Genetics and mental health both can play a role in alcohol abuse. Whether it’s depression, anxiety or another behavioral disorder, a person’s mental well-being can affect how they respond to situations. A person who is predisposed to mental health or alcohol abuse disorders can turn to alcohol to help them cope with events that cause some form of emotional distress.
Your genetics can also determine how you react to alcohol. Alcohol use disorder is when an individual’s drinking causes distress or harm. The health effects of alcohol use disorder include damage to the brain, heart, liver and nervous system. Many people worry about what happens when you drink alcohol every day.
People who have alcohol addiction are also at an increased risk for head and neck cancers, according to the article, Alcohol and Head and Neck Cancer, published in the National Library of Medicine. Head and neck cancers (HNC) are those that form in the throat, esophagus and larynx.
The connection between alcohol use disorder and severe health risks is irrefutable. To understand why an individual is at a higher risk than another, a person should understand how genetics and mental health can increase alcohol addiction risk.
Why You Drink: Genetics
Our genes define who we are in obvious and not so obvious ways. The genes passed down from a person’s parents create unique genetic markers. If close relatives experience alcohol addiction, a person is at an increased risk of inheriting the alcohol abuse disorder gene.
The article Genetics and Alcoholism demonstrates the distinction between genetic risk factors and the increased risk to a person’s health.
Genetic factors affect the risk of alcohol dependence and the level of alcohol consumption and the risk for alcohol-associated diseases, including cirrhosis and upper GI cancers.
Why You Drink: Environment
A person’s environment plays as significant a role in their risk for alcohol addiction as their genetics. Socio-economic issues, exposure to constant stress, social circles that normalize alcohol use, and relationships with family and friends are all environmental issues that can exacerbate alcohol misuse and behavioral health disorders.
Why You Drink: Anxiety
People who have anxiety can turn to alcohol to self-medicate. Self-medication is when a person relies on a substance, like alcohol, to cope with emotional pain or stress.
There are a number of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) produces symptoms of extreme or persistent worry. A person suffering from GAS can worry about money, health, family or other issues. A proven way to help those with GAD is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
- Panic disorder is characterized by panic attacks or feeling terror for no reason. People with panic sisorder can feel like they have lost control. Those with panic disorder can benefit from therapy.
- Social anxiety is explained as feeling afraid or anxious in social situations. Talking in front of a crowd or any social activity can cause distress. Talking with a therapist can help a person with social anxiety learn how to identify their triggers.
Why You Drink: Depression
Depression can make a person feel hopeless, lonely or too exhausted to engage in everyday living activities. Some feel like they want to sleep all the time, while others say they lack the motivation to go anywhere or do anything. Symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling of sadness
- Irritability or angry outbursts
- Lack of an appetite
What You Can Do to Overcome Alcohol Addiction
People with alcohol use disorder can benefit from comprehensive treatment that includes interpersonal and group therapy. Working with a therapist to identify triggers and learn skills to manage the urge or craving to drink is a step toward better mental and physical health. A therapist can also determine if a person has a mental health disorder.
Comprehensive treatment can also include ancillary services, including:
- Nutritional counseling
- Personal training
These therapies are beneficial because they focus on the mind, body and spirit connection. They teach a person to focus on their emotional and physical well-being. Meditation or yoga can help a person develop a sense of calmness or self-reflection. Activities that promote self-reflection can decrease using alcohol as a coping mechanism.
When a person gains the tools necessary for a healthy lifestyle, they can replace harmful behavior with healthy habits. Comprehensive treatment can provide those tools and the continuing support needed to build and sustain a healthy lifestyle, away from the need to consume alcohol.
Casa Palmera is a comprehensive treatment center that offers various therapies to suit each patient’s personal needs when they are struggling with an alcohol use disorder. Our staff includes psychiatrists, therapists, social workers, doctors and registered nurses who provide a full range of medical and psychological support. We believe treatment is a personal journey; that’s why we work with a person to identify their unique needs. Therapy isn’t about treating a disease; it’s about treating the person. To schedule an appointment, call (855) 508-0473.