Is Addiction a Mental Illness?

Anybody who has experience with addiction knows just how harmful it can be. A person’s good health is jeopardized, they may lose their job, and their relationships may be damaged in repair. To make things worse, if a person continues down the path of addiction, they could end up in prison. There is help available at rehab centers like I’m All In Solutions, but not every addict has access to this type of help. Many in the medical, psychological, and even political fields have been wondering whether we’ve been looking at addiction the wrong way, and whether it should actually be classified as a mental illness. This is an interesting question that could have profound implications.

What Is Mental Illness?

A mental illness is a psychological state of someone who has emotional or behavioral problems. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, in order for something to be classified as a mental illness, it must interfere with an individual’s ability to perform their regular daily routine (eating, working, spending time with family, etc.). Because addiction changes the way the brain functions, by this definition it is considered a mental illness. Both drug abuse and drug dependence are included in the DSM, though many still doubt their status as a legitimate mental illness.

Types of Addiction

With the inclusion of drug abuse and dependence in the DSM, many have pushed for the inclusion of other types of addictions. Gambling, sex, pornography, and even video game addiction have been argued as legitimate mental illnesses that require intervention. Even though none of these types of addictions involve foreign substances directly affecting brain chemistry, people experiencing them often display the same behavioral traits of a substance addict and may even have withdrawal symptoms.


So why does it matter whether addiction is classified as a mental illness or not if the results are the same? Because the way we treat addicted individuals might change. Instead of treating addicts like criminals and locking them in prison without the help they need, we might instead send them to places like I’m All In Solutions for rehabilitation. As attitudes change, so will treatment and laws.

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