Starting Conversations about Mental Health

 

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May marks Mental Health Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness and reducing stigma. To start our month-long conversation about mental health, we started asking some questions:

Who is affected by mental health disorders?

Millions of people in the United States alone deal with mental health disorders. Yet less than half receive help. Chances are you know someone with a mental illness or someone who is affected by a person struggling with a mental illness.

According to recent studies, adults between the ages of 18 to 25 make up the highest percentage of people struggling with mental illness, but compared to other age groups, they also report the lowest rates of seeking treatment.

Why don’t more people seek treatment for mental health?

One of the main hurdles preventing people from seeking necessary treatment is the stigma surrounding mental health. Many people feel their mental health is not as important as their physical health or feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit they have a mental problem. As a result, some ignore their mental health concerns while others try to treat their symptoms by themselves.

What are some signs of a mental health disorder?

The signs of each mental health disorder are unique to that disorder, but here are a few to look out for:

  • Extreme changes in mood and behavior
  • Changes in work or school performance
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Prolonged feelings of anger or sadness
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Struggles with carrying out day-to-day tasks

What are some examples of mental health disorders?

Depression and anxiety are the two most prevalent mental health disorders in the United States; however, many Americans also live with obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorders, among others. The severity of mental health disorders also varies by individual.

Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders

Nearly 80 percent of people with mental health disorders have substance use disorders. In an effort to cope with the symptoms from their mental health disorder, many people turn to drugs and alcohol. The most common substance people turn to for help is alcohol. However, alcohol and many other drugs can exacerbate symptoms.

How can we reduce stigma?

In the past few years, there has been a change in the conversation around mental health. Mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, have garnered more attention due to more celebrities, such as Mariah Carey, sharing their battles. If we continue asking questions and normalizing conversations about mental illness, then we can continue investing in and improving treatment for mental health.

What Is Binge Drinking?

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What is binge drinking?
Binge drinking is the consumption of alcohol that raises a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.8 or above, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. For men, this usually takes five or more drinks in two hours, and for women, it usually takes four or more drinks. In contrast, the recommended amount of alcohol consumption for women is no more than one drink a day and no more than two for men.

Why is binge drinking dangerous?
Most people who binge drink do not have a substance use disorder. However, the consequences of binge drinking are still severe, and extended periods of binge drinking can lead to alcohol dependence.

There are a lot of health risks associated with alcohol consumption, such as an increased likelihood of contracting certain cancers and difficulty with memory and learning. With excessive alcohol consumption, additional risks such as unintentional injury like blackouts, alcoholic coma, and alcohol poisoning are higher than with moderate use.

Rates of violence, including domestic and sexual abuse, also increase when drinking is involved. An estimated 50 percent of sexual assaults involve alcohol.

For women, binge drinking additionally increases the likelihood of an unplanned or a difficult pregnancy.

How common is it?
Binge drinking typically evokes images of college students in fraternity houses and, in fact, young drinkers consume more than 90 percent of their alcohol by binge drinking.
However, they are not the only ones. One in six adults in the United States engages in binge drinking four times a month. Over 50 percent of those who binge drink are between the ages of 18 to 34. It is also most prevalent among men, as men are twice as likely as women to binge. However, in the past couple of years, studies show women have begun to close the gap in alcohol consumption.

What should I do if I am or someone I know is struggling with binge drinking?
Attempts to quit without professional help are mostly unsuccessful, and they can also be fatal. Seeking professional help is the safest and most reliable way to stop drinking

Alcohol Awareness Month Reminder: Risks of Drinking Far Outweigh Rewards

In honor of National Alcohol Awareness Month, Gateway Treatment Centers takes a look at health risks linked with heavy alcohol consumption.

It’s been widely reported that regular light to moderate drinking can be good for the heart. But that’s only a portion of the story. With heavy or at-risk drinking, any potential heart healthy benefits are outweighed by far greater risks, including:

Injuries

Drinking too much increases your chances of being injured or even killed. Alcohol is a factor, for example, in about 60% of fatal burn injuries, drownings and homicides; 50% of severe trauma injuries and sexual assaults; and 40% of fatal motor vehicle crashes, suicides and fatal falls.

Health Problems

Heavy drinkers have a greater risk of liver disease including hepatitis and cirrhosis, heart disease, kidney damage, sleep disorders, nutritional deficiency, depression, stroke, bleeding from the stomach, sexually transmitted infections from unsafe sex, and several types of cancer including breast cancer. Heavy drinkers may also have problems managing diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions.

Brain Damage

The effects of alcohol on the brain can occur by both direct and indirect means. Thus, it is not really necessary that the alcohol actually reach the brain, though it does, for brain function to be modified.

Damage to the brain can occur through alcohol-induced deficiencies in nutrition, liver disease, and through alterations in the function of other bodily systems (e.g. immune, hormonal), which produce substances that end up in the blood and get transported to the brain.

Learn more health risks associated with alcohol consumption here.

Alcohol Dependency & Women

Drinking Alcohol Poses More Health Risks for Women

A considerable downside of frequent alcohol consumption is a higher rate of health risks —especially for women. Women’s bodies are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than men’s bodies. As a result, women who drink are more prone to particular health risks, including breast cancer, heart disease and liver damage.

Women and Men should know the USDA guidelines and consume moderate amounts of alcohol. A standard drink is roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits

The USDA defines moderate drinking as:

  • Up to 1 drink per day for women
  • Up to 2 drinks per day for men

It’s important to note that alcohol effects each person differently based on factors that can include weight, general health and family health history. Even within the USDA moderate drinking definition, abuse can occur if alcohol is consumed too quickly or if other underlying issues exist.

Women Report their “Usual number of drinks per drinking occasion”

  • 1 Drink – 48.2% of women
  • 2 Drinks – 29.9 % of women
  • 3+ Drinks – 21.9% of women

Consumption reports from women past-year drinkers ages 18+. According to the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.

Learn more about Alcohol Abuse and Women.

Why do women face higher risk of Alcohol Dependency?

Research shows that women start to have alcohol-related problems at lower drinking levels than men. One explanation is on average, women weigh less than men. In addition, alcohol disperses in body water, and pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men. So after a man and woman of the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman’s blood alcohol concentration will tend to be higher. Other biological differences, including hormones, may contribute, as well.

What are the health risks?

Breast Cancer
There is an association between drinking alcohol and developing breast cancer. Women who consume about one drink per day have a 10% higher chance of developing breast cancer than women who do not drink at all.

Liver Damage
Women who drink are more likely to develop alcoholic hepatitis (liver inflammation) than men who drink the same amount of alcohol. Alcoholic hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis.

Heart Disease
Chronic heavy drinking is a leading cause of heart disease. Among heavy drinkers, women are more susceptible to alcohol-related heart disease than men, even though women drink less alcohol over a lifetime than men.

Pregnancy
Any drinking during pregnancy is risky. A pregnant woman who drinks heavily puts her fetus at risk for learning and behavioral problems and abnormal facial features. Even moderate drinking during pregnancy can cause problems. Drinking during pregnancy also may increase the risk for preterm labor.

Some women should never drink at all, including:

  • Anyone under age 21
  • Anyone who takes medications that can interact negatively with alcohol
  • Anyone who is pregnant or trying to conceive

Need help for Alcohol Dependency?

If you or someone you know needs help with alcohol dependencyGateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment can help. With treatment programs tailored to meet the specific needs of adult men and women and teens, Gateway’s team of experienced professionals has been helping individuals overcome substance abuse for more than 40 years.

For more information or to arrange a free and confidential consultation, please call 877-505-HOPE (4673).

How Does Alcohol Abuse Effect Your Body?

Alcohol Doesn’t Mix Well With Your Body

alcohol-abuse-effectsDo you know alcohol can be toxic to your heart? Over the longer term, heavy drinking can lead to high blood pressure, enlarged and weakened heart, congestive heart failure and stroke. Binge drinking can be associated with a trial fibrillation, a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. If the heart’s components don’t work together properly it can even lead to a stroke, advises the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The scary thing is that you may not even feel the symptoms.

All of these are reasons why your doctor encourages you not to drink alcohol. You can take care of your heart through good nutrition, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. Other health issues associated with alcohol abuse include:

  • Alcohol abuse increases the risks of cancer. For women, even moderate drinking can increase chances of developing breast cancer by 10%.
  • Although alcohol can make you feel energetic or uninhibited, it is actually a depressant. Alcohol shuts down parts of your brain. When the amount of alcohol in your blood exceeds a certain level, your respiratory system slows down markedly, and can cause a coma or death because oxygen no longer reaches the brain. This is referred to as alcohol poisoning.
  • Daily alcohol intake may impact the ability of adults to produce and retain new cells, reducing new brain cell production by nearly 40%.
  • Alcohol abuse is related to cirrhosis, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FAS), malnutrition, ulcers, hepatitis, among other things
  • Poorer outcomes from surgical procedures due to alcohol’s effects on the person’s health, malnutrition, and the depressive effects of alcohol on the body
  • Heavy drinking affects the body’s ability to stop bleeding because the liver has difficulty producing the proteins that cause clotting
  • Alcohol abuse can result in brain damage, slower thinking, unsteadiness and slurred speech
  • Alcohol doesn’t mix well with many prescription drugs

Your Brain

Drinking alcohol leads to a loss of coordination, poor judgment, slowed reflexes, distorted vision, memory lapses and even blackouts.

Your Body

Alcohol can damage every organ in your body. It is absorbed directly into your bloodstream and can increase your risk for a variety of life-threatening diseases, including cancer.

Self-Control

Alcohol depresses your central nervous system, lowers your inhibitions and impairs your judgment. Drinking can lead to risky behaviors, such as driving when you shouldn’t, or having unprotected sex.

It Can Kill You

Drinking large amounts of alcohol at one time or very rapidly can cause alcohol poisoning, which can lead to coma or even death. Driving and drinking also can be deadly. In 2003, 31% of drivers age 15 to 20 who died in traffic accidents had been drinking alcohol.

Know the Law

It is illegal to buy or possess alcohol if you are under age 21.

Can the body recover from excessive drinking?

Research even suggests that brains too can recover from damage caused by alcohol abuse.

Studies have found that after a month of sobriety, an alcoholic’s brain begins to repair itself, and brain volume, which tends to shrink from excess alcohol, is increased by a few percentage points. Patients’ ability to concentrate is also improved.

Is Drinking In Your DNA?

Drinking habits are often ingrained well before one reaches the legal drinking age. Heredity, culture, economic standing, family and lifestyle all play a role in shaping how much an individual drinks. If alcohol dependence runs in your family, it is particularly important to be vigilant about sticking to moderate drinking guidelines because you are more susceptible to developing alcohol dependency than someone without a family history of alcohol abuse.

Research suggests the body can bounce back once a person stops drinking. The liver, one of the few organs that can compensate by growing new cells, has remarkable regenerative powers. A liver mildly inflamed by alcohol can recover fairly rapidly once the drinking stops. Even a scarred liver can halt the process of cirrhosis if alcohol abuse is stopped in time.

Print the “Get the Facts on Alcohol” PDF (Requires Adobe Reader)

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol dependency, please call Gateway Foundation‘s 24-Hour Helpline to arrange a free and confidential consultation at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

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