When discussing mental health and substance abuse, experts refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The most updated version is called the DSM-5. The DSM-5 provides a set of 11 symptoms that can be used to diagnose a substance use disorder.
But a person does not need to have all of these 11 symptoms in order to meet the criteria for an addiction related to substance abuse. In fact, they only need to meet two of the 11 criteria to qualify for a diagnosis. These two (or more) symptoms must fall within a 12-month period to be considered diagnosable.
Here are the DSM-5’s 11 criteria for a substance abuse disorder:
- Consuming more alcohol or other substance than originally planned
- Worrying about stopping or consistently failed efforts to control one’s use
- Spending a large amount of time using drugs/alcohol, or doing whatever is needed to obtain them
- Use of the substance results in failure to “fulfill major role obligations” such as at home, work, or school.
- Craving the substance (alcohol or drug)
- Continuing the use of a substance despite health problems caused or worsened by it. This can be in the domain of mental health (psychological problems may include depressed mood, sleep disturbance, anxiety, or ‘blackouts’) or physical health.
- Continuing the use of a substance despite its having negative effects on relationships with others (for example, using even though it leads to fights or despite people’s objecting to it).
- Repeated use of the substance in a dangerous situation (for example, when having to operate heavy machinery or when driving a car)
- Giving up or reducing activities in a person’s life because of the drug/alcohol use
- Building up a tolerance to the alcohol or drug. Tolerance is defined by the DSM-5 as “either needing to use noticeably larger amounts over time to get the desired effect or noticing less of an effect over time after repeated use of the same amount.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after stopping use. Withdrawal symptoms typically include, according to the DSM-5: ‘anxiety, irritability, fatigue, nausea/vomiting, hand tremor or seizure in the case of alcohol.
If you can identify any (or many) of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, you’re taking the first step towards defeating denial. Denial plays a powerful role in addiction. It has even been called “the primary roadblock to addiction recovery.”
When you are trapped in a cycle of substance abuse, whether it’s alcohol addiction, drug addiction, or another substance, denial can have a soothing effect. It lulls you into complacency. It promises you that you can stop when you’re ready, that you have it under control, that you’re not, for example, a “real” alcoholic.
The chemical dependency counselors in San Diego can help you overcome the numbing effects of denial and addiction. The Christian counselors in San Diego know that people from all walks of life are susceptible to chemical dependency, and all have the potential for recovery. During substance abuse counseling and treatment, you will find help, support, and freedom from shame and guilt.