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Men, mental health and substance abuse

Unlike women, men don’t like to talk about mental health problems that they might be suffering from. This is because of a stigma that men talking about depression, anxiety or stress are considered weak. As a result, men seek self-medication to supress what they feel. Sadly, the options they tend to choose are alcohol in most case, drugs in a few and sometimes suicide as a last resort.

Here’s a hard truth for all the men who give into this stigma – alcohol and drugs do not give any kind of relief to what you may be suffering from, not even temporarily. In fact, it only worsens the situation and in time you will develop a chemical dependency to the substances you abuse, with grave side effects and consequences.

The link between substance abuse and mental health issues

Depression, anxiety, stress, bipolar disorder and other mental health problems have their own effects which do not let you function properly or lead a normal life. When you seek refuge in substances, you invite another set of problems that have their own symptoms. This only complicates the mind further since both the symptoms and effects are interacting with each other and most often trying to counter the other. What’s worse is that, as you increase the intake of alcohol or drugs, the mental health problem that you are trying to counter grows a resistance and worsens in time.

Withdrawal symptoms – no easy way out.

In case of long-term drug or alcohol abuse, your mind and body develops a dependency upon the substance you are abusing. The longer the period of abuse, the worse the withdrawal symptoms are. Loss of appetite, distorted decision making and sluggish motor skills are the first withdrawal symptoms you may experience a few weeks after quitting. However, this may vary depending upon the chemical composition, the dosage and the frequency of abuse of the substance you had been using. There is hope, there’s always a calm after a storm. With the right medical and psychiatric intervention, recovery can be easy. You will realize that the mental health problem you tried to supress with substance abuse is a lot easier to deal with after your withdrawal symptoms have faded.

Treatment – There is always hope, and ways to cope.

If you are somebody experiencing stress, anxiety or depression and are intoxicating yourself to supress it, you are probably suffering from a co-occurring disorder. Expert therapists have helped people in the past overcome their addiction and cope with their mental problems. It may be difficult to talk about your addiction initially, although, reaching out is your first step to overcoming it. Here are a few things you should consider while going through therapy.

1

Think about how your life is being affected because of your addiction and accept that therapy will help you deal with your mental health problem more efficiently

2

Be prepared to talk about how you felt before abusing and after

3

Learn more about substance abuse and mental illness and how they interact with each other

4

Accept that once you are clean, you still have to deal with your mental illness

5

Know that relapses are part of the recovery process

Seek Help – Family, friends and support groups

Getting over an addiction, especially when you are using it to supress a mental discomfort can be difficult for you and for the ones around you. Sometimes, what your friends and family say out of concern may seem like they’re trying to point out your dependency. Understanding that they’re there to help is a step forward, accepting their help, helps you on your journey to de-addiction. Here are a few things you could consider when your seeking help.

1

Talk to your friends and family, help them understand how your dependency on substances makes you feel

2

Try to attend parties and family get-togethers more often (while staying sober)

3

Join a support group and actively participate in their sessions and activities

4

Track your sober streak

Giving help – A caregiver’s guide

Helping someone with mental health disorders and substance abuse can be a difficult task, but patience, perseverance and research will make it much easier. Here are a few things to consider while caring.

1

Be realistic about how much you can help; caregivers usually get taken over by the co-occurring disorders.

2

Research on how you should help; acting on assumptions might worsen the situation for you and the person you are trying to help.

3

Consider therapy, sometimes there are situations you cannot handle on your own. If a situation like that arises, seek therapy for the person you are trying to help

4

Keep your distance, a majority of substance abusers tend to be violent and aggressive. Take precautions.

5

Don’t expect a dramatic shift in thinking or behaviour right away. Keep in mind that there is no quick fix – prepare yourself for the long haul.

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