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Addiction as a Mental Illness: Insights and Common Queries Answered

Addiction is defined medically as a disorder that disables one’s mind from having control over the choices a healthy social being must make. Addiction doesn’t just come in one form that everyone, predominantly generalizes it to be, that is an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or vanities like gambling or such.

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Source: by Ruigsantos/ UnlimPhotos

There is more to addiction than just risking one’s personal health as it affects the environment and the people surrounding them like the family members.

Addiction is primarily related to addiction to substance use disorder, but in an average household, we get to observe scenarios where a person is obsessed with certain aspects like cleanliness or other signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This illness may manifest in many harmful consequences as addiction to self-harm.

Obviously, any kind of disorder preventing a person from living a normal life physically, mentally, or socially is called an illness. Any person suffering from addiction cannot be called healthy as they don’t have complete control over themselves and aren’t able to perform at their full ability.

How Does an Addiction to Anything Occur? And What are the Common Risk Factors?

Addiction is the most severe form of intense cravings and moral failing in a person’s life. Addiction to anything is primarily correlated the environmental factors and other mental health disorders.

Impact of Environment and Living Conditions on the Addictions

Addiction is a disorder that is enabled and formed over the course of time. Consider growing up in a society where alcoholism is normalized, this would suggest that alcohol being consumed is not regulated at the consumer level allowing abuse of alcohol.

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Source: by Elnur/ UnlimPhotos

Similarly, growing up in societies that glorify addictions to illicit drugs and idealizing other substance use in the film industry might put a peer pressure-wise addiction starting point in the downhill ride. The common risk factor in any teenager’s life is early exposure and lack of awareness.

This is furthermore prominent with the idealizing of stars on the internet or social media who are open about their ongoing addictions to weed, alcohol, and tobacco and not addressing it as a negative thing. Instead, these stars tend to make disorders of alcoholism, and severe cases of substance use addictions appear “cool”.

Impact of Other Mental Disorders

Brain function issues and behavioral control issues make any person more vulnerable to other mental disorders. This is extremely prominent in people who have undiagnosed medical conditions like anxiety disorders and depression with harmful coping mechanisms.

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Source: by Stokete/ UnlimPhotos 

Mental illnesses are often downplayed in society, preventing early diagnosis and treatment of them. One thing that must be kept in mind is that it is easier to treat any illness in the bud state as it is easy for them to turn into other co-occurring mental disorders.

Coping Mechanisms and Addictions

It is important to acknowledge that addictions can stem from coping mechanisms that are left unchecked and not catered to. This is seen in many people who suffer from alcoholism, which could have primarily been to cope with the stress and eventually turn into intense cravings that rely on the reward circuit.

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Source: by Yellowj/ UnlimPhotos 

Research suggests that people suffering from domestic violence tend to turn towards not-so-good coping mechanisms like alcoholism and substance use disorders.

This becomes a loop of comorbid disorders that will only intensify and leave the person disabled.  Addressing them at a smaller scale becomes critical to prevent bigger damages.

Substance Use Disorder and How Do Drugs Work?

With the rising statistics of teenagers and kids getting addicted to substances like heroin, morphine, and cocaine, the question stands why now out of all the times? Is it because of the increased access to these drugs or is it because of how kids are idealizing doing drugs as most of their social media influencers promote drug abuse?

Drugs like these have a specific mechanism that changes a person’s brain mechanisms. For example, cocaine changes the ideal mechanism through which our brain releases dopamine, a happy hormone that is normally “rewarded” to the body for certain achievements. Cocaine on the other hand triggers the release of dopamine and it in turn puts the body in a state of euphoria.

Similarly, other drugs rely on euphoria that they are capable of causing to ruin people’s lives. It is nearly impossible to come out of these addictions once the person gets into them. These addictions cost the person’s sanity and ability to survive without the substances.

Immediately after the effects of cocaine fade away, anxiety and restlessness kick in and cause the person to crave more and more of the substance. Eventually, the person is unable to sustain himself without drug usage and will face withdrawal symptoms soon. This is a mental illness in itself.

Withdrawal Symptoms and Greater Risk of re-occurring Addiction

Falling out from addiction has its fair share of difficulties, including withdrawal symptoms that include severe forms of anxiety, depression, restlessness, and intense emotions or intense cravings.

This, if not taken care of through rehabilitation and behavioral therapies will cause the person to fall victim to addiction and mental illness again.

What is the Treatment Available?

Any person suffering from addiction must first come to terms with the fact that they have an addiction. A patient might try to self-medicate at this point by helping themselves by controlling themselves by talking to counselors or therapists. In severe forms of addiction, rehabilitation or behavioral therapies are suggested.

Self-medication includes sheer willpower and the ability of the person to keep their moral stance. To relieve symptoms of withdrawal, it is important to consult doctors to find better coping mechanisms and must be sure to not resort to substance use disorders. An accurate diagnosis must be made to prevent any further issues.

The Stigma of Mental Illnesses

It is time to acknowledge mental illness as a disease that requires treatment too. Stigma prevents communication between the victims of depression, stress, and anxiety and serves as a wall between the help and them.

When a society comes together and destigmatizes mental illnesses and stops shaming the addicts, instead helping to overcome disorders, it will progress. Widely accepted and acknowledged disorders are put on a pedestal, which will help solve them faster.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Addiction a Mental Illness?

Indeed, addictions are mental illnesses that require proper diagnosis and treatment.

Illness is any condition wherein any person is unable to perform at their full capability physically, mentally, and socially. Addiction renders the person in all three niches where they cannot perform at their full capability either mentally, physically, or socially.

2. Can Casual Consumption of Alcohol Lead to Alcoholism?

Yes, casual consumption when left unchecked, can lead to alcoholism. To prevent this minimise your alcohol consumption and the number of times you consume it.

3. Can Addictions be Completely Treated Independently?

Yes, addictions can be completely treated independently depending on how much the addiction has progressed and how willing a person is to overcome addiction.

4. Can Addictions Stem From Coping Mechanisms?

Yes, most addictions stem from unchecked coping mechanisms. Hence, it is important to mind your coping mechanisms and consult your therapists if your coping mechanisms are healthy or not.

Final Thoughts

Today, various scientific associations have concluded that addiction in fact is a mental illness. The American Psychiatric Association (APA), and other such organizations define any sort of addiction as a “mental disease.”

However, this wasn’t always the case. Earlier, around the 1930s, when research first began on addiction, the opinion was that “those too weak in willpower” were addicts. It wasn’t considered an illness then.

But with scientific advances, technology revealed that repeated use of drugs can alter the brain’s working mechanism, and restrict a person from self-control. Such discoveries led to the conclusion that the opinion of drug use as a “choice” is not entirely right, and addicts cannot stop using them anytime they wish to.


Bhoomika has a keen eye on the global trends and advances in the fitness and healthcare sectors. Hence, she provides facts based and "healthy" content. Education: Pursuing degree in life sciences, specializing at Microbiology, Biotechnology and…

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