What Kinds of Mental Health Issues Will Alcohol Rehabilitation Programs Focus On?

Many people diagnosed with alcoholism suspect or know they have underlying mental health issues that contribute to their addictions. Alcohol abuse disorder is a mental health diagnosis itself, but often alcoholics are self-medicating other disorders, and consideration of this fact is evident upon admission to an alcohol rehabilitation center. When you decide to seek treatment, you can plan on seeing a mental health professional at the alcohol rehabilitation program, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or psychiatric nurse practitioner.

Mental health diagnoses that exist concurrently with the alcohol abuse disorder are called co-occurring disorders, and they are common among alcoholics. Mental health professionals in treatment centers address co-occurring disorders through different modalities, such as medication, group therapy, and different holistic approaches. You may be wondering what kinds of mental health issues the alcohol treatment facility you are going to will focus on, and below are some examples.


Depression is a mood disorder that affects 6.7% of adults aged 18 or older in the United States alone, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The ADAA goes on to say that depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people aged 15-44. Depression often manifests as a feeling of sadness accompanied by a loss of interest in activities that formerly were pleasurable. Although alcohol is a depressant, alcoholics use it to medicate depression, and the symptoms may sound familiar to you. Sadly, the consequences of alcohol dependence often cause greater depression than there was to start.

A combination of medication and therapy is an effective treatment for depression. There is a class of psychotropic medications called SSRI’s, which stands for selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, that doctors often prescribe for depression. These medications are non-addictive, have been around for years, and you may already have some familiarity with them. Treatment center doctors may prescribe one of these medications for you to use in conjunction with group and individual therapy.


Anxiety issues often come hand in hand with depression, or they may be a singular diagnosis. There are different anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder and it is possible to experience all three to a certain extent. Different anxiety disorders affect around 48 million Americans, according to the ADAA, and the effects of these disorders can be very debilitating. Alcoholics often self-medicate anxiety with alcohol, and this can result in a devastating dependence where the alcoholic can not function in everyday life without some form of alcohol.

The consequences of alcohol abuse that led you to treatment may create additional anxiety beyond that which is organic. Loss of employment, unpaid bills, legal issues, and relationship issues all contribute to stress. Treatment centers address anxiety in much the same way as they do depression. Certain SSRI’s work well for anxiety and it is possible to prescribe medication to treat both anxiety and depressive disorders simultaneously. Group and individual therapy, as well as holistic approaches, such as acupuncture and meditation, are also useful in treating anxiety.

Bipolar Disorders

Bipolar disorders often co-occur with alcoholism and are also known as manic-depressive illnesses. Mood swings characterize these disorders, and the most common types are known as Bipolar I and Bipolar II. Bipolar disorders are brain disorders that result in radical or subtle variations in mood over time, ranging from manic episodes, where the person is excited and full of energy, to depressed episodes, where they are sad and listless. Bipolar I is generally more serious than Bipolar II disorders.

Alcohol rehabilitation centers are fully equipped to diagnose and treat bipolar disorders, provided that alcohol dependence is the primary diagnosis, and this is true for co-occurring anxiety and depression as well. Treatment for bipolar disorder primarily involves mood stabilization medication, and the effect is monitored and adjusted as necessary. Group and individual therapy are helpful also, as it is essential to discuss the mood swings that accompany this disorder so that others can provide useful feedback.

If you are diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder while in treatment, you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 50.5% of individuals with substance abuse disorders have a co-occurring mental illness. Alcohol rehabilitation program staff are aware of these numbers and know that treating the co-occurring disorder at the same time as the alcohol dependence disorder is paramount to a successful outcome. Call a counselor today at 833-762-3739.