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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.

Can alcohol abuse kill?  Yes.  About 75K+ Americans die from alcohol related disease each year.  But is alcohol addictive potential inherited?  And how is alcoholism related to our mental health?

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.

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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


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4 Responses to “Can alcohol abuse or alcholism cause mental illness?
e miller
3:25 am March 17th, 2015

could it be drinking alcohol is a mental illness that results in physical ailments?

5:19 pm March 20th, 2015

Hello e. Alcoholism is a brain disorder; you can find more reading about it here:

My father was an alcoholic
4:42 pm October 15th, 2015

My father was an alcoholic. My children do not drink. However, one of them is severly depressed. Could that be because of my father? They never knew each other. I am not an alcoholic either. I am trying to figure out how my son got so mentally ill. I do not know if my father was mentally ill or not.

5:18 pm November 4th, 2015

Hi @My father was an alcoholic. Mental illness is only only caused by genetical predispositions. I believe it is not in any correlation to your father’s drinking habits. Actually, the latest genetic researches suggest that your ancestor’s genetic make-up can be changed by the healthy lifestyle you adopt. I suggest you see this TED talk:

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About Kimberly Reynolds

Kimberly Reynolds is a freelance writer in Dallas, Texas. She has a passion for learning new things and is currently researching and writing articles for mental health Dallas Texas practitioners. In her free time, Kimberly works towards completing her bucket list while writing about her adventures on her Bucket List Blog.

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