Everyone deals with stress differently. And, the last year has been filled with a ton of different emotions – anger, anxiety, stress, sadness. Everyone is looking for a way to relax and just shut everything out. You may find yourself reaching for a drink, lighting up a joint, or taking prescriptions to fall asleep or reduce anxiety.
Many of these reactions may seem normal to deal with stressful situations, emotional pain, or difficult situations. It may seem natural to turn to one of these methods to make yourself feel better but it isn’t healthy. In fact, when these types of responses become normal, they may indicate an issue that goes beyond the stress or pain. These reactions are forms of self-medicating.
What is self-medicating?
Self-medication is a response to tough issues. Self-medication happens when a person turns to prescription drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol to deal with situations they find hurtful, stressful, or emotional. Self-medication, however, can take place without alcohol and drugs; some people develop behavioral addictions, such as gambling, food, and sex. Self-medication can lead to alcohol and drug dependence, which can lead to addiction.
Signs of self-medicating
Harmful self-medicating doesn’t just happen overnight. It usually develops over time, so there are some signs and symptoms to watch out for:
- You “need” your coping mechanism when you feel anxious or stressed.
- You worry about the next time you will be able to access your “stress medication” and make extensive plans for continuous access.
- Your chosen coping mechanism actually makes you feel worse not better.
- You can’t or don’t want to do everyday things without self-medication.
- Loved ones express concern about your behavior.
What to do if you are self-medicating?
Self-medicating is a slippery slope and can lead to dependence on drugs or alcohol, and addiction – it’s important to take steps to get treatment. Therapy can help address the underlying causes of self-medication, drug abuse, and addiction. It can help treat the addiction and help manage mental health issues. If you or someone you know is self-medicating, contact a specialist at Clay Behavioral Health Center sooner, rather than later.