Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behaviour. Some of these illnesses include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviours. While anyone can have a mental health problems, this becomes a concern when the signs are on-going and affect your ability to function.
Many addicts show symptoms of mental illness when they start to recover, and these symptoms can disappear with time in recovery. Some have real mental health issues that do not go away and must be treated for recovery to succeed.
Signs and symptoms vary but they can include:
- Feeling sad or down
- Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
- Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
- Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
- Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
- Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Major changes in eating habits
- Sex drive changes
- Excessive anger, hostility or violence
- Suicidal thinking
Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder can manifest as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headache, or other unexplained aches and pains. The most important thing to keep in mind is that diagnosis must be done by a professional and that may mean starting off with your GP and seeing more than one professional. Your health is important and you have to find out all you can about the diagnosis and possible treatments.
“Stigma is shame. Shame causes silence. Silence hurts us all.”
Having a mental illness comes with stigma. For an addict with a mental illness, the stigma is worse. Because of this, it is very hard to reach out for help, and then to find the right kind of help.
During early recovery many recovering people battle with depression, lack of sleep, an inability to regulate their own moods and other symptoms listed above. This doesn’t mean they have a mental illness, most addicts find a new way to live and their lives improve. But for a small percentage of recovering people, these symptoms do not go away and in some cases the symptoms get worse until they find help.
Anyone who is struggling with the symptoms mentioned in this article should try to find some extra help. There is lots of help to be found whether it is meeting with your sponsor or finding a professional who can assist.
Mental Health Awareness Month