Mental health is defined as possessing ways of thinking about and perceiving the world that are truthful, conducive to your resilience, and can assist you in leading a productive, happy, and healthful life. Any faulty way of thinking that disrupts your ability to feel in control of your own life, or perceive the world accurately and full of hope is considered an issue for which you can get mental health treatment.
Common mental health issues include depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, mood disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and grief.
Addiction is defined as a compulsive desire to engage in harmful behavior, to the point that you feel powerless to stop or control your actions. Your ability to perceive the world accurately is clouded in a haze of alternately being under the influence of a substance, and then developing an intense craving that can only be satisfied by more use.
Because these addictive behaviors and cravings disrupt your control of your own life, and radically hinder your ability to function, addiction can properly be seen as a mental health disorder. Helping to see things in this way can be a very helpful way to think about your recovery treatment.
Addiction as a disruption of a healthy mental state
At a fundamental level, addiction changes the brain in fundamental ways. A healthy functioning brain operates according to a normal hierarchy of needs and desires. All human beings have a need for water, food, and shelter, for good health, but also for companionship, a sense our days are engaged in purposeful and meaningful work, and secure social networks.
A healthy life can be understood as one lived according to meeting these desires. Addition radically disrupts this natural functioning, because it replaces these multifaceted needs with a singular focus on meeting a craving.
An addicted person will engage in behavior that is both socially disruptive and dangerous or harmful, all for the sake of getting his or her next fix, because the haze of addiction creates a situation where nothing else seems to matter. Addicts behave compulsively, and seem to have no ability to control their impulses despite consequences. In this way, it is very much like other mental illnesses.
Addiction as a mental health disorder
The American Psychiatric Association publishes a book called the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM. Currently in its 5th edition, the DSM is a definitive list of all mental health issues, and represents a consensus view of professional mental health workers' views on mental health issues and treatment.
The DSM-5 classifies drug addiction as a mental disorder, which it called "Substance use disorder," which it places on a continuum from mild to severe. This disorder is characterized by addictive patterns, of seeking out and using a substance at the expense of other responsibilities or concern for your own well-being.
It also is a cyclical pattern, as you develop dependence and tolerance for a drug, you will need to increase your dosage to feel the same effects, thus sinking further into a dangerous addictive pattern.
What treatment for mental health issues can mean for recovery
It may be very easy for a judgmental outsider to view addiction as a simple failure of will power. Frequently, people look down on people they call "junkies" and assume they chose to become addicted to drugs.
Understanding the mental health issues behind addiction can increase your compassion and sense of grace for yourself and others, and recognize that when addiction takes over a person, their true self gets lost. But that is also a hopeful sign that recovery is possible.
Mental health issues can be treated with a variety of methods aimed at correcting your brain activity and thought patterns, and behaviors. So understanding the complexity of addiction as a mental health issue should be taken as a sign that recovery is possible.