When people are faced with stress or depression, they may often turn to self-medicating as a way to cope. This can take many forms, from using alcohol or drugs to numbing oneself emotionally.
Self-medicating can provide temporary relief from the symptoms of stress or depression, but it is not a long-term solution. Additionally, self-medicating can lead to further problems, such as addiction or an escalation of the original problem. So, in this article, we’ll study the act of self-medicating to deal with stress.
If you find yourself turning to self-medicating, it is important to seek professional help. A therapist can provide you with the tools you need to deal with stress and depression in a healthy way.
What Is Self-Medicating, How is it Dangerous?
Self-medicating is the process of treating oneself for physical or mental illnesses without the guidance or supervision of a medical professional. People often turn to self-medication as a way to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression.
While self-medicating can provide some temporary relief, it is not a sustainable or healthy solution in the long term. There are several dangers associated with self-medicating, including:
- Misdiagnosis: Without the help of a doctor or other medical professional, it can be difficult to accurately diagnose the root cause of one’s symptoms. This can lead to people self-medicating for conditions that they don’t actually have, which can worsen their symptoms and lead to other health problems.
- Worsening of symptoms: Without professional guidance, it is also easy to inaccurately treat symptoms, which can actually make them worse. For example, using too much of a medication or using it for too long can cause adverse side effects.
- Dependence: People who self-medicate are also at risk of developing dependencies on the substances they are using to cope. This can lead to further health complications and make it even more difficult to manage one’s symptoms in a healthy way.
Overall, self-medicating is a risky behavior that can lead to further health problems down the road. If you are struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression, it is important to seek professional help so that you can develop a healthy and sustainable plan for managing your symptoms.
5 Lethal Forms of Self-Medicating To Be Aware Of
There are many different ways that people self-medicate in order to deal with difficult emotions or situations. Some of the most common forms of self-medicating include:
- Alcohol and drug use: Using alcohol or drugs is a way to numb oneself from difficult emotions or situations. It can provide temporary relief from problems but ultimately leads to more difficulties down the road.
- Overeating: Overeating can be a way to comfort oneself when feeling stressed, anxious, or lonely. It can provide a temporary sense of fullness and satisfaction, but can ultimately lead to weight gain and health problems.
- Compulsive spending: some people turn to shopping as a way to make themselves feel better. The temporary high from buying new things can be addictive, leading to debt and financial problems.
- Risky behavior: engaging in risky behaviors, such as driving recklessly or having unprotected sex, can be a way to numb oneself from pain or anxiety. It can provide a sense of thrill or excitement, but can also lead to serious injury or death.
- Self-harm: some people engage in self-harm, such as cutting or burning themselves, as a way to release pent-up emotion or pain. This form of self-medication can provide temporary relief, but can also lead to further emotional difficulties and physical scars.
5 Threatening Signs of Self-Medicating To Be Apprehensive Of
Many people self-medicate without even realizing it. Here are five common signs that you may be self-medicating:
- You always have a drink in hand. Whether it’s a glass of wine at dinner or a couple of beers while watching the game, you always seem to have alcohol within reach. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a drink now and then, constant drinking can be a sign that you’re using alcohol to cope with stress or other emotional issues.
- You smoke cigarettes, even though you know they’re bad for you. If you find yourself smoking more cigarettes than usual, it could be a sign that you’re using nicotine to help you relax or cope with anxiety.
- You’re relying on caffeine to get through the day. If you can’t start your day without coffee or energy drinks, it may be a sign that you’re using caffeine to self-medicate. Caffeine can be addictive and can lead to anxiety and sleep problems if used in excess.
- You’re always angry or quick to anger. If you find yourself getting angry more easily than usual, it could be a sign that you’re using anger as a way to avoid dealing with other emotions, such as sadness or fear.
- You’re using food as a way to cope with emotions. Emotional eating is a common form of self-medication. If you find yourself overeating or indulging in unhealthy foods more often than usual, it may be a sign that you’re using food to cope with stress or other negative emotions.
5 Major Causes of Self- Medicating To Deal With Stress
People self-medicate for different reasons. Some people do it because they’re trying to cope with stress, while others do it because they’re trying to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Here are five of the most common reasons people self-medicate:
1. To Cope With Stress
When people are under a lot of stress, they may turn to substances in order to help them cope. For example, someone who is dealing with a stressful job may start drinking alcohol in order to relax. Or, someone who is going through a difficult life event may start using drugs in order to numb the pain.
2. To Avoid Withdrawal Symptoms
When people are addicted to substances, they may self-medicate in order to avoid the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that occur when they try to quit. For example, someone who is addicted to heroin may use methadone in order to avoid the severe withdrawal symptoms that occur when they stop using heroin.
3. To Self-Treat a Mental Health Condition
Some people self-medicate in order to treat their own mental health conditions. For example, someone who is depressed may start taking antidepressants without being prescribed them by a doctor. Or, someone who has anxiety may start smoking marijuana in order to calm their nerves.
4. To Get a High
Some people use substances solely for the purpose of getting high. For example, someone may use cocaine or methamphetamine in order to experience the euphoric effects of these drugs.
5. To Save Money
Some people self-medicate because it is cheaper than seeing a doctor or buying prescription medications. For example, someone with anxiety may start taking over-the-counter medications instead of seeing a therapist or psychiatrist.
Addiction vs Self-Medication And How they Are Related?
There is a lot of confusion when it comes to the difference between addiction and self-medication. Although they are both similar in some ways, there are also key differences that set them apart. Here is a closer look at addiction vs self-medication and how they are related:
- Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.
- People with addiction may feel unable to control their drug use and continue using despite negative consequences, such as job loss or relationship problems.
- Addiction is a complex disease that involves changes in the brain, as well as social, environmental, and genetic factors.
- Self-medication is the use of drugs or alcohol to cope with emotional or psychological distress.
- People who self-medicate are often trying to numb negative feelings or escape from difficult situations.
- Self-medication can lead to addiction if the person is not able to control their drug use.
As you can see, addiction and self-medication are similar in that they both involve using drugs or alcohol to cope with negative emotions. However, there are also key differences between the two.
Addiction is a chronic disease that involves changes in the brain, while self-medication is simply the act of using drugs or alcohol to cope with emotional distress. Additionally, people who self-medicate are often able to control their drug use, while people with addiction are not.
If left untreated, self-medication can lead to addiction. Therefore, it’s important to seek help if you find yourself relying on drugs or alcohol to cope with your emotions.
How To Stop The Injurious Self-Medicating with Drugs and Alcohol?
Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol is a common problem. People often turn to substances as a way to cope with stress, anxiety, and other difficult emotions. While self-medicating can provide short-term relief, it can also lead to long-term problems.
If you are struggling with self-medicating, there are a few things you can do to stop.
- Identify your triggers. What are the things that lead you to self-medicate? Are you trying to numb yourself from emotional pain? Are you coping with boredom or loneliness? Once you know what your triggers are, you can start to address them in a healthy way.
- Talk to someone you trust. It can be difficult to confront your addiction, but talking to someone who cares about you can make a big difference. This person can offer support and guidance as you work to overcome your addiction.
- Seek professional help. Sometimes, self-medicating is a sign of underlying mental health issues. If this is the case, professional help can be vital in addressing both the addiction and the underlying issue.
- Join a support group. There are many groups available for people struggling with addiction. These groups can provide much-needed support and understanding as you work to recover.
- Take it one day at a time. Recovery is a process, and it takes time. Be patient with yourself and focus on taking it one day at a time.
How to Help Someone Who is Self-Medicating To Deal With Stress?
It can be difficult to know how to help someone who is self-medicating. People often turn to substances like alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with difficult emotions or situations.
If you think someone you know is self-medicating, there are a few things you can do to help them.
- Talk to the person about your concerns. It’s important to have an open and honest conversation. Be prepared to listen and offer support.
- Help the person find a doctor or mental health professional. If the person is willing to seek help, you can assist in finding a qualified provider.
- Encourage healthy coping mechanisms. Suggest healthy ways to cope with stress, such as exercise, journaling, or talking to friends and family.
- Avoid enabling behavior. It’s important not to enable the person’s self-destructive behavior. This means not providing them with alcohol or drugs, or otherwise enabling their addiction.
- Offer emotional support. Be a shoulder to cry on, and offer words of encouragement. Let the person know that you care and are here for them.
While self-medicating may provide temporary relief from stress and depression, it is not a sustainable or healthy solution in the long term. Over time, self-medicating can lead to tolerance, meaning that higher doses are needed to achieve the same effect.
This can lead to addiction, physical dependence, and a host of other health problems. Moreover, self-medicating does nothing to address the underlying causes of stress and depression.
As a result, it is important to seek out professional help if you are struggling with these conditions. With the right treatment, it is possible to manage stress and depression in a healthy and sustainable way.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is self-medicating?
Self-medicating is the practice of using over-the-counter, prescription, or illicit drugs to treat mental health symptoms without the guidance of a medical professional.
It can also refer to people who use alcohol or other substances in an attempt to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, or other emotional distress.
What are the risks associated with self-medication?
Self-medicating carries a number of risks including developing a physical dependence on the substance being used, worsening any underlying emotional issues due to masking symptoms rather than treating them, and even increasing the risk of suicide.
Furthermore, there may be unknown interactions between medications taken for other medical conditions and those that are used for self-medication.
It is also possible to experience adverse reactions from taking medications that have not been prescribed by a physician. In some cases, self-medication can lead to serious physical illness or even death.
Is it OK to self-medicate?
No, it is not OK to self-medicate. Self-medication can be dangerous and can lead to serious complications if the wrong drug or dosage is taken. It is important to always consult a physician or healthcare provider before taking any medication, even over-the-counter drugs.
This ensures that the correct dose and type of medication is taken, as well as avoiding any potential interactions between medications.
Additionally, self-medicating without a proper health assessment can mask more serious underlying medical issues that require professional care. Therefore, it is always best to consult a doctor before taking any medication.
Do people with anxiety self-medicate?
Yes, people with anxiety can sometimes self-medicate with alcohol and drugs to try to relieve their symptoms. This type of self-medication is dangerous and can lead to addiction or other health problems.
Additionally, the effects of these substances may only provide temporary relief from anxiety without addressing the underlying cause. Therefore, it is always best for individuals to seek professional help from a mental health professional if they are struggling with anxiety.
A qualified therapist can provide evidence-based treatments that have been proven to be effective in managing symptoms of anxiety.
What are the reasons for people self-medicating?
1. To avoid or delay seeing a doctor
2. To save money
3. To get immediate relief from symptoms
4. Lack of access to healthcare services or insurance
5. Belief that the medication will be safer than prescription drugs
6. Social pressure to find a quick fix for their problem
7. Self-diagnosing without proper medical guidance
8. Easier access to over-the-counter medications than prescriptions drugs
9. To cope with stress or emotional issues
10. To self-treat mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
How can I control my anxiety without medication?
1. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine
2. Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques
3. Exercise regularly to reduce stress levels
4. Get outside in nature to boost mood and energy levels
5. Eat a healthy, balanced diet
6. Connect with friends and loved ones for support
7. Take time for yourself to relax and do something enjoyable
8. Make sure you get enough sleep each night
9. Consider talking to a mental health professional such as a therapist or counselor
10. Practice positive self-talk and focus on the good in life.
What are self-medicating behaviors?
1. Taking an over-the-counter medication without consulting a doctor
2. Using alcohol or drugs to cope with stress, anxiety, depression or other emotional issues
3. Taking higher doses of prescription medications than recommended by a physician
4. Relying on self-diagnosis and treatments without proper medical guidance
5. Delaying or avoiding medical treatment for fear of the costs or side effects
6. Using medication to improve performance in work, school, sports, or other activities
7. Sharing prescription medications with friends or family members
8. Taking non-prescription drugs that have not been approved for use in your country
9. Purchasing medications online without a prescription
10. Taking dietary supplements or herbal remedies without consulting a doctor.
Is self-medicating the same as addiction?
No, self-medicating is not the same as addiction. Self-medicating may lead to addiction if it is done in an unhealthy manner, such as taking more medication than prescribed or using substances to cope with emotional issues.
Addiction is a chronic disorder that involves the compulsive use of substances and behavioral patterns. It can have serious health consequences, including physical and psychological dependence.
If you think you may be struggling with addiction, it is important to seek professional help from a qualified healthcare provider.
Why do many people prefer self-medication?
1. To avoid or delay seeing a doctor
2. Because they believe the medication will be safer than prescriptions drugs
3. To save money and time on medical visits
4. Easier access to over-the-counter medications than prescription drugs
5. Social pressure to find a quick fix for their problem
6. Lack of access to healthcare services or insurance
7. To get immediate relief from symptoms
8. To cope with stress or emotional issues
9. Belief that self-diagnosing is accurate and effective
10. Self-treating mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety without professional help.
Are there alternative ways to help manage stress?
Yes! In addition to seeking help from a trained doctor or mental health professional, there are several lifestyle changes that may help reduce stress levels such as exercising regularly; getting enough sleep; eating a healthy diet.
Others include making time for your hobbies and interests; practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness; limiting caffeine intake; engaging in stress management activities such as yoga or tai chi, and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption.
Talk therapy has also been found to be effective at reducing stress levels and helping individuals understand their emotions better.
Laura Feagans Gould, Andrea M. Hussong, and Matthew A. Hersh ( Dec 17, 2013). Emotional Distress May Increase the Risk of Self-Medication and Lower the Risk of Mood-related Drinking Consequences in Adolescents. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3865427/
Sarah Turner, 1 Natalie Mota, 2 James Bolton, 3 and Jitender Sareen. (July 12, 2018). Self‐medication with alcohol or drugs for mood and anxiety disorders: A narrative review of the epidemiological literature. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6175215/
Lorraine Cousin (May 24, 2022). Perceived stigma, substance use and self-medication in night-shift healthcare workers: a qualitative study. https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12913-022-08018-x