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Mental health and coping with addiction

On World Mental Health Day, it’s important to note just how wide-ranging the term truly is. Mental health encompasses a number of varied conditions, some of which still have stigmas attached.

Addiction, which can itself manifest in many ways, is one such condition that needs more open and empathetic public discussion. The stigma around alcohol and substance abuse in particular only serves to compound mental health problems, as feelings of shame put sufferers off seeking the help they require to get their lives back on track.

With that in mind, let’s mark World Mental Health Day by delving into addiction and what we can do about.

Understanding addiction

Addiction is more common than you might think. The charity Action on Addiction reports that as many as 1 in 3 people are addicted to something. It is defined as not having control over taking, using or doing something to the point where it adversely affects your health or your life.

Causes

The physical and mental “buzz” certain substances and activities initially bring can hook a person, as they start to repeatedly chase that feeling. Once a habit is formed it is tough to break. In other instances, a physical dependency forms, where the body comes to expect and require the substance.

In the case of gambling, gaming, shopping and more, the person gets an endorphin rush from small “achievements”, spurring them on to replicate that rush of success over and over. The highs can become harder to reach, fuelling problem behaviour.

An addict may suffer withdrawals, be they physical or mental, if they break the cycle. This discomfort often scares people into falling back into old habits.

While studies have suggested that some addictions are genetic, environmental factors such as being around other sufferers play a part. Addiction appears to offer a temporary escape from reality, so if people are going through hardships in their lives, they may be vulnerable. Depression, unemployment and poverty are potential triggers.

Trying to live with any addiction can impact relationships and work. When it comes to substances, addiction takes a physical and psychological toll.

Solutions

Thankfully, addiction is highly treatable with plenty of avenues open for those seeking help. Talking about the problem is a major step towards healing. Opening up to friends and family will alleviate some of the emotional burden, while you can also enquire about the availability of an employee assistance programme (EAP) at work.

How to then manage the problem will depend on the addiction, as well as its severity. A GP can offer advice in this regard and tailored addiction service referrals. If physical withdrawals pose a risk to your health, for example, a specialised worker can help you safely navigate the symptoms. To get informed and get the ball rolling, drugs.ie is a good source of information on substance problems. Once you’re in a clearer frame of mind, seeking counselling can aid in managing triggers and maintaining a balanced, healthy life.

Read more about mental health by clicking here