How Mental Health Plays a Vital Role in a Successful Addiction Recovery
Mental Health Awareness Month
Every year, throughout the month of May, individuals all over the United States celebrate Mental Health Awareness. Founded in 1949 by the Mental Health America organization, this movement aims to break the stigma around mental health, advocate for people struggling with mental illness, and provide support and education to help individuals maintain a healthy mindset. With the rise of anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder, we believe that now more than ever, mental health plays a vital role in everyday life and contributes to successful addiction recovery.
According to COVID-19 studies in 2021, the National Institutes of Health found that “nearly half of Americans surveyed reported recent symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder, and 10% of respondents felt their mental health needs were not being met”. With these findings, we are dedicated to promoting mental health awareness, empowering individuals, and fostering lasting healing.
Destigmatizing Mental Health in Recovery
In order to promote mental health awareness, we must first break the stigma surrounding mental health. Often individuals feel unworthy or guilty for seeking help and support.
According to an article from AXA Health, titled, “Why Do Men Find it Difficult to Ask for Help?“, feelings and emotions are something we all share as human beings, and sometimes we might struggle with things and need emotional support. However, the notion that “men don’t show feelings” and must constantly “remain strong and in control” can create negative stereotypes of masculinity. Harmful messages such as “boys don’t cry,” “get over it,” and “man up” reinforce the gendered view about what it means to be a man in our society. With this, boys grow to “adopt the behaviors around them to be accepted by their peers or face ridicule and mocking.”
When men are told they shouldn’t show emotion or are ridiculed when seeking help, it causes a dissonance between their internal emotions and external behaviors.
Recognizing Gaslighting Throughout History
Likewise, women undergo their own version of feeling guilty and ashamed for asking for help, especially regarding both their physical and mental health. In an article by Norwell Health, titled “Gaslighting in Women’s Health,” there are significant gender biases in health care, often chalking up women’s health issues to either “normal period” pain or “all in their head,” leaving women “likely to be misdiagnosed or dismissed by doctors as something less critical.”
The article goes on to say that there’s a “pervasive belief in the medical community that anytime a woman complains about her health, it’s either related to her hormones or all in her head. Female hysteria was once a common medical diagnosis for women, applied whenever women displayed “inappropriate” emotions such as anxiety, anger, and even sexual desire. For centuries, it was believed that the uterus itself was the cause of a woman’s “hysterical” symptoms.
Unfortunately, these sorts of beliefs still carry on today. How often does a woman get angry only to be asked if she’s about to get her period? How often does a perimenopausal woman go to her doctor’s office to complain about weight gain, only to be told that it’s related to hormones? Our hormones aren’t making us anxious or upset—these condescending attitudes are”.
Similar to their male counterparts, when women are told they show too much emotion or aren’t made to be believed when they ask for help, it causes also causes a dissonance between how they feel on the inside and how society tells them they should feel instead.
How We Can Help Individuals with Their Mental Health Journey
So with this information, what can we do to ensure individuals are heard when they share their concerns or needs for their health? First, we must step back and listen to what they’re saying without judgment. Helping individuals find healing rather than ostracizing them for their needs, we help them feel more comfortable seeking help and support. It helps them know that mental (or physical!) health struggles aren’t signs of weakness or moral failing but rather the strength, courage, and humility to seek help.
With this shift, individuals find that their feelings are valid, their experiences are real, and they deserve support, empowerment, and self-acceptance. By extending compassion, empathy, open dialogue, and a better understanding of the underlying issues of addiction, we can help individuals not feel alone in their journey.
Breaking the Cycle of Self-Medication
When individuals undergo severe stress, anxiety, and depression, it’s easy to turn to substances to try and numb the pain. Many individuals opt for self-medication in an attempt to alleviate the heavy burden. However, these coping mechanisms only provide temporary “relief” to a much deeper-rooted issue and can easily perpetuate the cycle of addiction. Rather than turning to the bottle or painkillers, there are healthier solutions. Raising awareness and advocating for mental health can help individuals seek healthier alternatives for managing their emotional well-being.
One way to break the cycle of self-medication is by incorporating self-care practices into your daily routine. Effective methods of reducing stress, anxiety, and depression include:
- Regular exercise
- Practicing mindfulness or meditation
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating a well-balanced diet and drinking plenty of water
Incorporating the HALT Method
Another effective method to remember is the HALT method. When anxious or stressed, a good rule of thumb is to take a mental note of triggering responses. If you’re feeling like life is out of control, stop, reflect, and ask yourself these four questions:
- Am I Hungry?
- Could I be Angry?
- Am I Lonely?
- Or Am I Tired?
By running through these few options, we can reset and examine why we feel the way we feel. With just a few moments of self-reflection, it’s incredible what a little bit more sleep or eating more balanced meals can do for your mental health. Engaging in creative activities and hobbies such as gardening, cooking, or even learning a new instrument can promote mental well-being. When prioritizing self-care rather than self-medication, we can alleviate emotional distress and promote a healthy lifestyle.
Raising Awareness Through Medical Treatment, Support Groups, and Therapy
One of the most essential alternatives to substance use is seeking medical treatment, therapy, and support groups. By learning how to manage stress, triggers, and cravings in some cases, individuals can seek help from professionals and medically trained staff. Through support groups, individuals are more likely to succeed when a community holds them accountable and encourages them on their journey. There are tons of resources available to learn more about mental health, healthy coping mechanisms, and how to find out what’s suitable for each person’s specific needs.
An influential tool individuals can utilize are mental health assessments. With health providers helping identify and address the unique needs of each individual, personalized treatment plans can offer the best chance for sustained recovery.
Education is power – education can help save lives. The more equipped individuals are to care for their mental health and recognize the underlying issues behind substance use, the more successful they can become in their recovery journey.
Addiction Treatment Services
Are you or a loved one in need of addiction treatment? Positive Recovery is committed to providing comprehensive care that addresses addiction and mental health needs. Across Texas, several conveniently located treatment centers offer various services, From Medical Detox to Long Term treatment. Please visit positiverecovery.com or call us at (877) 697-1383 to speak with a team member today to embark on your road to recovery!
Together, let’s break the cycle of addiction and create a future filled with hope, healing, and resilience. You are not alone in your journey.