We're pleased to introduce our NS Learning Center,which is now up and running! The center includes information on various mental illnesses, common practices to practice self-care,and finally, the treatment tools to treat these illnesses.

Common questions about mental health:

[toggle title="What is mental illness?"]

Just like a person can suffer from a physical illness-- such as a diabetes or heart disease-- they can also suffer from mental illnesses or disorders. Mental illnesses are conditions that “disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning” (NAMI). These disorders can be serious, and especially devastating to the lives of sufferers, leaving them to feel vulnerable and alone. Mental illness is an often misunderstood topic, and many don’t know where to begin. There are several misconceptions about mental illnesses:

1. Mental illnesses are rare and can only happen to certain types of people. Mental illnesses are actually quite common-- it is estimated that 1 in 4 adults will suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in a given year (NIMH). Mental illnesses also don’t discriminate, and can happen to anyone regardless of gender, race, class, or age.

2. People with mental illnesses are “crazy”. This belief is one of the biggest reasons why people who suffer from mental illnesses are afraid to seek help. Labeling them as “crazy” makes it difficult for them to feel as if they are safe to get treatment for fear of it negatively impacting their lives, relationships, or how people view them. Just like physical illnesses, mental illnesses often have biological causes that are out of the person’s control, which can be affected by a number of environmental, genetic, and psychological factors.

3. People with mental illnesses are overreacting, and can just snap out of it. Mental illnesses are incredibly difficult to deal with and can be emotionally draining for everyone involved. If a person believes they have a mental illness, they should be taken seriously, and the appropriate health professionals should be contacted.

4. People with mental illnesses are dangerous and should be avoided. There is no evidence suggesting that people with mental illnesses are inherently more dangerous or violent than those without mental illnesses. In fact, people who suffer from mental illnesses are more likely to be the victims of violence due to fear stemming from misunderstandings about mental illness (NIMH). People with mental illnesses are capable of living long, healthy, fulfilling lives and being productive members of society.

5. Medication is a simple solution to mental illness. Treatment is often complex, and there is no one size fits all approach. Medications focus on treating the symptoms but don’t necessarily fix other issues surrounding a disorder. Many times, doctors will recommend a combination of approaches including medication, therapy, support groups, and certain lifestyle changes to maximize treatment benefits.

One of the most important things to remember is that people who suffer from any kind of mental illness should not be stigmatized-- understanding and compassion are necessary for these individuals to live successful and rewarding lives.


[toggle title="What causes suicide?"]

Suicide is a complex issue and is different in every case. There is no one cause, but there are risk factors that may contribute to thoughts of suicide.

  • Untreated mental illness. Many who contemplate suicide suffer from mental illnesses or disorders that have not been treated, which can be due to the stigma associated with mental illnesses, lack of resources, or both.

  • Age. Although suicide occurs within all age groups, young people and the elderly are at an increased risk.

  • Family history. Like many mental illnesses, the risk of suicide is much higher if a relative or friend has gone through the same thing.

  • Physical disorders or illness or experiencing a traumatic event. Serious health problems or traumatic experiences may contribute to the development of depression or suicidal thoughts.

  • Having previously attempted suicide. About a third of people who attempt suicide try again within a year, and 80% of those who die from suicide have had a previous attempt. Attempts are often a cry for help and should be taken very seriously.

  • Gender. While women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to die from suicide.

[/toggle] [toggle title="How can suicide be prevented?"]

  • Access to health care. There is evidence that adequate access to health care for both mental and physical illnesses can affect suicide rates.

  • Having a strong support system. Supportive friends and family members can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and hopelessness as well as provide people to turn to in times of need.

  • A healthy lifestyle. Exercising, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a healthy diet are just a few ways to improve mood and maintain balance.

  • Effective coping skills. Dealing with suicidal thoughts can be frightening and overwhelming, but finding ways to overcome these feelings in a healthy way is the first step to getting better.

  • Other prevention methods include:

    • Early recognition and treatment for suicidal thoughts or behaviors

    • Access to hotlines and crisis centers

    • Continuing support for those who have survived a suicide attempt

[/toggle] [toggle title="What are the warning signs for suicide?"]

If you believe someone may be having thoughts of suicide, it is important to recognize the warning signs. Even though a person may not show all of the signs, they should still be taken very seriously. The National Institute for Mental Health lists the warning signs for suicide as:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself

  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills or other means

  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person

  • Feeling hopeless

  • Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge

  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities seemingly without thinking

  • Feeling trapped like there's no way out

  • Increasing alcohol or drug use

  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society

  • Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep or sleeping all the time

  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes

  • Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life

[toggle title="Suicide Facts & Statistics"]

  • More than 1,000,000 people die from suicide every year. That is 1.9 deaths every 60 seconds.

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with over 30,000 suicides per year.

  • Even more attempt suicide, and it is estimated that there are 25 attempts for every completed suicide.

Suicide is devastating. It not only affects the person, but also their friends, family, and everyone around them. Some believe that suicide is selfish, but it is often an act of desperation. Those who consider suicide feel like they have no other options or choices and think that suicide is the only solution. They often feel hopeless and are doubtful that things will get better for them. However, there is hope. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  Call 24/7 1-800-273-8255


[toggle title="What are stigmas?"]

Mental illnesses can be difficult to handle. Treatment and recovery requires time, effort, patience, and a lot of understanding and support. Unfortunately, those who suffer from mental illnesses often have to deal with much more than just their illness-- they also often suffer from the effects of stigmas, negative representations or stereotypes that unfairly label people with mental illness. These ideas can be extremely harmful, and are evident in almost every aspect of society, from stigmatizing language in everyday conversation to inaccurate media portrayals of mental illnesses and the people who live with them.


[toggle title="How are stigmas harmful?"]

Stigmas are more than just attitudes or thoughts. There are real world consequences for those suffering from mental illnesses that can affect how they live, how they feel, and their relationships with others. People with mental illnesses are more likely to be harassed and discriminated against in terms of housing and employment, and they are more likely to be socially excluded.

Stigmas perpetuate fear. People often fear what they don’t understand. Most of the time, stigmas stem from misconceptions or confusion about mental illness. Many people assume that mental illnesses make a person dangerous or unfit for society. In fact, mental illnesses have been referred to as “invisible” illnesses because it isn’t obvious whether a person has one or not. Most people with mental illnesses can and do live normal, healthy, and productive lives.

Stigmas can be a barrier to treatment. Even though 1 in 5 people in the U.S. suffer from some type of mental illness or disorder, only a third will seek treatment. Some won’t even discuss their illness with a friend or loved one for fear of losing their support systems. Internalization of stigmatizing ideas can also lead to just as harmful self-stigma, which causes many to feel ashamed and embarrassed about themselves and their illness.


[toggle title="How can you stop stigmas?"]

Get educated. Making an effort to understand mental illnesses and the people they affect is the first step in eliminating stigmas. Recognize that mental illnesses are not personal weaknesses, but are biological disorders.

Be supportive. If a friend or family member approaches you about their mental illness, listen to them. Be there if they need help. Let them know you care and are concerned about their well-being.

Avoid stigmatizing language. Words like “crazy” or "psycho" are very offensive and can do serious damage to people living with mental illnesses. Educate others when you hear stigmatizing language, and explain how their words can be harmful.

Promote awareness. Be an advocate for education about mental illness and changing stereotypes. Support efforts to provide mental health resources and services to those in need. Through your actions, you can make a difference



[toggle title="Pharmaceutical Drugs"] [tabs] [tab title="Depression"] (Def.):" a mood disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty with thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal thoughts or an attempt to commit suicide." (Medline Plus Dictionary)


[tab title="Anxiety"] (Def.)": any of various disorders (as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, a phobia, or generalized anxiety disorder) in which anxiety is a predominant feature—called also anxiety neurosis, anxiety state."(Medlineplus Medical Dictionary)


[tab title="Bi-polar Disorder"] (Def.):"any of several mood disorders characterized usually by alternating episodes of depression and mania or by episodes of depression alternating with mild nonpsychotic excitement."(Medlineplus Medical Dictionary)


[tab title="ADD/ADHD"] (Def.):"Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiogical disorder seen in both children and adults that is comprised of deficits in behavioral inhibition, sustained attention and resistance to distraction, and the regulation of one’s activity level to the demands of a situation." (


[tab title="Schizophrenia"] (Def.):"a psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with the environment, by noticeable deterioration in the level of functioning in everyday life, and by disintegration of personality expressed as disorder of feeling, thought (as in delusions), perception (as in hallucinations), and behavior."(Medlineplus Medical Dictionary)


[tab title="Eating Disorders"] (Def.) :"any of several psychological disorders (as anorexia nervosa or bulimia) characterized by serious disturbances of eating behavior." (Medlineplus Medical Dictionary)


[/tabs] [/toggle]


[toggle title="What is ADD/ADHD?"]

  • ADD: Attention deficit disorder/ ADHD: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (both terms refer to the same disorder)
  • condition that is characterized by problems with paying attention or staying focused, poor impulse control, and hyperactivity or restlessness
  • occurs in children and adults
  • three subtypes:
    • predominantly inattentive
    • predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
    • combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive


[toggle title="What are the signs/symptoms of ADD/ADHD?"]

  • three categories of symptoms
  • Inattention
    • Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another
    • Have difficulty focusing on one thing
    • Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable
    • Have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new
    • Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities
    • Not seem to listen when spoken to
    • Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
    • Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
    • Struggle to follow instructions.
  • Hyperactivity
    • Fidget and squirm in their seats
    • Talk nonstop
    • Dash around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight
    • Have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time
    • Be constantly in motion
    • Have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.
  • Impulsivity
    • Be very impatient
    • Blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences
    • Have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games
    • Often interrupt conversations or others' activities


[toggle title="What are the risk factors for ADD/ADHD?"]

  • family history of ADD/ADHD
  • environmental toxin exposure (ex: lead)
  • premature birth
  • maternal drug/alcohol use during pregnancy
  • maternal exposure to certain environmental toxins


[toggle title="What are treatment options for ADD/ADHD?"]

  • combination of medication and therapy/counseling is the most effective approach
  • therapy and counseling include group and family counseling, as well as behavioral and cognitive therapy
  • medications focus on improving attention and focus, while reducing impulsivity and hyperactivity


Anxiety Disorders

[toggle title="What are anxiety disorders?"]

  • in many situations, anxiety is helpful to us
    • it makes us alert, aware, and provides motivation
  • uncontrollable anxiety, however, is a serious and often debilitating problem that causes sufferers to feel overly anxious for no apparent reason
  • anxiety disorders are different from regular feelings of anxiety and nervousness that is normally felt in anticipation of big or important events
  • there are several types of anxiety disorders
    • generalized anxiety disorder
    • panic disorder
    • obsessive compulsive disorder
    • social anxiety
    • post-traumatic stress disorder


[toggle title="What are signs/symptoms of anxiety disorders?"]

    • GAD
      • persistent, irrational fears
      • difficulty relaxing or calming themselves
      • difficulty concentrating
      • difficulty falling or staying asleep
      • physical symptoms
        • fatigue
        • headaches
        • muscle tension
        • muscle aches
        • difficulty swallowing
        • trembling
        • twitching
        • irritability
        • sweating
        • lightheadedness
        • nausea
        • frequent trips to the bathroom
        • breathlessness
        • hot flashes
    • Panic Disorder
      • Sudden and repeated attacks of fear
      • A feeling of being out of control during a panic attack
      • An intense worry about when the next attack will happen
      • A fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past
      • Physical symptoms during an attack, such as a pounding or racing heart, sweating, breathing problems, weakness or dizziness, feeling hot or a cold chill, tingly or numb hands, chest pain, or stomach pain
    • OCD
      • two categories: obsessions and compulsions
      • Have repeated thoughts or images about many different things, such as fear of germs, dirt, or intruders; acts of violence; hurting loved ones; sexual acts; conflicts with religious beliefs; or being overly tidy
      • Do the same rituals over and over such as washing hands, locking and unlocking doors, counting, keeping unneeded items, or repeating the same steps again and again
      • Can't control the unwanted thoughts and behaviors
      • Don't get pleasure when performing the behaviors or rituals, but get brief relief from the anxiety the thoughts cause
      • Spend at least 1 hour a day on the thoughts and rituals, which cause distress and get in the way of daily life.
    • Social Anxiety
      • Be very anxious about being with other people and have a hard time talking to them, even though they wish they could
      • Be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed
      • Be very afraid that other people will judge them
      • Worry for days or weeks before an event where other people will be
      • Stay away from places where there are other people
      • Have a hard time making friends and keeping friends
      • Blush, sweat, or tremble around other people
      • Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach when with other people
    • PTSD
      • three categories of symptoms
        • re-experiencing symptoms
          • Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
          • Bad dreams
          • Frightening thoughts
          • can be triggered by a variety of things
            • a person’s own feelings/thoughts
            • situations, words, or objects that are reminders of the traumatic event
        • avoidance symptoms
          • Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
          • Feeling emotionally numb
          • Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
          • Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
          • Having trouble remembering the dangerous event
      • hyperarousal symptoms
        • Being easily startled
        • Feeling tense or “on edge”
        • Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts


[toggle title="What are the risk factors for anxiety disorders?"]

      • family history of anxiety
      • stress
      • experiencing a traumatic event
      • having a serious illness
      • drug or alcohol use


[toggle title="What are treatment options for anxiety disorders?"]

      • medication and therapy are the most effective approaches
      • medication does not cure anxiety, but lessens symptoms while patient participates in therapy
      • therapy includes cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy
      • support groups and stress management activities are effective supplemental treatment options


Bipolar Disorder

[toggle title="What is bipolar disorder?"]

  • alternating periods of manic and depressive episodes
  • mania: energetic, euphoric
  • depression: sadness, hopelessness
  • different from normal mood swings
  • mood shifts can occur frequently or infrequently
  • manageable with medication and therapy


[toggle title="What are signs/symptoms of bipolar disorder?"]

    • Manic episodes
      • Mood Changes
        • A long period of feeling "high," or an overly happy or outgoing mood
        • Extreme irritability
      • Behavioral Changes
        • Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts
        • Being easily distracted
        • Increasing activities, such as taking on new projects
        • Being overly restless
        • Sleeping little or not being tired
        • Having an unrealistic belief in one's abilities
        • Behaving impulsively and engaging in pleasurable, high-risk behaviors
      • Depressive episodes
        • Mood Changes
          • An overly long period of feeling sad or hopeless
          • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.
        • Behavioral Changes
          • Feeling tired or "slowed down"
          • Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
          • Being restless or irritable
          • Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits
          • Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide.


[toggle title="What are the risk factors for bipolar disorder?"]

      • family history of bipolar disorder
      • excessive stress
      • excessive drug or alcohol use
      • major life changes or traumatic events
      • comorbidity
        • bipolar disorder can occur together with other disorders or illnesses
          • anxiety disorders
          • ADHD/ADD
          • substance abuse or addiction
          • physical health problems


[toggle title="What are treatment options for bipolar disorder?"]

      • medication, support, and therapy are the most effective treatment methods
      • lifelong treatment is needed, even when people feel “fine”
      • medication
        • combination of antipsychotics and antidepressants
        • anti-anxiety medications
      • psychotherapy
        • group therapy, family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, etc.
      • electroconvulsive therapy
      • transcranial magnetic stimulation



[toggle title="What is depression?"]

  • clinical condition that is different from ordinary feelings of sadness
  • seriously disrupts a person’s thinking or behavior
  • makes it difficult to function on a day-to-day basis
  • include major depression, minor depression, and dysthymic disorder


[toggle title="What are signs/symptoms of depression?"]

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.


[toggle title="What are the risk factors for depression?"]

  • family history of depression
  • having friends with depression
  • previous episode(s) of depression
  • experiencing a traumatic event
  • excessive drug or alcohol use
  • having a serious illness
  • taking certain medications
    • high blood pressure medications
    • corticosteroids
    • benzodiazepines
    • Parkinson’s disease medications
    • hormone-altering drugs
    • anticonvulsants
    • stimulants
    • gastroesophageal reflux disease and gastrointestinal disorder medications
    • cholesterol lowering medications

**talk to your doctor before discontinuing any medications**


[toggle title="What are treatment options for depression?"]

  • several types of antidepressant medications available
  • psychotherapy
  • electroconvulsive therapy
  • hospitalization for severe episodes of depression
  • alternative/supplemental medications/treatments (**should be used with caution and after discussing with doctor)
    • Omega-3 fatty acids
    • folate
    • acupuncture
    • yoga
    • exercise
    • meditation
    • guided imagery
    • massage therapy


Eating Disorders

[toggle title="What are eating disorders?"]

  • extreme thoughts, attitudes, or behaviors about food or weight
  • Includes Anorexia nervosa, Bulimia nervosa, Binge eating,
  • Anorexia nervosa
    • extreme weight loss due to under-eating, fasting, excessive dieting, or excessive exercise
    • intense fear of gaining weight
    • belief that they are overweight even when at a healthy or normal weight
  • Bulimia nervosa
    • cycles of binging and purging
    • binge-eating large amounts of food and then purging to counteract effects of binge-eating
    • unlike anorexia nervosa, those with bulimia nervosa may be at a healthy weight, or even overweight
    • maintain fear of gaining weight
  • Binge-eating
    • excessive eating without purging


[toggle title="What are signs/symptoms of eating disorders?"]

  • Anorexia nervosa
    • Extreme thinness (emaciation)
    • A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight
    • Intense fear of gaining weight
    • Distorted body image, a self-esteem that is heavily influenced by
    • perceptions of body weight and shape, or a denial of the seriousness of low body weight
    • Lack of menstruation among girls and women
    • Extremely restricted eating.
    • other symptoms that can develop over time or with untreated anorexia
      • Thinning of the bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
      • Brittle hair and nails
      • Dry and yellowish skin
      • Growth of fine hair all over the body (lanugo)
      • Mild anemia and muscle wasting and weakness
      • Severe constipation
      • Low blood pressure, slowed breathing and pulse
      • Damage to the structure and function of the heart
      • Brain damage
      • Multiorgan failure
      • Drop in internal body temperature, causing a person to feel cold all the time
      • Lethargy, sluggishness, or feeling tired all the time
      • Infertility
  • Bulimia nervosa
    • similar to anorexia
    • frequent, recurring episodes of eating large amounts of food
    • feeling of no control over food consumption
    • purging behaviors
      • forced vomiting
      • excessive use of laxatives or diuretics
      • fasting
      • excessive exercise
    • other symptoms that develop over time
      • Chronically inflamed and sore throat
      • Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
      • Worn tooth enamel, increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acid
      • Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
      • Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
      • Severe dehydration from purging of fluids
      • Electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium and other minerals) which can lead to heart attack.
  • Binge-eating
    • loss of control over eating habits
    • eating unusually large amounts of food in short periods of time, even when not hungry
    • feelings of guilt, shame, disgust, or depression about eating
    • frequent dieting, with or without weight loss


[toggle title="What are the risk factors for eating disorders?"]

  • family history of eating disorders
  • young women (teens to early 20s) are more likely to report having an eating disorder
  • having certain disorders such as anxiety or depression
  • important life transitions
  • dieting
  • certain activities or careers
    • athletes, dancers, and people who are in the public eye are more at risk for developing an eating disorder due to pressure


[toggle title="What are treatment options for eating disorders?"]

  • psychotherapy
    • individual cognitive-behavioral therapy
    • family therapy
    • group therapy
  • weight restoration and nutrition education
  • hospitalization in severe cases
  • medication for other disorders such as anxiety or depression, or to control urges in binge-eating



[toggle title="What is schizophrenia?"]

  • abnormal interpretation of reality
  • NOT split or multiple personalities
  • trouble distinguishing between real and imaginary
  • experience of sensations that aren’t there
  • contrary to what many believe, people who suffer from schizophrenia are not usually violent
  • they are, however, more likely to have a problems with drug or alcohol use,


[toggle title="What are signs/symptoms of schizophrenia?"]

  • three types of symptoms (positive, negative, cognitive)
  • positive: symptoms not normally seen
    • hallucinations
    • delusions
    • thought disorders
      • disorganized thinking
        • difficulty organizing thoughts and making logical connections
      • thought blocking
        • abruptly stops speaking in the middle of a thought
      • neologisms
        • creating meaningless words
    • movement disorders
      • repetition of motions
      • catatonia
        • unresponsive state
  • negative symptoms: missing or disrupted normal behaviors or thoughts
    • "Flat affect" (a person's face does not move or he or she talks in a dull or monotonous voice)
    • Lack of pleasure in everyday life
    • Lack of ability to begin and sustain planned activities
    • Speaking little, even when forced to interact.
    • cognitive symptoms
    • Poor "executive functioning" (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions)
    • Trouble focusing or paying attention
    • Problems with "working memory" (the ability to use information immediately after learning it).


[toggle title="What are the risk factors for schizophrenia?"]

  • biggest risk factor is genetic history
    • having a family member or sibling with schizophrenia greatly increases predisposition
  • life stressors
    • repeated traumatic or stressful events


[toggle title="What are treatment options for schizophrenia?"]

  • focuses on elimination of symptoms
  • antipsychotic medications
    • typical and atypical
    • typical
      • older, “first generation”
      • harsher side effects, but may be used when patients do not respond to atypical medications
    • atypical
      • newer
      • do not produce side effects as severe as typical antipsychotics
      • more widely prescribed
  • counseling, therapy, rehabilitation


Substance Abuse

[toggle title="What is substance abuse?"]

  • Misuse of any substance that interferes with daily functioning, and (in some cases) is different from its intended use
  • Substances can be either illegal or legal, in the case of prescription or over the counter medications
  • Does not necessarily refer to addiction, but can lead to addiction
    • Not all people who abuse drugs or alcohol will become addicted, though it is
  • Substance abuse can happen for a variety of reasons
    • Experimentation
    • Peer pressure
    • To cope with stress
  • According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the most commonly abused drugs are:
    • Alcohol
    • Tobacco
    • Marijuana
    • Cocaine/Crack
    • Heroin
    • Hallucinogens, such as PCP, Ecstasy, or LSD
    • Inhalants
    • Prescription Medications
    • Methamphetamines
  • It is estimated that 23 million people in the U.S. suffer from problems with drugs or alcohol, but only 10 percent of those received treatment.


[toggle title="What are signs/symptoms of substance abuse?"]

  • Every substance has a unique set of symptoms, but there are some common indicators to look out for.
  • The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependences lists them as:
    • Physical and health warning signs of drug abuse
      • Eyes that are bloodshot or pupils that are smaller or larger than normal.
      • Frequent nosebleeds--could be related to snorted drugs (meth or cocaine).
      • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
      • Seizures without a history of epilepsy.
      • Deterioration in personal grooming or physical appearance.
      • Injuries/accidents and person won’t or can’t tell you how they got hurt.
      • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
      • Shakes, tremors, incoherent or slurred speech, impaired or unstable coordination.
    • Behavioral signs of drug abuse
      • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school; loss of interest in extracurricular activities, hobbies, sports or exercise; decreased motivation.
      • Complaints from co-workers, supervisors, teachers or classmates.
      • Unusual or unexplained need for money or financial problems; borrowing or stealing; missing money or valuables.
      • Silent, withdrawn, engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
      • Sudden change in relationships, friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies.
      • Frequently getting into trouble (arguments, fights, accidents, illegal
      • activities).
    • Psychological warning signs of drug abuse
      • Unexplained change in personality or attitude.
      • Sudden mood changes, irritability, angry outbursts or laughing at nothing.
      • Periods of unusual hyperactivity or agitation.
      • Lack of motivation; inability to focus, appearing lethargic or “spaced out.”
      • Appearing fearful, withdrawn, anxious, or paranoid, with no apparent
      • reason.


[toggle title="What are the risk factors for substance abuse?"]

  • Substance abuse can affect anyone, but there are risk factors that can contribute.
  • Family issues/conflicts
    • Relatives who abuse drugs or alcohol
    • Lack of parental supervision/involvement, in the case of children or adolescents
  • Other mental or physical illnesses/problems
    • Substance abuse often has high comorbidity rates with other disorders unrelated to the abuse
  • Peer Pressure
  • Availability
  • Economic hardship or distress


[toggle title="What are treatment options for substance abuse?"]

  • Treatment for substance abuse varies by substance, person, and whether or not dependency has occured
  • Treatment is often long term and continuous
  • Counseling and therapy that focus on treating all aspects of the abuse are two effective approaches
    • Can include building and/or maintaining support systems
    • Finding effective ways to manage or cope with stress
  • Lifestyle changes that keep focus on recovery and reduce risk of relapse