9 Myths about Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders

Myth #1: Some people have addictive personalities.

The term “addictive personality” implies that only certain people with certain traits can develop an addiction.

In reality, some biological (e.g., genetic, mental health) and environmental (e.g., childhood trauma, stress) factors contribute to the risk of someone developing an addiction. The greater the number of those factors that someone deals with, the greater the risk.

Myth #2: Someone with alcoholism could control their behavior if they really wanted to.

Though someone with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) could avoid situations that have alcohol, once they start drinking, they could very well not be able to control how much they drink.

Someone may have a genetic predisposition to developing an AUD. Or, someone who has been heavily drinking for a long time can experience changes to the brain even when there is no more alcohol in their system. This partly explains how relapse and cravings for alcohol happen.

Myth #3: I don’t have a drinking problem because I only drink on weekends.

Problematic drinking is not just about when someone drinks. If they drink only on the weekends but drink heavily when they do, that can pose significant health risks.

Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks per occasion for women and five or more per occasion for men. Binge drinking has short- and long-term effects on the brain. Moreover, chronic long-term binge drinking can lead to the brain being the first organ to show damage, not the liver.4

Chronic heavy drinking also leads to an increase in tolerance to alcohol, which is often considered a good thing. However, it is very dangerous. With tolerance, a person does not get enough warning as they reach a dangerous level of intoxication. At one point, the person may appear to be functioning normally and the next second crash and possibly go into a coma.

Myth #4: After drinking too much, coffee and bread can sober you up.

This is a common myth that can lead some to think that binge drinking “is no big deal because I’ll just drink coffee afterward.” The only thing that can sober someone up is time. Additionally, eating after drinking does not help lower the amount of alcohol in the blood—only eating before, or while, drinking will help lower the amount of alcohol in the blood.

Myth #5: Beer before liquor, never been sicker.

The order in which different types of alcohol are consumed does not necessarily change the impacts on the body. It is the amount of alcohol per volume drank over what period of time that matters. Liquor has more alcohol by volume than beer and takes a lot less time to consume. Therefore, larger amounts are often consumed with liquor in shorter periods of time, leading to getting drunk faster.

Myth #6: Depression means the person can never get out of bed.

“You don’t look depressed,” is commonly heard by those with clinical depression. A stereotypical image of a depressed person is that they sleep for most of the day, only shower every few weeks or look catatonic.

However, most people with clinical depression have a mild or moderate form of it and can look to others as though they are functioning fine. Different people can experience different symptoms during a depressive episode.

In addition, those symptoms either cause a significant amount of distress or may have a serious negative impact on at least one area of a person’s life. The internal struggle and pain is very real even though it may not always show on the outside.

For example, someone may be able to complete day-to-day activities and show up to work every day but may have a hard time concentrating, has stopped doing things they used to enjoy, or has withdrawn from others.

Myth #7: If someone is “moody,” that means they have bipolar disorder.

Feeling happy in the morning and then sad in the afternoon is a normal human experience. However, some may wonder if they have bipolar disorder because of experiencing the seemingly two opposites of “good” and “bad.”

To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the person would need to have clearly experienced a manic state that often involves extremely impulsive and risky behavior. A bipolar disorder diagnosis (or any such diagnosis) is something that only a mental health professional can diagnose after gathering comprehensive information about a person’s life.

Myth #8: Only those who are weak have mental health problems.

Mental health disorders have a genetic component to them, like diabetes or heart disease. It takes a great deal of strength to go through life while dealing with mental health issues.

Overall, it is estimated that about 8% of Americans (19 million people) have dealt with a depressive episode, about 3% (10 million people) have dealt with an anxiety disorder, and about 8% (24 million) have dealt with an AUD.5,7,8 Furthermore, at least 21% of adults with a substance use disorder reported a major depressive disorder in 2018 alone.

Myth #9: People shouldn’t need therapy or medication—they can toughen up on their own.

Substance use and mental health disorders are complex with both biological and environmental elements. Just as someone needs a medical doctor to diagnose and treat diabetes, someone struggling with substance abuse or mental health needs to be assessed by a mental health professional.

And just as there can be a combination of treatments for diabetes (exercise, change in diet, insulin), treatment for a mental health disorder can involve a combination of therapies and/or medication.

As such, we provide comprehensive care, including both medical and psychological treatments. If you or someone you know needs help with addiction or mental health concerns, please contact us at (844) 650-0064. We are here to help.

Resources

  1. Szalavitz, M. (2015). No more addictive personality. Nature, 522, 48-49.
  2. Sweis, B.M., Thomas,M.J., & Redish, A.D. (2018). Beyond simple tests of value: measuring addiction as a heterogeneous disease of computation-specific valuation processes. Learning and Memory, 25, 501-512. doi/10.1101/lm.047795.118
  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Drinking levels defined. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking
  4. Cheng, C., Huang, C., Tsai, C., Chou, P., Lin, C., & Chang, C. (2017). Alcohol-related dementia: A systemic review of epidemiological studies. Psychosomatics, 58(4), 331-342. Abstract retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0033318217300506
  5. Depressive disorders. (2013). In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed).
  6. Bipolar and related disorders. (2013). In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed).
  7. Anxiety disorders. (2013). In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed).
  8. Substance-related and addictive disorders. (2013). In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed).
  9. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Depression. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Depression
  10. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2018 NSDUH Detailed Tables. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2018-nsduh-detailed-tables

Leave a Comment

Text Us