loneliness and alcoholism

Loneliness And Alcoholism

Being alone really hurts. It hurts so bad for some people that they turn to alcohol as a form of self-medication. Unfortunately, when people turn to alcohol or other substances to “feel better” it only exacerbates the problems in the long run. 

If left untreated, alcohol abuse will turn into alcoholism and will lead to damaged relationships, loss of support from friends and family, financial troubles, and eventually even serious health issues.

So why do some of us continue to drink even if we know it is harming us? This blog is aimed at understanding why loneliness can have the side effect of alcoholism and what we can do to turn our lives around. 

Loneliness: What’s The Big Deal?

Loneliness causes people to feel alone, unwanted, and empty. When we are lonely we crave human interaction, friends, family, a significant other, however, because of the feelings of loneliness, it makes it more difficult for us to actually form connections with others. So being lonely creates a pattern of loneliness.

Unfortunately, loneliness is not necessarily about being alone. Rather, when you feel isolated or alone, it is how that loneliness plays in your head that really begins to affect our mental health. 

Loneliness does not just affect our mental well being, it also affects our physical health negatively too. According to recent studies conducted by Cigna Health, loneliness could have roughly the same impact on mortality than smoking 15 cigarettes a day has. This means that loneliness has the potential to create far greater health risks than being obese! 

Studies have also shown that people who experience feelings of loneliness deal with more substance abuse problems, like alcoholism, and deal with increased mental health problems. However, it is also well known that alcoholism will only contribute to more feelings of loneliness and isolation which makes it a vicious and continuous cycle of pain.

Self Medication – Alcoholism Can Be A Side Effect Of Loneliness 

Every human on planet earth will experience the occasional feelings of loneliness, unhappiness, or anxiety but when these feelings last for long periods of time and we do not address the cause, a lot of people search for something to lessen the pain like self-medication. Self-medicating is a method that many do in an attempt to help handle the feelings or “numb the pain.”

Alcohol and drugs are the most popular form of self-medication and are used as tools because they briefly distract us from the pain we are feeling. Often our pain derives from failed relationships or relationship problems, loss of loved ones, money troubles, anxiety, or even physical pain. However, there is another feeling that isn’t widely considered and that is loneliness.

The problem with self-medicating is that the feeling we would get from alcohol and/or drugs is only temporary and they end up leaving us feeling even more drained or pained because these substances actually counteract and deplete the “feel good” chemicals in our brain that are designed to bring us pleasure and help regulate our moods. Crazy to think that we may turn to alcohol as a way to cure our feelings of loneliness but once we sober up; our feelings of sadness will only increase.

Alcoholism: The Science Behind Why It Hurts

When we drink a lot of alcohol it severely alters our behavior, mood, and neuropsychological functioning. For some of us, drinking alcohol is a way to relax. On the other hand, when we drink too much the effects of hangovers and alcohol will bring on anxiety and it actually increases our stress levels. 

Alcohol is classified as a Central Nervous System depressant. Alcohol slows down our neural activity and our brain function. Alcohol does this by enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA.

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system and results in slurred speech, imbalance, false reality, or overreacting and it takes away our ability to have quick responses or reactions. The mental side effects of alcohol are that it reduces our ability to think rationally, distorts our judgment, and lessens our inhibitions. 

If we drink too much alcohol too quickly, it will result in the depression of our central nervous system which can actually lead to respiratory failure, coma, and yes, even death.

Some of us actually drink alcohol primarily for its sedative effects which tends to actually reduce our anxiety. And it is not a surprise that most of us who drink alcohol, start drinking to experience stimulation and its other positive effects like lowering our inhibitions. 

However, once we have reached the stage of alcohol dependence or alcoholism, we now drink to experience the anxiety that comes with the sedative effect. It is a crazy thing to think that we sometimes turn towards alcohol to reduce our anxiety and in the end, it really only makes our anxiety much worse. 

Loneliness And Alcoholism: The Battle To Get Better

Since it is strongly believed that alcoholism can be the side effect of poor mental health, as a result of strong and continued feelings of loneliness. it is important to deal with both issues since they both are directly connected. 

When you feel lonely, there are some proactive steps you can take towards feeling less alone:


Becoming a volunteer for a cause that you can relate to or that you believe in can give you lots of benefits and reduce feelings of loneliness. When you volunteer you get a sense of purpose and the natural “feel good” chemicals within our brains are activated by simply knowing you are trying to do something good. If you love babies, try volunteering at the local hospital to be a snuggler. 

If you like kids, try volunteering at a local school for their after school clubs or even volunteer for one of their sports teams. You can also volunteer at nursing homes to help someone else not suffer from feelings of loneliness. The list goes on and on. The additional benefit to volunteering is that when you do find something that you like to do, you will meet other like-minded people and friendships, even relationships can be formed. 


It is well known that the more lonely you are, the more depressed you feel, and the cycle continues. Seeking relief from loneliness through psychotherapy is a great option for anyone. Being that loneliness is often played out negatively in our own minds, cognitive behavioral therapy would benefit greatly because it can help to change our thoughts and patterns as well as our actions to assist in decreasing these feelings of loneliness and at the very least, teaching us a new way to cope with them in the future.

  • Adopt A Pet: Adopting a dog or cat carries many benefits and preventing further loneliness is just one of them! Pets bring a sense of companionship and friendship hence the often statement “Dogs are a man’s best friend!” The same thing is said about cats too; just ask your local “Karen – the cat lady” and she will be more than happy to give you a hundred reasons why owning a cat is a joy, except for the litter box. Gross!
  • Join A Class: There are lots of classes to consider; art, exercise, even your local community college will offer classes of all types. Learn a new skill, a different language, chess club, again the list goes on and on. Just like with volunteering, when you join a class that is something that is of interest to you, you will find other like-minded people and it is a great way to begin new relationships. 

Any of the above-mentioned things can help give you relief from the feelings of loneliness and can decrease the desire to drink alcohol. However, when dealing with alcoholism, you will need to focus on that part as well. Feeling less alone is great but if the addiction is not addressed, the feelings will be only temporary and will eventually have you feeling lonely and depressed again because of the side effects of alcoholism. 

Alcoholism: Time To Make A Change

We all want to believe that stopping drinking without any outside help may save whatever dignity we have left. However, depending on the severity of the alcoholism or the length of time we have battled the addiction, the chances that we should seek outside assistance to get sober becomes greater.

Many people feel shame because of their alcoholism and it prevents some of us from seeking help. There is never shame in wanting something better for your own life! There is no shame in asking for help – but there is shame in continuing to harm ourselves unnecessarily by staying in the grasps of alcoholism when there are so many treatment options available. 

Some treatment options for alcoholism include but are not limited to:

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

AA is one of the best options for battling loneliness and alcoholism since it addresses both issues because when you join AA you are always in a group of people that have had similar life experiences. AA meetings encourage everyone to speak and open up about their alcoholism and their negative experiences with their battles. This allows for a solid support system and friendships are greatly encouraged. 

Detox Programs

Detoxification (detox) programs are extremely helpful for anyone facing a serious bout with alcoholism because it allows you to stop drinking while keeping you comfortable and safe from the negative side effects of alcohol withdrawal via medication.

Inpatient Treatment Programs 

These programs are a good option for anyone that has a serious or prolonged battle with alcoholism. They usually include a detox program and then continue treatment by providing round the clock medical care and therapeutic practices to help you overcome alcoholism.

Outpatient Treatment Programs

These types of programs are a good fit for those who suffer from alcoholism but are still able to “function”. It is the same type of care you would receive in an inpatient treatment program except you are not required to stay overnight at the facility. They create a treatment program for you that gives the flexibility of keeping your daily responsibilities.

Do You Suffer From Loneliness And Alcoholism? Let Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare Help!

At Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare, our team will answer any questions you might have and tell you everything you might want to know about fighting the battle of loneliness and alcoholism so you can make an informed decision on seeking treatment.

Whether you have never asked for help before or are relapsing, anyone deserves trustworthy help. You can count on that and much more at Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare.

If you want more information so that you or a loved one can get the help needed, contact us today!







substance abuse cycle

The Dangerous Cycle of Codependency and Substance Abuse

Codependency doesn’t only refer to relationships and drug abuse; it also refers to a person and his or her drug addiction. This behavioral condition is destructive for both the addict and his or her significant other. The substance abuse cycle is a dangerous one that can leave you and your life in shambles. 

Learn how relationships with drug addicts can be dangerous and how you can handle them with help from Granite Mountain Behavioral Health. 

What is Codependency?

Codependency is a behavioral condition characterized by enabling a loved one’s destructive actions. While healthy relationships include mutual satisfaction and productivity, codependent relationships are usually one-sided and filled with abuse and emotional destruction.

Codependent people often feel the need to “save” their addicted loved ones. They’ll make excuses for their negative behavior, rescue them from situations related to the addiction, and take care of the addict when he or she can’t function normally.

People who are codependent tend to have had parents who abused alcohol or drugs (more commonly alcohol). If their parents aren’t able to take care of themselves because of their addiction, the child may have to step into the caretaking role, becoming codependent. These people also tend to end up with partners who abuse drugs like alcohol, heroin, or marijuana. 

Signs of Codependency

People who are codependent usually display the following symptoms:

  • Display low self-esteem. You often find it hard to make decisions and never feel like your actions are good enough. There’s a harsh judgment on your thoughts and expressions, and you don’t take compliments well. You constantly worry about what other people think of you.
  • You comply with negative situations. You’ll put aside your own interests to make others happy. You’ll also compromise your values and morals or “walk on eggshells” with loved ones to keep them happy. You tend to remain in destructive situations for longer than you should.
  • Avoid taking care of your needs. You’re more concerned with giving others advice instead of taking it yourself. You also give this advice out freely when nobody asks for it, and you get upset when others don’t take this advice.
  • You’re in denial. Identifying your feelings is difficult for you, and you often tend to deny or minimize them. You think you can take care of yourself without help from others, and you think that you’re dedicated to others and are unselfish.

Signs of a Codependent Relationship

  • Finding it hard to say no to your partner even when demanding your time and energy
  • Making extreme sacrifices for your partner
  • Not voicing your opinion and keeping quiet during arguments
  • Feeling trapped with your partner
  • Covering up a partner’s misdeeds, i.e. trouble with the law or illegal substances

How Can Relationships Trigger Drug Abuse?

A recovering addict could find triggers when they enter a new relationship. It’s often said that people in recovery should wait a while before dating someone new. When you’ve overcome an addiction, you might want to immediately repair the relationships you’ve strained. You might also think that your life will improve by having a significant other.

If you do decide to start a relationship at this point, you must be honest with them about your recovery. By communicating your needs and circumstances, your partner will be more open to the possibility of being with you. 

If you don’t, the stresses of being in a new relationship may drive you to take drugs and drink again. In some cases, a non-addict can begin dating someone and not find out they abuse substances until later on. 

The Effects of Addiction on Relationships

Being in a relationship with a drug addict can be difficult, frustrating, and confusing. Your substance-abusing partner can frequently break promises and ask you to borrow money for drugs. The more time your partner abuses drugs or alcohol, the more time they spend finding and using them instead of spending quality time with you.

Partners of drug addicts can also take on a dysfunctional family role known as the “enabler.” When you enable someone, you accept and promote bad behavior, even if you aren’t purposely doing it. Enabling is a common quality of codependent relationships. It can include providing someone with money for drugs or covering up for them when they get caught with substances. 

Your drug-addicted loved one might also be secretive about their substance abuse, hiding drugs, and lying about taking them. This can be due to their shame and fear of judgment that stems from their addiction. They’ll often lie about who they spend their free time with, why money is missing and why they’re behaving in a different way.

Constantly dealing with a partner’s drug use can also cause you a great deal of emotional pain. You might feel guilty about leaving them even if staying is damaging to your health. People in these roles may think that leaving means that they’re giving up on the person they love. 

People in relationships with drug addicts can experience the following problems:

  • Domestic abuse as a result of drug addiction
  • Fighting about staying out late and not taking care of responsibilities due to drug use
  • Only finding pleasure in drinking or drug use together
  • Only being able to talk about relationship problems when drunk or high
  • Isolating oneself from friends and family to hide your partner’s drug problem

The Cycle of Substance Abuse

The substance abuse cycle is a toxic, codependent repetition that can end in death if you don’t receive proper care. Addiction is a disease that takes over the body over time; it doesn’t usually happen after one sip of alcohol. By learning about the substance abuse cycle, you can observe each phase in yourself or a loved one and stop it before it gets worse. 

Initial Use

The cycle of substance abuse starts with initial use. When you turn 21, you’ll most likely have your first drink, or you’ll take a prescription drug when you’re recovering from a serious injury. You might even be pressured by friends to try illegal drugs like cocaine or MDMA. The initial use of a substance doesn’t always lead to addiction, but it can be the first step.

You’re likely to develop a drug addiction if you display one of the following risk factors:

  • Loneliness or depression
  • Neglected or abused as a child
  • Unstable home life
  • Family history of substance abuse


At this stage, the user is taking the substance more often than they should, or they’re using it improperly. This can include binge drinking (more than five drinks for men and four drinks for women in two hours), taking a higher dose of a prescription than necessary, or taking a painkiller without a prescription. Abuse depends on what the substance is and how it’s affecting the body. When someone abuses drugs or alcohol, they’re using it for “high” it produces rather than for its medical qualities or social aspects.  


Once someone frequently abuses a harmful substance, they’ll eventually develop a tolerance to it. Building a tolerance means that you’ve gotten used to having the drug in your system, and it’s made chemical changes to your brain. You might have fewer chemical messengers and less production of them as well. Now you need more and more of it to achieve the same effect. This is where severe substance abuse can begin.  


When you develop a dependence, your body now requires your substance of choice to function daily. You’ll most likely develop anhedonia, meaning that you won’t be able to feel pleasure without any meth or cocaine in your system. Dependence can also happen with prescription medication. While you might have needed this to improve your injury, it helped at first. However, now you’re using it to feel good instead of healing your body. 


Chronic dependence leads to addiction, which is classified as a mental illness. This can be diagnosed by looking at some specific signs and symptoms:

  • Craving the substance
  • Not keeping up with daily responsibilities (i.e. school, work) due to substance use
  • Having withdrawal when not using the substance
  • Dismissing old activities in favor of substance use
  • Inability to control how much you use the substance
  • Using more of the substance than planned
  • Continuing substance use despite negative effects on health and relationships
  • Using the substance in situations you shouldn’t, like driving

If you display six or more of these symptoms, you most likely have an addiction. 


Now you’ve stopped using your substance of choice and you’re in recovery from addiction. However, you come across physical, emotional, and environmental triggers that remind you of your past abuse. These can include stressful situations, places where and people with whom you did drugs, and objects like cigarettes and marijuana pipes. About 40 to 60 percent of addicts relapse within their first year of recovery. 

Codependency: Drug Abuse and User

When someone abuses substances to the point of dependency, he or she basically can’t function without them. This becomes a dangerous relationship that ends in chronic physical decline and even death.

If you have low self-esteem, you might think that you need drugs to feel better about yourself. If you’re lonely, you might surround yourself with drug-abusing friends who supply you with substances that make you feel accepted. 

Treatment for Codependency and Substance Abuse

At Granite Mountain, we can teach you and your partner how to develop healthy habits for your relationship going forward. If you’re in a toxic relationship, we can also provide you with life skills to deal with that. 

We can help you understand that you do not need drugs to help you feel like a better person. We can also show you that you don’t need to be in a codependent relationship to feel fulfilled.

If you are the partner who is abusing substances, we’ll recommend that you enter a medical detox program. This will get rid of all the harmful toxins in your body that have come from addictive substances. 

Detox is an important part of addiction recovery as it will end your physical dependence on drugs and alcohol. Medical professionals will help alleviate any withdrawal symptoms you might experience while in detox, usually by providing medication. 

Below is a list of helpful therapies you can attend at Granite Mountain:

Individual therapy

Individual therapy consists of only two people – you and your therapist. Together, you’ll determine the characteristics of your codependent personality and how you can improve your confidence. You’ll also gain insight into how addiction and codependency play off of each other. 

Group therapy

In group therapy, you’ll be able to speak freely about your issues with people who have gone through the same or similar experiences. A therapist will lead you and your peers in sessions as you learn communication skills and work through your codependency. 

Family therapy

When you’re in a codependent relationship with a drug addict, your family can often feel left out. Family therapy can help you rebuild broken relationships and help them understand your codependency, whether you’re the addict or the sober partner. You’ll learn skills that will help you learn how to interact in a more beneficial way. 

Substance abusers might also find it helpful to join a recovery group like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or SMART Recovery. Codependent partners can attend groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon and meet others who have substance-abusing loved ones. By keeping yourself accountable, you’ll be able to have healthy, more fulfilling relationships. 

If your partner has an addiction and is unwilling to seek help for it, Granite Mountain has resources for you. We can help you talk to your significant other about facing his or her addiction head-on. 

End Your Codependent Drug Abuse Today

Your cycle of codependency and drug abuse has gone on long enough. Granite Mountain can offer outpatient and partial hospitalization treatment for your loved one suffering from drug addiction. If you’re ready to seek help for your addiction or that of your partner, contact Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare today.


cognitive dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance Treatment

Oftentimes, people have an explanation for their behavior and tend to rationalize it to make what they are doing seem more acceptable. This is especially true for people who suffer from addiction to drugs and alcohol

Despite the physical and psychological consequences of drinking and taking drugs, individuals who have this disease, view their addictive behaviors differently than those who don’t. 

When friends and family try to make a person with a substance use disorder (SUD) see that they need help, it is common for someone with an addiction to not be deliberately willful. This is because they are set on their own beliefs and justify them, even though they are misguided and careless.  

When a person always has a rational explanation for their irrational behavior, this is known in psychology as the cognitive dissonance theory. 

At Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare, our team aims to help our clients with addiction and mental illness recover. This is done by learning how to change their thought patterns and remove their dissonance through various methods of therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). 

What is Cognitive Dissonance?

Cognitive means thinking, and dissonance means a lack of harmony between two things. When you put the two together, cognitive dissonance is when two thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors are out of whack. This can make someone feel psychologically uncomfortable. 

The term cognitive dissonance was first coined in 1957 by Psychologist Leon Festinger. In his book titled, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Festinger’s hypothesis was centered around the notion that people can develop a pre-existing condition in which they have to always check that they’re acting in accordance with what they believe. This is called internal consistency. When one’s beliefs become inconsistent or conflicting, this leads to disharmony and conflict, which is what most people try to avoid. 

In other words, as cognitive dissonance is described as a person who experiences feelings of internal discomfort, as a result of having two opposing cognitions in their mind at the same time, Festinger’s theory was correct. 

It was proven that individuals tend to look for some sort of stability and dependability with their attitudes, perceptions, and thoughts. But, oftentimes, their beliefs and actions/behaviors do not match up. People fail to realize that everyone has different feelings and beliefs, which will influence how they are going to behave. The saying actions speak louder than words rings true in this case.

When someone wholeheartedly believes in something, and it is challenged, that makes someone angry and they act on it without thinking. This causes distress and tension, affecting one’s ability to function normally. 

As established, dissonance is a lack of agreement between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. People tend to act on their feelings/emotions, but do so impulsively. 

Therefore, to remove or resolve this dissonance all together, people have to do what is called, “explain something away.” This involves taking a number of steps and actions to overcome the discomfort by doing one of the things below including:

  • A person rationalizes their internal conflict by seeing it from a different perspective by adopting alternative ideas that could help to relieve or dispel negative thoughts and feelings. 
  • Someone changes their behaviors to better coincide with their thoughts.
  • Someone changes their thoughts to better coincide with their behaviors.  

The Relationship Between Cognitive Dissonance and Addiction

The theory of cognitive dissonance has serious implications and the role that it plays in those with addiction helps specialists understand the reasoning behind how an individual with a substance use disorder thinks vs someone without one. 

Addicted individuals crave drugs and alcohol, which distorts their ability to process information. When making the choice of whether to use or not, they believe in holding onto the ideas and comfort of engaging in things that they know are bad and irrational to a majority of other people. 

This is because the cognitive dissonance theory explains that people are willing to increase their own delusional ways of thinking to protect themselves from reality. It is similar to why a person drinks and takes drugs to cope and numb themselves from the discomfort or pain they are feeling.  

Again, an addict’s brain is different from someone who is not addicted to drugs and alcohol. For example, a person who tends to binge drink will justify their behavior by saying it is just a couple drink when in reality it is an excessive amount in a short period of time. 

Someone with addiction experiences cognitive dissonance often. They tend to modify their thought processes to support their cravings and addictive behavior, in order for them to feel or assure themselves that their choices or how they are acting is more favorable than it actually is. 

There is so much evidence that details how alcohol and drugs destroy lives, but addicted individuals will still justify the means, and view these substances as their form of support. People with cognitive dissonance blame their addiction issues and the reason why they drink excessively is that they have problems in their lives. Examples of how cognitive dissonance affects a person with substance abuse include the following: 

  • They believe that people who do not engage in the use of drugs and alcohol are boring and lack character. 
  • The reason for abusing substances is because they believe it is a sign of artistic intelligence.
  •  People who become sober are deprived of life and can never experience happiness. 
  • The only comfort for one’s problems is alcohol and drugs. 

A big component of cognitive dissonance and addiction is denial. People who are addicted to substances tend to deny that they have a problem, to begin with. Those with this distorted way of thinking may not even realize that they have a problem, or if they do, they ignore it. They believe that no amount of help is needed, there is no help available, or that treatment can’t help them and recovery is unattainable. 

People with addiction tend to feel alone, and the one thing that makes them feel whole is to drink and take drugs. Little do they know, overdose, coma, seizures, and death occur before finally deciding to get help. 

However, there are fortunate individuals who see how their substance abuse is causing not only destruction in their lives but also with those who love them. They hold onto the belief that they will see better days and that recovery is needed to change their life.

Factors of Cognitive Dissonance 

In today’s world, people do things or have beliefs and opinions that sometimes leave us questioning humanity. Maybe they do not make much sense to you or other people, but everyone is different. 

While it is true that people do crazy and illogical things, behaviors are linked and related to what we are influenced by biologically, environmentally, physically, psychologically, and socially. There are major factors that contribute to the cause of addiction and cognitive dissonance. These include: 


  • Decision-Making: Cognitive dissonance completely changes an individual’s ability to make decisions, especially ones with addiction. 
  • Forced Compliance Behavior: When a person is forced to do something that they didn’t want to do, and their thoughts provoke them to do it anyway. 
  • Effort: If we put a lot of effort into something and it goes poorly, people tend to justify it that they did the best they could. This is called effort-justification. 


There is no doubt that cognitive dissonance can have a powerful influence on our behaviors and actions. 

How Addiction Affects Decision-Making 

People want to believe that they or others make good choices. Although, when something they once believed turns out too good to be true, it conflicts with their pre-existing beliefs about their decision-making abilities. 

This theory of cognitive dissonance plays a major role especially for those who suffer from substance abuse. Addiction is a disease that already changes the chemistry of the brain and its ability to function normally. The regions that allow us to think and make decisions effectively have been damaged. 

For someone with addiction issues, when dissonance comes into play, it greatly compromises their ability to make rational decisions. One could argue that drinking and taking drugs is ultimately someone’s choice. 

However, while that may be true, evidence-based scientific research has shown that this disease plays mind games, controlling all aspects of a person’s life, mentally, physically, and socially. 

In other words, cognitive dissonance works in tandem with addiction. It completely changes a person’s moral compass, which is why the choice they make to engage in these addictive behaviors is stronger than just willpower. 

The neurotransmitters within the brain have been modified to now accommodate drugs and alcohol, essentially brainwashing people into believing that these substances are “good” for them. Without professional help, the cycle of addiction will continue.  

Cognitive Dissonance Treatment 

When there are conflicts between cognitions (thoughts, beliefs, opinions), people will take steps to reduce the dissonance and feelings of discomfort. This is what addiction specialists at Granite Mountain specialize in.

Have you ever felt a sense of tension in your mind, but you weren’t sure why or what was causing it? This psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance is hard to detect, but for those with addiction, it is important to recognize. This can help be able to detect any underlying mental illness that can be a major contributor to someone’s addictive behavior. Co-occurring disorders (addiction and substance disorder coinciding) can be managed with dual diagnosis treatment.

Cognitive dissonance in a  way is mental illness within itself, and without treatment, the chances of relapse are high, and most importantly, it exacerbates an individual’s condition and hinders their chances of a successful recovery. 

If you or a loved one is suffering from cognitive dissonance and addiction and would like to learn more about treatment options, contact us today! We will help you recover and get your life back!






COVID-19 Preventative Measures

COVID-19 Preventative Measures

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare is taking steps to be proactive in ensuring that we are taking every precaution and following infection control procedures to help keep our patients & staff members safe and healthy. We understand the extreme importance of staying educated, using preventative measures, and using scientific and medical data to help make our decisions.

COVID-19 Preventative Measures

We are closely watching developments from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization, and the Joint Commission to ensure Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare is following current best practices.

Our mission is to combat the global pandemic of addiction and alcoholism which remains a threat during these uncertain times. Our commitment to this mission remains our primary focus. At this time, we are accepting patients and have reinforced each step of our admissions process to ensure we are identifying all potential risk factors with prospective patients to help protect our community.

Please call us for more information at (877) 389-0412.

– Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare

Is addiction a mental illnes

Is Addiction a Mental Illness?

Today, it is widely accepted and supported by major scientific institutions such as The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA), that addiction can be classified as a form of mental illness. However, because addiction is a disease comprising both psychological and physical characteristics, it cannot be solely defined as a one. 

Within the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the criteria for addiction and mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression is one and the same, categorizing them as substance use disorders (SUD). When these conditions coincide, this is known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. 

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) defines mental illness as a condition that greatly alters a person’s mood, feelings, and thinking patterns. Thus, hindering one’s ability to function properly throughout the day, and maintain relationships with others, including co-workers, friends, and family.   

People who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction also commonly experience radical changes in their behaviors, perceptions, desires, and priorities, interfering with all aspects of their lives, including relationships, work, schooling, and completing everyday tasks. 

Therefore, it is evident that the relationship between mental illness and addiction is both symbiotic yet complex. The question is how are they related, and does one cause the other, or both? 

The addiction specialists at Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare in Prescott Valley, AZ, help millions of people suffering from mental illness and addiction, recover and take back control over their lives. 

History of Mental Illness and Addiction

Dating back to the 1930s, the main belief was that people became addicted to drugs and alcohol, because of choice and lack of willpower. The most important revelation is that substance abuse was considered a moral failure, not a mental illness. 

Therefore, because addiction was not viewed as a disease like it is today, treatment such as 12-step programs at a rehab facility was not seen as an option. 

Individuals who had substance use disorders were seen as corrupt criminals and treated as such. People with mental illness were categorized as menaces, and therefore, highly discriminated against and isolated from society. 

The Relationship Between Addiction and Mental Illness

Research has continued to indicate that co-occurring disorders, two brain disorders occurring in an individual simultaneously, is extremely common. The relationship between substance use and mental illness began back in the 1980s, where there was a high prevalence of dual diagnoses.   

Mental illness is a huge risk factor and contributor to substance abuse. Many factors influence the probability of addiction. These include:

  • Biological Factors: Age, gender, sex
  • Environmental Factors: Being in certain environments where substance use occurs such as home or school, can greatly influence someone to use. 
  • Family History: Being in a home or having family members who have a history of substance abuse and mental illness such as depression increases your chances of developing these conditions. 

Compared to the rest of the population, individuals with addiction are twice as likely to also suffer from mental illness. Vice versa, those who have one of the common mental conditions, it is twice as likely that they will become dependent and addicted to their substance of choice. 

Underlying Mental Illness 

Oftentimes, people suffering from mental illness are completely unaware that they even have one. It is very common for underlying illness to be misdiagnosed or left untreated because symptoms do not always show up immediately. 

That is why the intake process during detox before beginning treatment is so important. During the psychological evaluation, the admissions team aims to gather as much detailed information about one’s medical history and history with mental illness. If successful, any underlying issues and mental illness will be spotted. This helps medical professionals make more accurate and efficient diagnoses. 

The treatment of co-occurring disorders has become in high demand, as approximately 450 million people (1 in 4) are affected by some type of mental illness. 

Roughly 50 percent of individuals with severe mental disorders are also affected by substance abuse, according to the American Medical Association (AMA). Both the substance use disorder and mental disorder will be treated at the same time to ensure optimal recovery. 

How Addiction Changes the Brain 

Way back when the debate on why addiction was not considered a mental illness was purely on that people can quit using drugs and alcohol if they choose to. However, like other chronic illnesses such as cancer and diabetes, no one chose to develop these diseases, nor can they choose to stop them. 

People do not realize that the same notion goes for addiction. What is not considered or often thought about, is that this disease does not discriminate. It alters an individual’s brain chemistry, structure, and function, which further exacerbates the illness. 

Drugs and alcohol stimulate the brain’s reward center, inciting the release of chemicals called neurotransmitters. When these substances are consumed, most commonly, dopamine is released, producing short-term feelings of euphoria and pleasure. 

Due to the brain and body recognizing these side-effects of sense of joy and fulfillment, this fosters someone’s motivation to repeatedly engage in these risky addictive behaviors, such as, binge drinking or taking drugs. 


Research states that only when substances are abused, our brains can release up to approximately ten times the amount of dopamine. This rush of feel-good chemicals keeps compelling a person to use, and as a result, fairly quickly, the brain begins to adjust to the dosage of the substance as well as this abnormal amount of neurotransmitters. This is called tolerance. 

Being tolerant of a substance means that higher amounts of drugs or alcohol are consumed to experience the same effects of pleasure. In addition, the other areas in the brain responsible for releasing normal amounts of dopamine when a person is engaging in more modest behaviors, are inhibited from doing so. 

People who do not have an addiction don’t typically realize or take for granted how much the neurotransmitter dopamine is responsible for allowing us to not only feel pleasure but most importantly, to help us make decisions. When the release of dopamine is disturbed, the ability of a person to make good choices is compromised.  


After tolerance comes dependence. A person becomes chemically dependent on their substance of choice and continues to use it to avoid unpleasant physiological symptoms called withdrawal, which occur when the substance is not used for some time. These symptoms include both physical and psychological reactions including, nausea/vomiting, insomnia, muscle pain/weakness, depression, anxiety, hallucinations, etc. 


By now, the body and brain have become fully addicted to the substance used, and a person needs it to function normally throughout the day. The only way to combat this cycle of addiction is to receive professional treatment at a rehab facility.   

Addiction and Mental Illness: Which One Develops and Gets Treated First?

An extremely common question asked to addiction specialists and mental health professionals, is did drinking or taking drugs cause my mental illness, or did my mental illness cause my addiction? 

This is called the chicken and egg debate. As mentioned before, this discusses which condition comes first, depression or addiction? Experts claim that substance use disorders can mask the symptoms of an underlying mental condition. 

The Chicken or the Egg Debate: 

This chicken or egg debate has been used for a long time to demonstrate the problems with identifying which diagnosis comes first. Medical professionals have been trying to answer this question, but truthfully, every person is different, and therefore, their conditions will be as well. 

During therapy, a psychosocial evaluation helps to determine which condition occurred first. However, sometimes a psychosocial assessment may not be conducted as thoroughly. 

As a result, this lack of reporting and inadequacies prevents addiction specialists from gaining an accurate understanding of one’s medical history to make an accurate diagnosis  (did mental illness already exist or was it caused by substance abuse). 

You may ask, why is it important to know whether the mental illness first occurred? Someone who has a pre-existing mental condition, such as depression or bipolar disorder, will most likely need extensive treatment. 

However, someone whose mental illness has developed from engaging in addictive behaviors will not need the same level of treatment as someone whose depression preceded their substance abuse. Again, everyone is different.      

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

It is important to note that mental illness if left untreated can cause major health complications and death. The risk for relapse is high, and without professional treatment at an inpatient or outpatient rehab facility, the cycle of addiction will continue. 

Treatment for dual diagnosis and addiction entails medication management, various types of therapy (individual, group, and family), relapse prevention, and other comprehensive resources. We provide our patients with the coping and life skills to best manage and live with their conditions during and after treatment. Long-lasting recovery and sobriety have always been our goal at Granite Mountain. 

You Are Not Alone: We Are Here to Help You Recover

If you are struggling with addiction and mental illness, and are wondering if your mental illness was there all along to jeopardize your recovery, know that help is out there for you! Don’t wait in silence, we understand both addiction and mental illness, and will create an individualized treatment plan that will maximize your chances of a successful recovery. Contact us today to break the cycle of addiction!





gambling addiction

The Psychology of Gambling Addiction

Activities like gambling are often glorified in today’s culture. Movies mostly portray gamblers as powerful, wealthy, and satisfied when that can be farther than the truth. In our fast-paced world,  gambling, like other activities, produces instant gratification and becomes increasingly addicting overtime. 

Technology is omnipresent, which makes accessibility to gambling, from casinos to various online gambling apps and websites easier than ever. Today, people can gamble in public or the privacy from their own home on a computer or smartphone. 

Therefore, when people look to either gamble at the casino or online, the act itself is not illegal, which is what makes doing so most appealing, and its’ risky and addictive tendencies easy to justify. 

Psychologists call competition-like activities such as gambling an incentive, which means that people make decisions or adopt certain behaviors because we are often rewarded for it. The more we are awarded for a behavior, the more it motivates someone to continue that activity. The theory of motivation proves this notion. 

Why Do People Gamble?

When people gamble, they intrinsically become motivated, which means they experience the sensation of thrill or excitement. On the opposite side of the spectrum, when people are gambling and extrinsically motivated, they are doing so to escape from stress and to socialize. 

Many people have heard of gambling but do not have any real understanding of how it works, and most importantly, how addictive it can be. There have been extensive studies and evidence-based research on how this phenomenon of gambling affects the psyche, (i.e., how we behave and think).  

Approximately 10 million people throughout the United States have a gambling disorder, and unfortunately, reasons such as stigma (feelings of guilt, stress, discrimination, fear), finances, etc, deter those from receiving the help that they need to recover and become healthy.

At Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare, our dedicated staff helps individuals with gambling addictions cope and manage their condition and compulsions through various methods of treatment and therapy. Our philosophy of care and the main goal is always for our patients to successfully recover, free from the control gambling addiction once had on their lives. 

Gambling is Like A Drug

What is Gambling? 

Gambling is defined as the act of risking something of worth, in the hopes of getting something of even greater value and reward in return. 

For example, taking part in a variety of games or competitions, where the main objective is to bet something of monetary value to receive some type of prize or money in return. The outcome or success of gambling is usually luck and chance, otherwise known as probability. 

Just like other addictive behaviors such as drinking alcohol and taking drugs, gambling is an addiction very similar to someone with substance abuse. Just as a person feels the rewarding side effects of euphoria after drinking or taking drugs, a gambler experiences the same feelings after winning a huge game of Blackjack at the casino table or betting large on the winning horse at a major equestrian racing event. 

Reaping the rewards of winning and the feelings a gambler gets when they do so, makes them want to keep betting and playing. In other words, the thrill of competition and winning as a gambler is as powerful as getting high for a drug addict and leaves them wanting more. 

However, there is a difference between people enjoying to gamble once-in-a-while, and compulsively gambling to win what they have lost, and going overboard after they lost their money.

What is a Gambling Addiction? 

Gambling addiction is also known as gambling disorder, pathological and compulsive gambling, or problem gambling. There are various signs of gambling addiction, the main one being reward-driven. 

People who gamble love to chase the high of betting and winning. For people who love to go to the casino or go online to have fun, play games, and socialize, that is not unusual behavior. Truth is, while not all gambling is harmful, the real question is what are the signs that someone’s gambling has become a problem? 

Just like chronic illnesses such as diabetes, addiction is also a disease. Gambling is no different, and this addictive behavior often turns into an obsessive-compulsive action that also completely takes control of a person’s life.  

Those who have a gambling disorder cannot function normally like others who gamble more for fun, because it completely consumes them, disturbing how they function throughout their lives, even making simple everyday tasks difficult to complete. Sadly, those affected by this disease rather lie, cheat, and steal to support their gambling habits. 

People with gambling addictions do not realize that their behaviors are not normal and unhealthy. Compulsive and pathological gambling is habitual, leading to experiences of uncontrollable bouts or urges to engage in forms of gambling. 

In other words, gambling becomes a disorder when someone experiences an uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on their life. While it is a choice to engage in these addictive behaviors, people with disorders may want to stop, but they feel they can’t. 

Not only do people with a gambling addiction become preoccupied, but, most importantly, cravings and the high of winning and competition, cause them to behave in unorthodox ways. The main reaction being spending excessive amounts of money, despite the expense of quitting or losing everything that was once really important, such as relationships (friends and family), work, school, hobbies, and fulfilling dreams.

Individuals with more severe cases of gambling addiction, they may also not just experience extreme changes in behavior and mood, but also with their personality, as if they completely took on another identity.

Signs of Gambling Addiction

The major sign that someone has a gambling disorder is seeing repetitive patterns of gambling behaviors that are causing significant problems or some type of distress, personally, mentally, and physically. 

Gamblers who are addicted are unable to control or resist their impulses to bet and competitively spend their money in negligent ways, despite the probability that doing so often leads to severe consequences. 

For those with addiction, the urges to gamble become so severe that the anticipation and pressure to act on this behavior can only be relieved by continuing to gamble more and more. An addiction to gambling is most characterized by the following: 

  • Obsession with gambling
  • Inability to function daily without gambling, causing disruption in all aspects of life (i.e., work, school, relationships, mental health, etc.)
  • Difficulty with controlling impulses to gamble, despite trying to stop the behavior
  • Continues to gamble despite social and mental consequences
  • Lying about the extent of your involvement and extent of gambling behaviors
  • Continuing to gamble despite losing money, and trying to win it back (Chasing losses)
  • Having financial problems due to gambling, or stealing to fund a gambling addiction 

Symptoms of compulsive gambling and addiction are not always very apparent, and people who have a gambling disorder often make it their job to hide their addictive behavior. As a result, this exacerbates the condition, making it harder to diagnose and manage without professional help. 

Risk Factors of Gambling Addiction

There are various reasons why gambling addiction occurs, that range from psychological, environmental, and physiological risk factors. 

According to The Mayo Clinic, these are some of  the following risk factors for developing a gambling problem: 

  • Environment: The environment you are in can majorly affect your decisions. Peer-pressure and being around people who engage in gambling behaviors put people with this disorder at major risk. Therefore, the only way out is to leave that environment with those negative influences. 
  • Age and Gender: Younger people are more susceptible to developing a gambling addiction. Men are seven-and-a-half times more likely to become a problem gambler than women. Although, women who start gamble later in life become addicted much quicker. Patterns for men have recently become similar. 
  • Family History and Genetics: Those with a family history of gambling addiction are more likely to develop one. Genetics plays a major role in addiction, as it can be inherited. 
  • Personality traits: Having a highly competitive nature, being impulsive, restless, easily bored, and being a workaholic can increase one’s risk of developing an addiction to gambling. 
  • Mental disorders: People who compulsively gamble also often have substance abuse issues. Underlying mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), are a major risk factor for addiction.

Research conducted by The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), and Georgia State University (GSU) showed that having a family history of gambling addiction increases the risk of other family members, especially children, to become addicted to other substances and drugs (i.e., alcohol, tobacco, opioids, marijuana, etc).  The study also showed that 50 percent of people with a gambling disorder, committed crimes, two-thirds being a direct relation to gambling. 

Types of Gambling Behaviors

There are various types of gambling behaviors that are commonly engaged in alone or in social settings on a sporadic or ongoing basis. The forms of gambling include: 

  • Playing casino games: card games such as Blackjack and Poker, and other machines such as slots, etc. 
  • Bingo
  • Betting money on the Lottery or buying scratchcards
  • Sports or event betting
  • Betting on games of skill
  • Raffles 

There are many different forms of gambling. As mentioned before, gambling, depending to which extent, is not a bad thing. It can be enjoyable, yet risky, so people must be aware and informed before it is too late. 

Psychology Behind Gambling Addiction: From Compulsive to Addictive

Gambling is a psychological game of chance and luck, always affecting a specific outcome, including the way individuals think and make decisions, resulting in action and behavior. 

It is one of those activities that give people that rush of excitement and rewards you for playing and taking a chance. However, sometimes too much of something isn’t always good as they say. Gambling behavior ranges from compulsive to addictive. 

Why is gambling so addictive?

Truth is, there’s just something about the nature of gambling that seems to pull people in. But what is it exactly? Here are the motivators behind the gambling mentality as explained by psychologists. 

Compulsive behavior means having excessive and irresistible urges to perform an action or activity. While a person can have normal bouts of compulsion to engage in various activities, there is such a thing as it becoming too overboard and obsessive. 

Someone who gambles often exhibits these obsessive thoughts and urges defined as compulsions. It is the nature of the way a casino or winning money entices people to keep coming back and repeating these behaviors, ranging from an intense preoccupation with competition and winning, betting, winning money despite losing it, etc. 

It is considered abnormal or an indicator of an underlying disorder when these persistent behaviors become increasingly excessive and consuming overtime, negatively interfering and controlling all aspects of one’s daily lifestyle.  

How does gambling addiction develop?

Dependency and addiction to gambling happen very quickly because as humans, we were taught to love the idea of competition and winning so much, that eventually, that rush turns into an uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it can take. 

Before you know it, gambling becomes a person’s full-time job, because it takes control over all facets of their life, and they can’t function normally without it. The reasons why gambling is so addictive include:

  • Gambling creates an illusion of control
  • Betting and winning gives people a natural “high” 
  • The social aspect of gambling
  • Reaping the rewards (money)

The Connection Between Gambling Addiction and Substance Abuse

People may not know it, but according to the American Psychiatric Association, gambling was once classified as a compulsive or impulsive disorder, rather than an addiction. This was due to the main fact, that this act is based on obsessive thoughts and urges known as compulsions. 

However, fast-forward to the present day, within the newest 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), gambling is no longer considered a compulsive disorder, but an addictive/behavioral disorder.

Therefore, the DSM-5’s re-classification of gambling as an addictive disorder through various studies and research within the field of neuroscience has proven the theory that gambling has many of the same characteristics and neural processes as drug and alcohol addiction. 

For someone to receive a confirmed gambling addiction diagnosis, the DSM-5 requires at least four of the following to have occurred in the past year:

  1. Having many unsuccessful attempts to control or stop gambling
  2. Gambling with excessive amounts of money to achieve feelings of euphoria
  3. Frequent and obsessive thoughts about gambling, including experiences in the past, planning the next gambling trip and thinking of ways to make money from gambling. 
  4. Gambling to cope with feelings of depression, anxiety, and distress. 
  5. Even after losing money during gambling, you keep going to get even or recover what you lost. This is referred to as chasing one’s losses. 
  6. Lying to hide gambling obsession
  7. Jeopardizing relationships, career, and other opportunities to gamble 

The behaviors of gambling and substance use disorders (SUD) have a close symbiotic relationship. Both addictive behaviors show that the psychological reasons behind why people are addicted to gambling are because their thought processes are distorted. 

These highly compulsive and ritualized thoughts by gamblers are a major characteristic of addiction. Common thought distortions include:   

  • Attribution:  Many gamblers attribute them to winning to their efforts, not because of random chance and luck. 
  • Magical and positive thinking: Problem gamblers believe that their perception, including hoping or thinking positively will make them win or that their outcomes can be predicted. 
  • Superstitions: Most gamblers or people who engage in some type of sport or competition have some sort of superstition. For example, they have a lucky piece of clothing, bracelet, ways of standing or sitting that they think helps them play better or win. 
  • Distorted beliefs and selective recall: Gamblers like to remember their wins and not talk about their losses. They tend to have distorted beliefs where they justify in their minds that they “almost” won, and because of that, it stimulates them to keep going back for more in hopes that they will win. 
  • Chasing losses: This thought distortion is probably the most common. Problem gamblers believe that the money they have lost due to playing or betting can be won back by continuing to gamble. Chasing one’s losses only causes a person to dive deeper into their gambling addiction. 

Stages of Gambling Addiction 

There are five stages that people with gambling addiction go through. They are the following: 

Stage One: Winning

There are more wins than losses in a gambler’s eyes. During the first stage, people with gambling addiction make it known they know how to win. 

Stage Two: Losing 

During the second stage, the stakes start to get higher, and the gambler believes that all the money that they already lost will be won back. In this stage, people tend to begin lying, borrowing money, and boasting about their gambling. As a result of losing in the end, individuals end up going into a downward spiral towards transitioning into the third stage. 

Stage 3: Desperation

During stage three, this is really where the obsessive thoughts about gambling come into play. This includes getting the money to keep gambling, what their next bet will be, ways to beat the system, and how they will win and avoid losing to come out on top. 

Negative thoughts and behaviors start to increase more frequently and intensely due to desperation. This includes patterns of pathological lying, gambling to cope with pain, increased anger, and blame occurs. 

Towards the end of this stage, credit cards and savings seem to deplete, and therefore, the addicted gambler steals or borrows money, saying they will pay it back, but the more money they receive just feeds their gambling spree. 

Stage 4: Hopelessness

In stage four, problem gamblers feel hopeless, which leaves them contemplating giving up, or worse harming themselves or committing suicide. This also leads them to resort to committing crimes and illegal activities that can cause them to wind up in jail. 

Stage 5: Recovery  

The fifth and final stage is recovery. This is where the gambler finally admits that they have a real problem and wants to overcome it with professional help. This is not always the case, as it is often not easy for people with addictions to ask for help. However, in this stage, often after asking for help the gambler enters a treatment facility including detox, 12-step programs, and counseling. 

Gambling Addiction and Dual Diagnosis

Substance abuse and mental illness are linked and are both major risk factors for addiction. Research has demonstrated that there are high rates of comorbidity between gambling addiction and mental health disorders. This means that the presence of these two chronic diseases or conditions is a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. 

For example, the once substance that is connected to gambling addiction and mental illness the most is alcohol. Studies throughout the United States have reported that alcohol use disorders (AUD) are said to be the strongest link to addictive disorders such as gambling, which makes sense because enormous amounts of alcohol are served at almost every casino. 

As a result, alcohol addiction is the most frequently diagnosed co-occurring disorder among people with gambling problems. According to The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), about 76 percent of people who were diagnosed with a gambling addiction also had an alcohol use disorder and most likely to have a major depressive disorder. Other common dual diagnoses include:

  • Gambling and depression
  • Gambling and anxiety
  • Gambling and bipolar disorder
  • Gambling and Schizophrenia

Gambling and OCD

Gambling addiction and mental illness such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) share a strong genetic and behavioral link according to research studies by Yale University and Saint Louis University School of Medicine. Since people with OCD exhibit patterns of compulsion and repetitiveness, so do problem gamblers. 

These findings have helped identify these underlying conditions, aiding with more accurate diagnosis and treatment for addictive disorders, substance use disorders, and mental illness. 

People often turn to gamble to cope with symptoms of mental health and to escape any problems or stress they may be feeling. In other words, gamblers seek excitement or action in going to a casino or gambling online, while others are doing so more, as a means to look for an escape or to numb their pain. 

Underlying problems such as drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness cause further complications in the long-run, and the only way to recover is through professional help.

Gambling Addiction Treatment 

It is important to note that people with an addictive disorder such as gambling can be very high-functioning, meaning they can hide their symptoms and function every day like everything is normal. 

Over time, the condition worsens, as signs and symptoms are being masked and hidden and it appears that there is nothing wrong. In reality, addiction to gambling and mental illness are present and must be treated through various methods of comprehensive treatment and therapies.

Addiction affects not only the person going through it but friends and family as well. Treatment for gambling addiction requires inpatient or outpatient treatment, and other programs to achieve optimal recovery, including detox, 12-step programs, and counseling. 

Gambling Addiction Treatment Programs 

Gambling Addiction Therapy 

If you or a loved one are suffering from a gambling addiction, substance use disorder, and/or mental illness, our multidisciplinary team at Granite Mountain is here to help you recover and take back control over your life! No gambling problem has to be permanent. Don’t wait, contact us today!















How to Build and Improve Your Self-Esteem During Addiction Recovery

The symbiotic relationship between drug and alcohol addiction and self-esteem is complex and oftentimes hard to understand. While they do go hand-in-hand, many questions need to be answered to fully comprehend the psychology behind self-worth and addictive behaviors. 

The main one being poor self-image, a problem that needs to be solved in conjunction with addressing one’s addiction issues, or will it naturally work itself out when the addictive behaviors don’t occur anymore? 

The answer to this question varies from person to person. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Each person’s circumstances or struggles with addiction are different. However, what isn’t contradictory is that professional treatment at a rehab facility is necessary to recover. Treatment can break the treacherous cycle of addiction and improve your low self-esteem.

The addiction specialists and multidisciplinary team at Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare in Prescott Valley, AZ, can help break this cycle of addiction, thus, improving one’s self-esteem. 

The Relationship Between Self-Esteem and Addiction

While these are various common reasons and risk factors of addiction, numerous evidence-based research studies have proven that the root cause of addiction is the result of low self-esteem. 

Not effectively addressing the major role that self-esteem plays in all aspects of life, including addiction, unfortunately, and all too commonly, leads to various complications health-wise, socially, mentally, and physically. 

Missed signs of addiction and any sort of psychological distress can also deter someone from receiving the professional help that they need, hinder their addiction recovery process, and also cause individuals to potentially relapse. So, why is self-esteem such an important component of addiction recovery? 

What is Self-Esteem? 

What exactly is self-esteem, where does it arise from, and why is it so influential and important in our lives? 

In the world of psychology, self-esteem is defined as a person’s overall self-worth or personal value. In other words, it is how much you value, respect, like, and appreciate yourself. Use the power of positive psychology if you will. 

Importance of Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is often viewed as a personality trait, which encompasses a variety of beliefs, including appearance, emotions, and behaviors. It is extremely influential and important because it plays a significant role in all aspects of a person’s life, including mental health, relationships, success, failures, and motivation. 

There are both healthy and low levels of self-esteem, which can fluctuate from time-to-time depending on your genetics, age, environment, people around you, attitude, etc. However, it is often our experiences that form the basis of our overall self-esteem, positively and negatively. Although, it is important to note that there needs to be a balance between too little and too much self-worth a person can have. 

Signs of Good Self-Esteem

If you exhibit the following signs and behaviors, you most likely have good self-esteem. 

  • Having confidence, but knowing the difference between that and being arrogant
  • Being able to accept who you are
  • Can take constructive criticism and feedback
  • Has the ability to say no
  • Has a positive outlook on things, and is always able to do so even when times are hard 
  • Ability to see things from various perspectives, including strengths and weaknesses
  • Expressing your needs, wants, and opinions
  • Does not seek approval from others
  • Not afraid of failure or setbacks 
  • Accepts imperfection

Confidence in one’s value as a human being is something that doesn’t come easy for everyone, which makes it a beneficial psychological resource. Whenever someone exudes confidence, it commands attention and is noticeable.

Signs of Low Self-Esteem

If you exhibit the following signs and behaviors, you may be experiencing low self-esteem. 

  • Negative outlook and defeatist attitude
  • Lack of confidence
  • Inability to express your wants and needs
  • Focus on weaknesses and negativity
  • Not being able to see things from other perspectives
  • Trouble accepting criticism or feedback 
  • The belief that others are better than you
  • Comparing yourself to others
  • Putting yourself down
  • Intense fear of failure

Self-esteem is a characteristic that inevitably changes over time, and therefore, success or setbacks both personally and professionally can negatively impact a person. 

How Low Self-Esteem Causes Addiction 

The effects of low self-esteem can be detrimental, especially when suffering from addiction. Becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol is a consequence of a choice and compulsive addictive behavior. 

For people who have developed low self-esteem over time due to various reasons, commonly experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, and as a result, they turn to drugs and alcohol to mask their pain and insecurities. Low self-esteem results in self-medicating.

In other words, those with low self-esteem turn to drugs and alcohol to numb pain and escape from reality. These substances are seen as a way to escape. 

What Happens to Self-Esteem When Using?

For people with low self-esteem, drinking, and taking drugs allows these individuals to feel like they appear more confident than they really are. 

Again, the whole reason why people engage in these addictive behaviors in the first place is that they believe that these substances make their problems or feelings disappear, despite the consequences. Easy accessibility of drugs and alcohol also is a major contributing factor. 

However, doing so compulsively, actually makes matters worse, and often leads to dependency and addiction. What some people fail to realize at the time is that these euphoric feelings from the drugs and alcohol are temporary and short-term. 

These substances turn out to not be a permanent solution for their pain and suffering, but rather, a temporary release. Along with health consequences, mentally physically, and socially, addiction resulting from substance abuse, ends up severely affecting a person’s self-esteem, causing their self-confidence to dissipate quickly.    

Eventually, individuals suffering from addiction are incapable of overcoming these challenges that caused them to turn to drink and take drugs in the first place. As their substance use disorder worsens, the lower their self-esteem becomes. 

Simply, the more one uses, the worse they end up feeling about themselves. What was once just a low self-confidence issue has now spiraled in addiction, which has taken control of all aspects of one’s life. 

This cycle of addiction and low self-esteem is only able to be taken hold of with help from medical professionals and addiction specialists. 

Addiction Risk Factors

Oftentimes, people wonder what is it that makes people want to make that choice to use and abuse drugs and alcohol in the first place? The answer to this can be complex, as addictive behaviors vary from person to person, but, mainly because various factors increase the likelihood of developing an addiction. 

The common reasons why people turn to the use of substances include but are not limited to:

  • It’s a choice that results in consequences 
  • Family history of substance abuse (Genetics) 
  • Co-occurring mental illness
  • Coping mechanism (Self-Medication)
  • Environmental factors and peer pressure

Addiction is a chronic disease that severely affects the brain and body. While this is true, neurological functions are not the sole cause of substance use disorders (SUD). Many different components play a role in the cause of addiction. 

In other words, drug and alcohol addiction is not just the result of one factor in a user’s life. Instead, it is a combination of them that exposes people to this destructive path. There are three main areas of risk factors that contribute to dependency and addiction. They are as follows: 

Biological Predispositions

Drug and alcohol addiction is 50 percent attributed to genetics. Research has shown that children who are the product of addicts are approximately eight times more likely to become ones themselves. 

Not everyone who has a family history of substance abuse will be an addict, but the probability and susceptibility of becoming addicted are high. Males are more likely to become addicted to drugs and alcohol than women.  

Environmental Factors and Influences

The environment that you are in has a major effect and influence on people’s behaviors. Being at home or school is very influential on the possible development of substance use disorders. 

As mentioned before, having a family history of drug use and alcoholism increases the chances of someone else having the same genetic predisposition for addiction. 

At school and work, peer pressure and fitting in is a huge risk factor for addiction, as well as stress. Feelings of stress and anxiety in these environments are normal but often result in the gravitation towards substances, as people believe it will help them cope or forget what they are feeling at the time. However, it just exacerbates the situation, resulting in a host of health problems, physically, mentally, and socially.  

Drug Choice and Methods of Use

The likelihood of addiction depends on the drug or alcoholic beverage of choice. Especially with drugs, the potency of certain drugs leads to dependency and addiction. 

With one use of a drug, that is usually all it takes, which commonly leads to polysubstance abuse, meaning the use of one or more substances. The way a drug is taken, the meaning if it was snorted, injected, or in pill form. Drugs that are smoked or injected have a much faster euphoric or high effect on the body. 

As a user takes a drug or drinks more and more, the body becomes tolerant and dependent on the substance, which means that with each time of use, a higher dosage will be required to keep feeling the same drunk or high effect. Thus, tolerance and dependence lead to addiction. 

However, one answer that many researchers have agreed upon is low self-esteem. Self-esteem is defined as confidence in one’s own abilities. This type of self-respect plays a crucial role in the likelihood that a person will abuse drugs, which in turn means that a drug abuse treatment program works to combat and improve the factors that influence low self-esteem.

Mental Health and Addiction

People who don’t suffer from mental conditions associated with self-esteem, such as anxiety and depression, don’t fully understand why people turn to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol as a means to cope instead of seeking treatment for their symptoms. 

Mental illness is a major risk factor for substance abuse, and often these conditions occur simultaneously. This is defined as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. Someone with mental health issues commonly develops a substance use disorder. 

Unfortunately, but all too often, the underlying mental illness is left undiagnosed and untreated. Thus, conditions worsen, along with a person’s self-esteem.

A major reason that people also don’t receive the proper help that they need is because of mental stigma. Feeling of shame, guilt, and embarrassment often take over, making a person with addiction reluctant to admit to themselves, friends, and family that they need help, or they are in denial that they need help in the first place. 

This avoidance to seek help not only worsens mental health and addiction but, most importantly, an individual’s self-worth. People with low self-esteem feel that they aren’t worth receiving help or that there is no one out there to help them when in reality, there is. 

Importance of Self-Esteem During Addiction Recovery

The drugs and alcohol are no longer in your system as you went through the process of detoxification. Addressing one’s lack of self-esteem is now a priority.

For those in addiction recovery, healthy self-esteem becomes a powerful tool and resource to turn to, which not only helps people stay on the road to long-term recovery, but also prevent relapse.

Think of it in this logical way: When you are feeling good about yourself and value what you have to offer, you are more likely to stay motivated and on a successful path to recovery and avoid entering into the cycle of addiction. 

In the early stages of recovery, people are very emotional and at a very low point with poor self-esteem. That is why building up your self-worth during this crucial time can make a big difference in your recovery journey, increasing the chances of a successful outcome and long-term sobriety.

Improving Self-Esteem Through Addiction Treatment

The good news is that help for addiction, and low self-esteem is available! Steps to rebuilding your self-esteem despite your addiction are possible with the right treatment plan and resources. 

There are three major causes of poor self-esteem in recovery, immorality, instability, and insignificance. Knowing what causes these negative feelings makes it easier for us to build up you or your loved one’s self-esteem through methods of therapy and counseling. 

Whether you are contemplating receiving help or already on the road to recovery from addiction, here are three tips on how to rebuild, boost, and improve your self-esteem during addiction recovery. 

  1. Think positively: I know it is easy for someone to say, but the power of positive thinking does make all the difference in all aspects of life. By using psychological techniques of reframing, meaning flipping a situation to be positive rather than negative, it helps to see things from a different perspective, so that you can handle it effectively. In addiction recovery, maintaining a positive attitude will help motivate you and others to not give up.  
  2. Self-forgiveness: Take responsibility for your actions, but don’t beat yourself up. Think about how far you have come and allowed yourself to be forgiven. This way, you will be able to move forward and focus on recovery. 
  3. Affirmations: Give yourself daily affirmations such as I am receiving the help that I need and doing well, I am a warrior, I am beautiful. Also, give other people a compliment and smile, it will make you and others around you feel positive energy, and that you are all in this together. 

Granite Mountain Can Help You Recover 

To truly understand the connection between low self-esteem and substance abuse, one needs to first understand that low self-esteem is a result of many conditions, including addiction and mental illness. 

Having low self-esteem during addiction recovery is very common in the beginning, but there are methods of treatment to help treat substance abuse and mental illness. With time, your self-esteem, confidence, and worth will all return, as the cycle of addiction will no longer be in your path. 

To learn more about how we can help individuals combating addiction rebuild their self-esteem and prevent relapse, contact us at Granite Mountain today!








essential oils

10 Essential Oils to Aid in Alcohol Detox

Alcohol is a part of everyday life. It has become a social norm, consumed for pure enjoyment, in addition to, tradition and celebrations around the world for thousands of years. Various research studies have proven that two million people drink alcohol, crowning it the most popular beverage consumed worldwide. 

Because of its accessibility, alcohol is, unfortunately, also the most abused substance within the United States. 85 percent of people said they have tried alcohol at least once. 

While having a couple of drinks is acceptable and won’t cause any harm, excessive alcohol consumption has serious effects on the brain and body, resulting in various consequences on an individual’s health and mental wellbeing. 

Alcohol detox is a comprehensive process done at an alcohol treatment facility, which is an essential part of recovery. This method is beneficial as it assists people with substance abuse on the path to recovery, and also most importantly, makes the removal of toxins and alcohol easier and faster. 

It is a process that assists patients on the path to recovery during alcohol withdrawal. It helps make the toxins removal process easier and faster.

Treating your addiction to alcohol is a very crucial step and investment in your future and well-being. The best chance of managing this condition, recovery and long-term sobriety is entering an inpatient or outpatient treatment program, which entails participation in local support groups and continued counseling. 

However, conventional treatment may not work for everyone as treatments for alcohol addiction does not have a one-size-fits-all approach. Other methods including essential oils and aromatherapy can help aid with detoxing from alcohol. 

How Alcohol Affects The Body

The liver becomes the most damaged organ due to drinking alcohol. As the alcohol enzymes absorb into the liver’s cells, toxic and harmful byproducts of fatty acids called acetaldehyde to build up within the body, which begins to attack the liver leading to a liver disease called cirrhosis. This impairs your liver’s ability to properly metabolize fats. 

Alcoholism does not only affect the liver but it also majorly impacts permanent damage to the brain, increase risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, pancreatitis, alcohol poisoning, hypertension (high blood pressure), overdose, and death. 

With all of the potential side effects of excessive alcohol consumption, the first step in treating this disease is seeking help. Keep in mind, overcoming dependency on addiction to alcohol is a long process. Addiction affects not only the person going through it but those around them. Help is available, and recovery can make a significant difference in one’s lifestyle. 

Alcohol Detoxification Process

During detoxification, toxic substances, in this case, alcohol, and other toxins are removed from the body for 7-10 days through the use of anti-craving FDA approved medications. 

Due to the increase in alcohol-related deaths, the demand for treatment is at an all-time high. Contrary to popular belief, addiction is not curable, but it can be managed, just like any other chronic disease, such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension (high blood pressure). 

However, recovering from the powerful disease of addiction, from alcoholism to mental illness, can be extremely challenging, both physically and psychologically. Before an individual can officially begin recovery, they go through a process called detoxification. 

Due to the body being tolerant and dependant on the substance, the body has an adverse reaction by producing unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms called withdrawal. These symptoms ranging from mild to severe, and even life-threatening include but are not limited to: 

  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Chills/tremors and shaking
  • Diarrhea 
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Sweating 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pain and weakness

Everyone is different, and these physical and psychological symptoms depend on the following factors: 

  • The amount of alcohol consumed
  • History of alcohol abuse
  • Whether an individual has any underlying medical conditions 
  • Age
  • If there is any co-existing mental illness

Withdrawal symptoms from detox occur about six hours after the last alcoholic beverage. These unpleasant reactions are usually at their worst on days two and three, and afterward, begin to subside. Detox can also be done in a less severe way using essential oils and aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy For Alcohol Detox 

Aromatherapy is a form of holistic therapy and alternative medicine, which involves the use of various types of essential oils to promote the power of healing, both mentally and physically. This ancient practice of medicine is said to have healing properties for a wide range of medical purposes, including addiction to alcohol.   

It involves the topical application or inhalation of essential oils extracted from aromatic plants to restore, rebalance, and enhance one’s health and wellbeing. The term aromatherapy came about in the late 1920s as a plant-based therapy, using scented plants for incense, medicine, and perfumes.  

The multidisciplinary team of medical professionals and addiction specialists at Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare in Prescott Valley, AZ, believe in providing people with resources and comprehensive treatment methods to help reduce and manage the symptoms of withdrawal during alcohol detox through the use of essential oils and aromatherapy. 

Our goal is to strengthen the self-healing processes such as detox, by using alternative preventative methods and indirect stimulation of the immune system. 

History of Essential Oils

It was believed that the Egyptians first created the ability to distill essential oils, which were infused with herbs used for rituals, medicine, cosmetics, etc. Years later, the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates studied the effects that essential oils had on health and promoted the use of them for medicinal benefits that we know today. 

Fast-forward a hundred years later, one of the most famous applications of essential oils was thanks to French chemist René-Maurice Gatttefossé. He gave birth to the term essential oils after an accident in his laboratory sparked his curiosity about the healing power of essential oils. 

After burning his arm, Gatttefossé placed it in a container of lavender oil, which ended up healing his burn without causing any scarring. Following in his footsteps was French surgeon Jean Valnet who used essential oils in World War II to help heal soldiers’ wounds, proving that aromatherapy is extremely beneficial in a medical sense. 

Use of Essential Oils For Alcohol Detox

During aromatherapy, essential oils derived from plants, flowers, trees, bushes, and roots are distilled and turned into forms of oils for therapeutic purposes. These essential oils are applied right on different parts of the body, including the feet, wrist, brow, scalp, pressure points, abdomen, chest, depending on the location of a person’s ailment or pain. 

Research has shown, that types of essential oils are highly concentrated, nutrients and natural properties are absorbed by the body through the skin, nasal passages, and digestive tract. As a result, the body begins to return to a more balanced state (homeostasis), delivering the desired effect, ranging from relief, calming, healing, stimulating, cleansing, and soothing. 

When most people hear of essential oils, they think of putting drops of wonderful smelling oils into a diffuser. The variety of these oils and their properties are all dedicated to helping naturally heal and calm through their scents and applying them to areas of the body. Thus, giving off a natural calming and relaxing sensation, helping to relieve stress and anxiety. 

Essential oils and aromatherapy are commonly used in spa treatments, but it is also now commonly used in the field of addiction treatment to aid in the process of detoxification. 

10 Types Of Essential Oils For Alcohol Detox

Essential oils are potent natural plant extracts that contain a multitude of benefits for all sorts of maladies. They are aromatic oils with amazing medical purposes. They are known to be an anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, anti-depressant, among others. 

Essential oils are fragrant, strong, and natural plant extracts that contain a host of medical benefits, as they are known to be not only detoxifying but also anti-inflammatory, stress-relieving, amongst other things. 

Fortunately, there are several other ways to help reduce withdrawal symptoms. Essential oils assist in ridding alcohol and other toxins from the body in a more calming and holistic way. Here are the top 10, which are known to be most beneficial for helping people recover from alcoholism quicker.

Ginger Oil: 

Ginger oil has a high concentration of a plant-based chemical called gingerol, which helps heal the liver after it has been severely damaged from excessive drinking. Thus, this essential oil can help repair your damaged liver quicker due to alcoholism.

Lemon Oil: 

Made from the rind part of a lemon, lemon is a powerful essential oil that promotes healing. During alcohol detox, the chemical limonene helps the body release toxins from the body, especially the liver and kidneys. Lemon oil can also help to alleviate symptoms of depression and strengthen the immune system. 

Lavender Oil: 

Lavender oil is the essential oil that is most popularly used for relaxation and reducing anxiety. Since drinking alcohol causes insomnia, lavender il also assists with improving sleep patterns. 

Black Pepper Oil: 

Black pepper oil helps with alcohol cravings. It boosts the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, improving one’s mood. 

Roman Chamomile Oil:

Going through detox is very stressful, as the body is producing unpleasant reactions. Roman chamomile essential oils induce a calming feeling, relieving symptoms of anxiety, and is a mood enhancer. 

Fennel Oil  

Fennel is similar to the taste and smell of licorice. This essential oil helps the body flush out toxins, and cleanses the body’s tissues and organs during the detox process. 

Grapefruit Oil

During alcohol detox grapefruit oil is very helpful with killing toxins within the body. In the case of alcohol, this extract is a natural diuretic, which helps to flush out the alcohol molecules that have built up in the liver and flushes out other waste. 

Rosemary Oil

Rosemary oil helps relieve stress, and when going through detox withdrawal symptoms, it helps with pain and sore muscles. Also, this essential oil is a natural diuretic that helps removes toxins from the body a lot quicker than normal. 

Mandarin Oil 

Mandarin oil is made from the peels of oranges and calms the body down before the alcohol detoxification process begins. The liver is undoubtedly the most important organ in the body when it comes to drinking alcohol. Drinking excessively leads to liver damage and disease. Mandarin oil helps with circulating healthy blood and detoxifying the liver. 

Peppermint Oil 

Peppermint oil helps with stomach pain relating to alcohol consumption. Made from the peppermint plant, this essential oil helps with people’s focus and helps speed up the recovery process. 

Alcoholism: A Deadly Disease 

Alcohol abuse leads to alcohol dependence and addiction, which negatively impacts a person’s health in a myriad of ways, contributing to over 200 diseases and health conditions. 

Every day, about 30 people lose their lives in car accidents, and about six people die from alcohol poisoning. Also, binge drinking doubles the risk of mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and dementia. 

For people struggling with alcohol use disorders, our main goal at Granite Mountain is to assist them on their recovery journey and after treatment, so that they will successfully live a sober, stable, and healthy lifestyle. 

Granite Mountain Can Help

Through aromatherapy and the use of essential oils, alcohol detox and withdrawal symptoms can be better managed. At Granite Mountain, know that help is available and we are here for you every step of the way. Contact us today to see how detox can help you recover from alcohol addiction. 









secondary traumatic stress

The Link Between Secondary Traumatic Stress and Substance Abuse

Secondary traumatic stress is the emotional distress that occurs when an individual hears about the first-hand trauma experiences of another. Secondary traumatic stress can also occur if an individual witnesses a traumatic event that is occurring to somebody else. The symptoms of secondary traumatic disorder are highly similar to those of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Those struggling with secondary stress may find themselves re-experiencing personal trauma or notice the avoidance of triggers related to indirect trauma exposure. Individuals suffering from secondary stress may also experience alterations in memory and perception. Secondary traumatic stress is often experienced by mental health professionals and substance abuse counselors.

Substance abuse, addiction, and secondary traumatic stress can have a complicated relationship when they intertwine. High levels of stress increase the likelihood that an individual will turn to drugs or alcohol as a means of escape. Drugs can temporarily increase pleasure, decrease anxiety, and provide a distraction from painful emotions. However, the consequences are dangerous and fatal.

Stress triggers levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid produced by the brain) to lower, causing adrenaline to increase. GABA can also be stimulated by drugs that suppress the central nervous system, such as opioids and alcohol. Individuals suffering from high levels of stress may turn to drugs for a “quick fix.” Especially when an individual is severely stressed, they may become desperate for anything to alleviate their pain.

Who is Most Often Affected by Secondary Traumatic Stress?

Secondary traumatic stress can be described as an occupational hazard for professionals working with those dealing with mental health disorders and/or addiction. It can be difficult for mental health professionals and substance abuse counselors to separate their patient’s pain from their own. 

Research has shown that 6% to 26% of therapists working with traumatized populations, and up to 50% of child welfare workers, are at high risk of secondary traumatic stress, as well as PTSD.

However, doctors, nurses, first responders, and the loved ones of an individual suffering from trauma are all at risk for developing secondary traumatic stress. We mustn’t overlook these individuals. Those who give the most support are often in need of it just as much. 

Mental Health Care/Social Workers

Mental health care and social workers dedicate their time to helping individuals overcome trauma or work through their internal battles. They’re exposed to the pain of their patients, which isn’t always easy to process. It is no easy task to separate yourself from your patients and the troubles that you hear every day. This can consequently lead to secondary traumatic stress.

Furthermore, these mental health professionals don’t always allow themselves to process the stories they hear. Professionals who are not trained to identify or manage STS-related symptoms can become overwhelmed and less effective at their jobs.

Medical Staff: Doctors and Nurses

Pain, loss, disability, chronic illness, and failure to achieve relief from symptoms are all aspects of medical care that doctors and nurses experience every day. In a study done on PTSD in intensive care units, nurses described the situations triggering secondary traumatic stress. 

These included seeing patients die, patient aggression, involvement with end-of-life care, verbal abuse from family members, open surgical wounds, massive bleeding, not being able to save a specific patient, and much more. 

Doctors and nurses may develop secondary traumatic stress after exposure to such difficult situations. Oftentimes, they may feel like they don’t have the opportunity to heal themselves because of their focus on other individuals. 

First Responders

First responders are repeatedly exposed to severe trauma. Repeated exposures, in conjunction with their intense role in emergency services, can lead to secondary traumatic stress. First responders become more likely to experience distress, worry, disturbed sleep or concentration, alterations in work function, difficulties with interpersonal relationships, depression, and increases in substance use.

The first responders of our nation are first at the scene in many traumatic events. They must take action in these circumstances, thus not having time to process the event itself. 

Family Members of Someone Suffering from Trauma 

Secondary traumatic stress has serious effects on families, couples, and the loved ones surrounding someone suffering from trauma. When supporting a loved one, we can sometimes forget to attend to our own needs. Secondary traumatic stress can occur when we overly identify with the individual’s pain and stress.

Empathy is a huge part of being a human and understanding somebody else’s struggles. However, it can also come at the cost of your mental health when you become engulfed in the other person’s situation. 

Signs and Symptoms of Secondary Traumatic Stress

Recognizing symptoms of secondary traumatic stress can help you to seek help sooner rather than later. Fortunately, being aware of these signs is half the battle. Once you become self-aware, taking action is the next step. 

Many people suffer from a lack of understanding that there’s an issue at hand. Even more so, many allow their symptoms to get worse and procrastinate in acknowledging what’s bringing them pain.

The effects of secondary traumatic stress range from mild to severe. Although each patient is unique, you can lookout for the following symptoms of secondary traumatic stress:

  • Emotional — overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, or even the opposite, feeling distant and detached from reality.
  • Physical — feeling exhausted, unmotivated and overall tired.
  • Behavioral —  bad habits start forming that may be self-destructive in nature, such as substance abuse.
  • Professional — sense of overall job fulfillment is low, responsibilities and tasks are not being satisfied as they normally would be-if at all. 
  • Cognitive — overall confusion, difficulty concentrating, and inability to make decisions, experiencing traumatic images, which is repeatedly seeing/reliving events. 
  • Spiritual — losing faith in humanity and higher power or life satisfaction. 
  • Interpersonal — losing interest and actively avoiding or becoming emotionally unavailable to the people you work with or your loved-ones.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out to our addiction and trauma specialists today. 

Secondary Traumatic Stress and Addiction 

“More than 60% of helping professionals have a trauma history of their own—we enter the field to make a difference, to give back, and share from our own life experiences,” as stated by a counselor in a secondary traumatic stress study. 

Many mental health professionals are inspired to help others after experiencing their pain and trauma. It becomes tricky when these mental health professionals are repeatedly exposed to trauma from their patients. This can also apply to the loved ones of someone battling with substance abuse or trauma, doctors, nurses, first responders, as well as other fields. 

Consequently, this can lead to substance abuse and addiction amongst the professionals striving to help others. Chronic stress can negatively impact a person’s impulse control, learning, and memory functions. As a result, drugs can become a coping mechanism or a method of self-medication for the symptoms of secondary traumatic stress.

It is important to note that secondary traumatic stress and substance abuse is classified as a dual diagnosis. This is because STS is still a form of trauma. When accompanied by addiction, two disorders must be recognized and treated.

Treatment Options for Secondary Traumatic Stress

The great upside is that there is treatment available to those suffering from this condition. No matter how lost you feel, there’s potential to feel much better. With the right resources and care, you’ll be able to overcome the obstacles setting you back. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual diagnosis treatment targets secondary traumatic stress and drug or alcohol addiction simultaneously. You’ll be working with mental health professionals and addiction experts who understand your unique situation. 

Dual diagnosis makes sure to treat both sides of the equation. Failing to acknowledge both parts of the issue will result in inadequate treatment. 

Addiction Treatment 

The severity and type of addiction you’re experiencing will play a part in the exact type of treatment that you’ll be receiving. Most treatment programs for addiction begin with some form of detox to clear alcohol and other drugs from the body.

More severe addictions call for an inpatient or residential treatment. Partial hospitalization provides a moderate level of care, and outpatient treatment provides the lowest level of care. After a thorough evaluation of your condition, we’ll decide together what type of care will suit your recovery best. 

Mental Health Treatment 

Addiction is a disease that affects the person from the inside out. It is crucial to treat the underlying roots of addiction, in conjunction with the cravings and temptations. The ability to simultaneously work through any mental health hurdles returns the power in your hands

With our team of trained therapists, you’ll learn coping strategies and address any toxic behavioral patterns. 

Therapy Options

There are several types of psychotherapy used to treat secondary traumatic stress disorder. These therapies include:

  • Cognitive therapy. This type of talk therapy helps you recognize the ways of thinking (cognitive patterns) that are holding you back,
  • Exposure therapy. This behavioral therapy helps you safely face both situations and memories that you find traumatizing so that you can learn to cope with them effectively. 
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR combines exposure therapy with a series of guided eye movements that help you process traumatic memories and change how you react to them.

Long Term Recovery Options for Secondary Traumatic Stress and Addiction 

Recovery from secondary traumatic stress and substance abuse doesn’t stop when a treatment period ends. Aftercare is a crucial part of the recovery journey. Aftercare is continued treatment after the “core” program is completed. There are many different kinds of aftercare treatment options to prevent relapse and expand upon the coping strategies. 

Options for aftercare include: 

  • Outpatient treatment: The individual resides at home while attending treatment a few times a week at a convenient schedule. 
    • Support groups/Group counseling: The patient will listen to and share experiences associated with addiction and secondary traumatic stress. Individuals will work to build social and coping skills in an encouraging group setting.
    • Individual therapy: The patient will meet one-on-one with a therapist to continue progress established during the primary treatment program. 
  • 12-step programs: Fellowship programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), provide support and motivation for the individual as they recover.

Get Help Today!

We encourage you to seek help today if you’re suffering from secondary traumatic stress. From an on-site medical staff to comfortable amenities, we have everything you need for a smooth recovery.

We aim to create a better future for our patients. We pride ourselves on having a truly caring staff that promotes a community of encouragement and hope. Each patient will be a part of our family here at Granite Mountain.

Whether it’s you or a loved one struggling, one of our treatment programs can help today. From individual therapy to medical care, treatment will be tailored to your unique needs. Reach out to us by contacting us here.














mental health stigma

Dual Diagnosis: Understanding The Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

Today, mental health and substance use disorders called co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis has become a large topic of conversation nationwide. The most common mental disorders include the following: 

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia

The concern is, most Americans don’t treat people who have a mental illness in the same way as other people who are suffering from other chronic conditions. 

A large part of society is quick to judge people who have a mental illness, often causing alienation and discrimination. Also, oftentimes, people reject the fact that addiction is a brain disease that can be treated and managed. 

Anyone who has had experienced mental illness firsthand, either personally or professionally, can tell you that despite the attempt to clear up misconceptions, along with the advances in psychiatry and psychology, there still is a great deal of stigma that remains. 

The Stigma of Mental Illness

Many people believe that addiction is a result of immoral behavior and that people with substance use disorders just choose to continue using drugs or drinking. While there is some truth to that, unlike people with other chronic conditions such as arthritis, those with addiction and mental illness are blamed or criticized in many ways for having these problems.

Unfortunately, negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who have a mental health condition are extremely common. According to the Better Health Channel, Stigma is defined as when someone views a person with mental illness in a negative way. This negative perception often leads to discrimination, where people with mental disorders are treated poorly because of their condition. 

In other words, mental health stigma occurs when a person defines someone by their illness rather than who they are as a person. For example, one may be labeled psychotic or a schizo rather than the person experiencing psychosis or symptoms of schizophrenia. 

Becoming dependent and addicted to drugs and alcohol can happen to anyone. It is not a matter of willpower or lack of morals, it’s a choice that results in consequences. Addiction is a disease that doesn’t discriminate, and neither does mental illness. 

History of Mental Illness Stigma 

The history of stigma surrounding mental illness has dated back to the Neolithic times, about 12,000 years ago (10,000–4,500 BC). People’s ideologies of the treatment of mental illness have not always made scientific sense. 

One of the most common treatments conducted around that time was known to be brutal and inhumane. For those believed to have mental illness or spirits, a hole would be chipped in their heads, as it was thought to release the evil spirits and cure them of disease. 

Today, mental illness stigma is very prevalent, but, treatment methods used to manage co-occurring disorders are taken very seriously and are backed up by years of evidence-based research. 

Prevalence of Mental Illness Stigma 

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that approximately, 450 million people worldwide suffer from a mental disorder, making them among the leading causes of disability. One in four people will be affected by mental illnesses or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Mental health stigma is extremely prevalent, as there is a major lack of understanding surrounding these types of illnesses. 

Dual Diagnosis

When there is some sort of little to no understanding, there is neglect. Mental health stigma prevents two-thirds of people from getting the help they truly need. For those with mental illness and addiction, mental disorders are often the part that is left undiagnosed, which is not only dangerous, but can result in severe complications, including coma, overdose, or death. 

Doctor Harlem Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO stated that “Mental illness is not a personal failure. In fact, if there is a failure, it is to be found in the way we have responded to people with mental and brain disorders.” 

Mental health and addiction specialists have been making major strides in bettering the way they are diagnosing mental illness. Technological advances in medicine have allowed for more accurate diagnoses, allowing people to get the help that they need to effectively manage and cope with their condition, in order to properly recover.  

Types Of Mental Illness Stigma 

Assumptions surrounding mental illness only cause turmoil, creating a stigma defined by shame, guilt, and fear. Thus, most importantly, the fear and guilt of having a mental disorder continue to prevent millions of people from seeking the proper treatment that they need to recover and become sober. 

Stigma can also be described as a label that associates a person to a set of unwanted characteristics that form a stereotype. These include the following:

Mental Illness Stigma Stereotypes 

There are common stereotypes and kinds of mental stigma, which result in discriminatory behaviors. They include: 

  • Dangerousness: Individuals with mental illness are commonly perceived as being relatively dangerous. 
  • Incompetence: People with mental illness are usually labeled as unable or incompetent. 
  • Permanence: People tend to perceive mental illness as untreatable. 

Mental Illness Stigma Types

The stigma associated with mental illness can be divided into 6 types which are commonly defined by perceptions and internalization, both of which are very real.

Public Stigma

Public stigma refers to a set of negative attitudes and beliefs that motivate individuals to discriminate against people with mental illness.

Social Stigma

Social stigmas are commonly related to people’s culture, gender, race, intelligence, and health. Society tends to place people into specific categories and groups based on certain characteristics, differences, and similarities. These are defined as the prejudiced attitudes that others have around mental illness. When someone has a mental illness they often feel not part of a group, and as a result, feel alienated or discriminated against by society.


A person with a mental health diagnosis becomes aware of the public stigma placed on them, which in turn, the mind is persuaded to internalize these stereotypes, causing one to agree and believe them. 

Structural Stigma

Societal conditions, cultural norms, and institutional practices that constrain the opportunities, resources, and wellbeing. 

Label Avoidance Stigma 

People who engage in label avoidance refrain from associating with individuals and/or facilities that may place them in a group surrounded by stigma. (i.e. mental health providers and treatment facilities/rehab). 

Courtesy Stigma 

When the family and friends of people who have a mental health problem are also discriminated against because they are associated with them. 

The effects of all these different types of stigma surrounding mental health play a huge role in how people with mental illnesses are perceived, but most importantly, how they perceive themselves. 

Harmful Effects of Mental Health Stigma 

The effects that stigma has on people suffering from mental illness and addiction and their friends and family are harmful and extensive. Stigma means one has a lack of understanding, which can make a person feel invalidated, isolated, and shameful. 

Mental illness stigmas can also lead to discrimination, harassment, violence, and bullying. Lastly, as mentioned before, stigma prevents people from seeking help and receiving treatment, which as a result, their symptoms worsen, and become more difficult to treat. 

Causes Of Mental Health Stigma 

There are a variety of causes of mental health stigma. Everyone’s situation with mental illness or co-occurring disorders, meaning addiction as well as mental health, is unique. Therefore, the causes of each person’s stigma will not always be the same as another individual. The main root or source of one’s mental stigmas include:

  • Fear
  • Anxiety 
  • Guilt
  • Lack of understanding
  • Discrimination
  • Neglect 
  • Societal norms
  • Representation of mental illness in mass media 

How To Cope With Mental Health Stigma

While reaching out for help is encouraged, those with co-occurring disorders, especially the mental health side of it, often feel like they can’t ask for help, because they feel ostracized, ashamed, embarrassed, fearful, etc. 

The power of stigma reaches a whole new level when people have mental illness and substance use disorder. Treatment for co-occurring disorders is neither short-term nor straightforward. It depends on the individual and treatment administered. 

These mental illness stigmas make it extremely difficult, as stigma and the discrimination that occurs as a result, do not begin with a request for help, but otherwise is perceived that help is not obtainable or unavailable to them. 

The toughest thing about sobriety is taking that first step, but, Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare is here to tell people that help is available and managing/treating dual diagnosis is possible. 

In general, people can help challenge stigma by speaking up when you hear others around you make negative or wrong comments about mental illness. If you have a mental illness, know that you are definitely not alone. 

We offer educational and supportive resources for people and families affected by mental illness and addiction. It is important to receive treatment to reduce symptoms and have a better quality of life.

At Granite Mountain, our team of highly-qualified addiction specialists prides ourselves in helping our clients learn how to cope with their conditions and the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Tips for coping include the following:

  • Get the mental health treatment you need, don’t let labels stop you. 
  • Try and not believe the myths and stigma behind mental illness. Everyone has problems of their own. It is a sign of weakness and getting help will only help you manage your condition better, and get you on the road to recovery as fast as possible. 
  • Connecting with others and using a support system can help with feelings of isolation and discrimination resulting from stigma, and show you are not alone in your feelings and experiences. 
  • YOU are NOT your illness! Say I have depression not I am depressed. There is a way with words, and they are powerful.  
  • What people say can hurt, but don’t take it personally. It is a reflection of themselves. Remember, sticks and stones. 

Know you are not alone in your fight with mental illness and addiction. The mental illness and addiction specialists at Granite Mountain BHC are here for you every step of the way. Contact us here today to receive help.