What is a “Crisis?”
A crisis refers to a short-term, substantial change in one’s psychological functioning or circumstances. It can feel like one is “having a breakdown,” “losing it,” or “falling apart.” The individual might show drastic changes in their thoughts, mood, or behavior.
Crises are like complete chaos-often coupled with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. During these times, people need support from family, friends, and professional help.
Crises often coincide with alcohol or drug abuse. Deteriorating mental health can lead to substance use, and substance use can negatively impact mental health.
Crisis Centers: Treating Addiction and Mental Health
Note: if you are looking for a crisis center not related to an addiction, such as a crisis center for victims of rape or sexual abuse, domestic violence, or for families, please conduct a search using those specific inquiries. This page is intended for those struggling with an addiction and/or co-occurring mental health problem.
Crisis Centers treat people who are in a psychiatric crisis. Examples include being at suicide risk, falling into a major depression, or experiencing psychotic symptoms (e.g., hearing voices). These symptoms are sometimes associated with drug use.
Crisis centers help people when they feel mentally unstable and unable to properly take care of themselves. However, if someone is at risk for harming themselves or others, a crisis center is not the appropriate facility- they should seek immediate care at a hospital or other inpatient facility.
Treatment at a Crisis Center
Crisis Centers are designed to help you get back on your feet. A team of medical doctors, therapists, and/or social workers are on staff to collaboratively address your needs. They will help you deal with your immediate psychiatric crisis and related drug abuse/addiction.
The following treatment approaches may be involved:
- Detox: Allowing your body to excrete toxins and return to balance.
- Medication: Sometimes medication is helpful for your mental health symptoms and/or addiction.
- Individual therapy: You will likely talk with a counselor/therapist about your mental health concerns and addictive behaviors.
- Group therapy: Group therapy allows you to share your story and struggles with others.
- Educational groups. These might consist of presentations or informational sessions about recovery or social needs (e.g., housing, food stamps, continued care).
- Social services: Staff will sometimes be able to help you with finding services after you leave the crisis center (e.g., sober living homes, outpatient treatment, other rehab centers).
- Faith/alternative-based approaches: Some facilities may incorporate faith and prayer, or meditation, yoga, and other alternative means of healing.
The insight and behavioral skills that you learn during treatment should be extended beyond your crisis center visit. Practice these things in the real world- and talk to friends, family, or another professional about them. You are not perfect and will make mistakes. But just beginning to recognize these patterns- with self-compassion- is a great first step.
The Connection Between Mental Health and Addiction
As many as 42% of people with a drug or alcohol disorder also have a mental health disorder, and around 15% of people with a mental health disorder also have a drug or alcohol disorder.
Examples of Crises
Jenny is an 18 year old female who just graduate high school. She has been living with a friend while looking for a job. Although she “has not wanted to,” Jenny has joined her friend in using cocaine pretty frequently. After a couple of months, Jenny and her friend start using cocaine (and sometimes other drugs) on a daily basis. Jenny, feeling guilty and ashamed, decides to leave her friend’s house. Jenny’s parents don’t want her living in their home and “using,” so Jenny now has nowhere to go. She decides to just “stay on the street” for “only a couple nights,” but ends up staying there weeks and getting involved with even more drugs. She feels lost, confused, ashamed, and hopeless.
Jenny would benefit from receiving care at a crisis center. This would also her to “gather herself,” work on her behavioral patterns, and head in a new direction.
Keith is a 39 year old male who has a well-paying job at sales company. Keith will sometimes go to casinos and gamble on the weekends. During a recent trip to Las Vegas, Keith lost thousands of dollars gambling. He desperately tried to earn it back, but unsuccessfully lost even more money. Ashamed, and afraid to break the news to his wife, he binges on alcohol and ends up in the hospital. This isn’t the first time. Keith feels “stuck,” guilty, and afraid. However, he also has an underlying sense of motivation to change his behavior. Keith decides to that he needs “help” before returning home to his wife and job, and enters a crisis center.
Keith, recognizing that his behaviors are hurting himself and others (i.e., his wife), decided that he needs “help.” This a great first step. A crisis center would allow Keith to stabilize himself and consider making some important behavioral changes.
It is important to recognize that the work does not end once you leave the crisis center. It is ultimately your responsibility to maintain your mental and physical health by remembering, and putting into action, the skills and knowledge you acquire along your path to wellness.