Alcoholism is a disease, one that can be fatal, and, like any potentially fatal disease, it can wreak complete and utter havoc on a person’s life, mind, spirit and body. While all of the effects of alcoholism can be devastating, one of the saddest things to watch is how alcoholism affects a person’s mind. A person who was smart, intelligent and lively can often turn into a shell of that person after years of heavy drinking. The good news, however, is that if a person gets help for alcoholism soon enough, he or she can avoid these mental consequences entirely.
Alcoholism and Mental Disorders
When people drink, it is often because they want to relax and to escape depression, anxiety and other stresses that occur in life. What many people don’t realize, however, is that drinking and the negative consequences it can sometimes cause can actually lead to increased depression, anxiety and stress. In fact, heavy drinking increases the risk for a wide range of mental health disorders and problems, including:
- Clinical depression
- Dysthymia, a less severe form of depression
- Generalized anxiety disorder
Sometimes, drinking happens as a result of mental health disorders, often in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms of the disorder. Other times, drinking can bring on such disorders. In either case, however, both the alcoholism and the mental health disorder fuel one another, creating a volatile state of being for the alcoholic and the need for Dual Diagnosis treatment to address both issues simultaneously.
Alcohol’s Effect on Memory
People often joke about excessive alcohol consumption and about how it can lead to blacking out and not remembering the night before. The truth is, however, that alcohol abuse, especially when it is so severe that it leads to blacking out, is no laughing matter. While one or two episodes of blacking out don’t necessarily indicate permanent damage to a person’s memory, regular heavy drinking to the point of losing all short-term memory of the event can eventually lead to permanent memory problems. Memory problems can cause difficulty with learning and retaining new information and can negatively impact concentration as well.
Increased Risk of Dementia
Dementia is often thought of as a disease that affects the elderly. Unfortunately, however, alcoholism can lead to dementia at a younger-than-average age and can increase the risk of dementia even in those people who would not have developed it otherwise. The increased risk for dementia is due to the fact that alcoholism speeds up the normal shrinkage process of the brain that occurs as people age. Among those with alcoholism-induced dementia, certain problems are common, such as a decreased ability to plan and make judgments, as well as difficulty with sound decision-making.
Over time, alcoholism can lead to alcoholic neuropathy, a neurological condition that can cause a wide range of problems, including:
- Muscle pain and tingling weakness in the muscles
- An inability to control the bladder or urination
- Bowel problems
- Erectile dysfunction in men
Alcohol is damaging to every cell in the body, especially brain cells, and one cannot continue to drink heavily without experiencing severe mental effects.
Help and Hope
Some, but not all, of the mental effects associated with alcoholism can be reversed if a person stops drinking. For an alcoholic, however, stopping drinking is easier said than done. If your loved one struggles with alcoholism, know that he or she cannot stop drinking on his or her own. Professional help will be necessary for a full and successful recovery that has the possibility of slowing or halting mental deterioration. Contact us at Black Bear Lodge today for more information.