Mental illness is used to describe a variety of psychiatric disabilities, including depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and panic/anxiety disorders, to name a few. Like most illnesses, mental illnesses have intertwined biological, psychological and environmental roots. Mental illnesses can affect ANYONE. Persons at all levels of functioning and intelligence may experience mental illnesses. Mental illnesses are as prevalent as other medical illnesses, and constitute a major public health problem. Yet, these are the illnesses no one wants to talk about.
Addiction is a chronic, progressive, relapsing disorder. It is ongoing, and left untreated, it generally worsens over time. The illness involves compulsion, loss of control and continued use of the chosen substance, despite adverse consequences. Substance use disorders, the misuse of alcohol, cigarettes and both illegal and legal drugs, is by far the predominant cause of premature and preventable illness, disability and death in our society. Alcohol and drug abuse afflict an estimated 25.5 million Americans. When the effects on the families of abusers and people close to those injured or killed by intoxicated drivers are considered, such abuse affects untold millions more.
Both substance abuse and mental illness are often mentioned in the same discussion. Whereas abuse of and/or dependence on substances may in their own right bring suffering and physical sickness that require psychiatric medical treatment, they often accompany other seemingly unrelated mental illnesses as well. Many people who struggle with mental illnesses also struggle with alcohol or drug habits that may have begun in their mistaken belief that they can use the substance to "medicate" the painful feelings that accompany their mental illness.
To learn more about behavioral health disorders and treatment, visit: The Connecticut Network of Care Library