How Does Mental Illness Affect The Brain | AspenRidge

How Does Mental Illness Affect The Brain

How Does Mental Illness Affect The Brain | Aspenridge

Mental illness can be generalized and sometimes even dismissed. There’s a long-standing stigma surrounding mental health with many dismissing them as a sign of weakness, instability, or moral failing. Stigmatizing mental illnesses can be detrimental for individuals and may prevent many from seeking the help they need. Spreading awareness around mental health can help us to understand treatable conditions. How does mental illness affect the brain?

Having a strong support network is important for people who suffer from a mental illness. Understanding the effects of mental illness on the brain, families and loved ones can provide more safe spaces to discuss impacts and solutions.

This article will explore how does mental illness affect the brain and how mental health can easily be linked to other disorders. If you or someone you love is suffering, Contact us today to learn more about our mental health and substance abuse treatment. Contact AspenRidge Recovery today at 855-281-5588.

How Does Mental Illness Affect The Brain

What Is A Mental Illness?

Mental illnesses refer to disorders and illnesses that can affect your mental health. A person’s behavior, mood, and the way that a person thinks can be affected by mental health, so it is important that support is in place.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mental illness is among the most common health conditions in the United States. In fact, more than 50% of U.S. adults will need mental health treatment at some point. Additionally, 1 in 25 Americans is currently living with a serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or major depression.

Mental health can impact health in a number of areas including:

  • Emotional
  • Psychological
  • Social

It can affect how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Additionally, mental illness has been linked to other conditions such as physical health problems like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Over time, mental illnesses, especially if left untreated, can cause a person to turn to self-medication or substance abuse in search of relief.

Common Types Of Mental Illness

The way that mental illnesses present themselves can be different for each individual, but there are some very common mental illnesses that lots of people find themselves suffering from. Some people with certain mental illnesses may experience mild symptoms and some may experience strong symptoms, it can be different for everyone.


The most common mental illness in the U.S., currently affecting 40 million adults 18 and older, are anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders present themselves in different ways, such as affecting social situations and struggling to form relationships with others. Suffering from stress can lead to the individual experiencing anxiety. Support is available in the form of therapy and support networks. It’s important to note that anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Also known as OCD, the obsessive-compulsive disorder affects people in different ways, but it mainly makes people obsess over certain behaviors. Experiencing OCD can lead to the individual feeling like the disorder takes over their whole life, and behavior support is available to help people cope with taking control of these behaviors.

Obsessive compulsive disorder often co-occurs with alcohol and drug addiction. Coping with OCD can be exhausting, leading many to seek self-medication. Repeat abuse can result in a full blown addiction over time.


Another extremely common mental illness, depression affects millions of people. Depression can come in many forms, such as feelings of loneliness, difficulty sleeping, and no motivation to go outside. Depression can sometimes lead to people turning to substance abuse to cope with the feelings that they experience from having depression.

Depression is common among those battling substance abuse issues. For those struggling with depression who feel there is no end in sight, drugs and alcohol may sometimes appear to be an easy solution to their problems. Learn more about the 5 symptoms of depression and how it’s closely linked with addiction.

AspenRidge Addressing Drugs And Mental Health

How Does Mental Illness Affect The Brain & Other Functions?

The brain is responsible for decisions as they revolve around how we behave, feel, and think. With chemical changes happening in the brain, a person may be unable to control impulses or find coping mechanisms that are not detrimental to health and wellbeing. Neurotransmitters are the brain’s signals that are most impacted by mental illnesses. When left untreated, imbalances, drops in levels, and other brain function issues can increase severity of symptoms for those suffering from mental illness.

There are common neurotransmitters that are affected by mental illnesses. For example, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects a person’s mood. When someone is experiencing depression, the serotonin levels may need to be addressed.

How Do Certain Mental Illnesses Affect The Brain and Addiction?

Mental disorders, we know, can impact a person’s mood, behavior, and psychology. What happens in the brain, however, is still important to understand. Each of these common mental illnesses carries greater impact. Here’s what you should know:

  • Depression:

Studies show that people suffering from clinical depression tend to have shrinkage in certain regions of the brain. Depression can effectively impact a person’s prefrontal cortex, responsible for helping to regulate and generate emotions, particularly social emotions. It helps to correct behavioral or emotional responses. It can also impact the hippocampus inside the brain, resulting in memory loss and an increased difficulty in concentration. Completing familiar tasks becomes difficult, which can lead to feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and even anxiety.

  • Anxiety:

When you’re anxious, your body is under a lot of stress. Stress shrinks the hippocampus, the part of the brain that processes long-term and contextual memory. Anxiety can effectively rewire your brain to remember failure, threat, and danger. Happier memories, like success, achievement, and safety are nearly forgotten.

The way that neurotransmitters can lead to a person experiencing mental illness is due to how the neurotransmitters are present or how they are absent. It isn’t entirely known what the link between mental illness and neurotransmitters is, but there is ongoing research to determine how mental illnesses affect the brain and how they are caused.

Can Mental Illness Cause Brain Damage?

There is a link between mental illness and substance abuse as people who suffer from a mental illness can turn to substances to help them cope, making them more prone to brain damage. The use of psychoactive drugs can further affect a person’s mental health, especially if they are experiencing substance intoxication delirium.

Substance intoxication delirium is when a person has a change in behavior after using a substance. This behavior can include increased anxiety and difficulty to concentrate, which can have a long-term effect on a person’s health.

If an individual already suffering from a mental illness uses substances for temporary relief, they could develop another mental illness. If the individual then experiences substance intoxication delirium, this could have a long-term effect on their mental health and cause them to experience more severe symptoms.

When an individual suffers from alcohol use disorder, there are effects on the brain, but the brain is affected even if the person does not suffer from alcohol use disorder. The signs of how the brain is affected are shown in how drunk the person is, by showing how their reactions have changed since drinking.

Continuous substance abuse can increase negative thoughts in an individual. For example, suicidal thoughts and feelings of anxiety can increase. Typically, the temporary relief experienced when first using drugs and alcohol dissipates, which can ultimately exacerbate underlying symptoms of mental illness.

How Do Certain Mental Illnesses Affect The Brain And Addiction

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

When an individual is suffering from mental illnesses and substance abuse, it is important that they undergo dual diagnosis treatment as they are linked so closely. AspenRidge offers dual diagnosis programs that aim to support people suffering from mental illnesses and substance abuse by offering them extensive support.

The support that AspenRidge offers helps to identify underlying mental health issues that an individual is suffering from to prevent them from relapsing. The support can consist of individual therapy, group therapy, and outpatient programs. There is also a family program that can strengthen the support network for clients.

AspenRidge: Addressing Drugs and Mental Health

How does mental illness affect the brain? The neurotransmitters are affected, causing behavior, mood, and feelings to be altered, but there is ongoing research into how mental illnesses are formed. Reality shows a stark contrast among the mentally ill population suffering from comorbid disorders like addiction, compared with others that are able to find it easier to cope or overcome alcohol and substance abuse.

Drugs and mental health are very closely linked as someone who is suffering from a mental illness can turn to substance use for relief. Dual diagnosis treatment at AspenRidge can identify mental illnesses that a person is suffering from to prevent relapse and help to support the client through a difficult time. Contact us today to learn more about our addiction brain disorder treatment programs at 855-281-5588.

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