Can alcohol abuse or alcholism cause mental illness?
Are alcoholism and mental illness related?
Part 2 of a 2-part Q&A Series with Dr. Joel Holiner.
In Part 1 of the Alcoholism Q&A Series with Dr. Joel Holiner, a top psychiatrist in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, we discussed what are treatments for alcoholism, alcohol abuse, and alcohol addiction. Here, Dr. Holiner outlines the association of alcohol abuse and mental illnesses, along with the hereditary disposition to alcoholism. We invite your questions about mental illness and alcoholism at the end.
Q: Can alcoholism cause mental illness?
A: Patients with alcoholism very often have anxiety and depression, sometimes even psychotic symptoms. It is very hard to know if these other illnesses lead to alcoholism or if the physical and social consequences of alcoholism lead to other psychiatric symptoms. Likely, both dynamics are active in the alcoholic patient. It is very important to treat any other coexisting medical and psychiatric illnesses along with the alcohol for a successful outcome of treatment.
Q: Is alcoholism usually attributed to other mental illness?
A: Sometimes alcoholism can appear to be depression, an anxiety problem, or dementia as a consequence of brain changes and life disruption due to the alcoholism. When the alcoholism is treated, mental clarity and diminution of other psychiatric symptoms are often noted.
Q: Is alcoholism hereditary? If yes, how can you prevent it?
A: Alcoholism does indeed run in families, especially in males. There is a definite genetic component, as well as a social component, in developing alcoholism. It is very important to pick your parents well.
Q: Is alcoholism more common in men or women?
A: Men are clearly more likely to be dependent on or abuse alcohol than are women, nonetheless, I have treated hundreds of alcoholic women in my practice.
Q: Do psychiatrists treat addiction?
A: Psychiatrists absolutely treat addictions of all kinds. They treat alcoholism, as well as other forms of substance abuse. There are even psychiatrists who specialize in treatment addictions, with some psychiatrists even having additional board certification in addiction psychiatry. Board certification specialty in addiction psychiatry is achieved by extra fellowship training, as well as extensive experience in treating chemically dependent patients. These psychiatrists with this extra board certification also have to pass a rigorous addiction psychiatry examination.
Although alcoholism can be passed on from one generation to the next, it is important to know that it can be prevented and treated. You may not be able to pick your parents, but you can take control of your life and your mental health. Please ask your questions about alcoholism and associated mental illnesses below.
Photo credit: National Institute of Mental Health