.
Loneliness and Isolation
Several studies show correlations between addictions and developing acute loneliness or separation from others. This can be difficult to reverse without addressing the addiction.
And this is just the start. Addictions can create significant mental health challenges no matter the type, severity, or duration of the addiction. It’s important to be aware of these connections and to be proactive in avoiding and mitigating addictions.
Ending Addiction: Some Important First Steps
Some types and severities of addiction require medical support or professional intervention to break. However, there are many that can be mitigated with some concerted personal and communal effort. Here are a few first steps to take if you are worried about having an addiction or would like to break an addictive behavior pattern:
Consult a Doctor
Whenever possible, it is wise to speak with a medical professional if you are worried about being affected by an addiction of some kind. This becomes more important if the addiction in question involves a restricted substance.
Know Your Reason(s) for Taking Action
Breaking or curbing an addiction of any kind is hard work. It takes discipline, discomfort, and consistency. Before engaging in the process of freeing yourself from addiction, it is imperative to know the reason you want to quit. This will motivate you when it gets hard.
Recruit a Support Network
A hugely important part of breaking addiction is allowing others to join you on the journey. Telling others that you are planning to work towards recovery will provide accountability, support, and encouragement from people you care about.
Choose a Date
Working past addiction takes work and planning. Pick a date by which you plan to be finished with your process. Planning ahead, visualizing the steps and stages involved, and dividing your goal into manageable pieces will be vital to your success.