Underlying Issues of Alcohol Addiction
At The Sanctuary, we view addiction of all sorts as a symptom of another underlying issue. In alcohol abuse, for example, there are several conditions that commonly co-occur with excessive drinking. These include depression, anxiety, unstable moods, and trauma. The interactions of problematic drinking and such issues create yet more problems in one’s life. For instance, alcohol is a depressant and worsens any already existing depression. It increases anxiety over time, dysregulates moods and leaves one vulnerable to trauma. No matter which came first in your life—heavy alcohol use or other mental health problems—the effective solution is to treat an alcohol problem at a deeper level. We now know a great deal about the relationship between alcohol and other aspects of one’s health and functioning. Some of these include:
- Depressed Brain Processes—in the short term, alcohol depresses or slows brain processes. This results in an immediate decrease in agitation or stress. For example, people might drink to relax after a difficult day. The mental agitation of racing thoughts or worry is slowed with intoxication; similarly, physical agitation is eased, as is emotional upset. Over time, prolonged and heavy use of alcohol depresses regular brain functioning on a more persisting basis.
- Physical and Psychological Dependencies—while excessive drinking results in physical dependency, psychological dependence also develops. This is related to the relaxation factor of intoxication. Over time one comes to rely upon alcohol as an overall life coping strategy and can create a significant disadvantage in coping skills.
- Trauma—there is a significant correlation between trauma and excessive alcohol use. In fact, unresolved trauma can create such discomfort during abstinence that relapse is an all too often occurrence. Identifying, addressing and resolving underlying trauma gets to the root cause of many people’s need for alcohol. When trauma is resolved, there is no longer a need for numbing its symptoms by drinking.
- Treatment Failure—Failure to resolve the problems that are underlying alcohol addiction has led many to try and try again to recover, only to remain entangled in the problem. A more holistic, integrated approach is needed in which all parts of one’s life related to the alcohol problem are restored to balance.