Here are some facts about the prevalence and impact of mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:
- Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year
- Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities
- 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia
- 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder
- 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year
- 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias
- Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness
Addiction Is a Mental Illness
Despite what many people believe, addiction is a mental illness. Like other chronic illnesses, it is influenced by a number of factors, both genetic, developmental, social, and environmental. Neurobiological research into addiction has consistently revealed that substances produce changes in brain structure and function. These changes promote and sustain addiction in ways that ultimately contribute to relapse. Supported scientific evidence shows that these changes in the brain persist long after substance use stops.
The Mental Obsession
Supported scientific evidence shows that these changes in the brain persist long after substance use stops. The peculiar mental twist present with the disease of addiction – often known in 12-Step programs as the “mental obsession” – repeatedly drives the addicted person to use despite an overwhelming desire to stay sober. For people pursuing recovery, focusing on consequences alone rarely produces permanent sobriety. This is because the disease of addiction is not a moral issue, but rather a total illness of the body, mind, and spirit that cannot be broken by behavioral changes alone. Supported scientific evidence shows that these changes in the brain persist long after substance use
stops. It is not yet known how much these changes may be reversed or how long that process may take.
If someone has both addiction and a mental health disorder, they are classified as having co-occurring (a.k.a. dual diagnoses disorders). According to the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS), roughly 45% of Americans seeking addiction treatment have both co-occurring mental and substance use disorders. Regardless of whether which one might influence the development of the other, mental and substance use disorders have overlapping symptoms, making diagnosis and treatment planning particularly difficult.
The Perception of Mental Illness
Only 25% of adults with mental health symptoms (such as addiction and co-occurring disorders) believe that people are sympathetic to persons with mental illness. While those of us in recovery must be accountable for our actions, but is imperative that we enable people to be honest by talking openly about addiction.