In today’s fast-paced and high-pressure lifestyle- people are bound to get overwhelmed by their lives from time to time. Extreme levels of stress or traumatic events can lead to conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more. Many times people are predisposed to these conditions and suffer from them without any triggers at all. When these emotions and experiences in our lives become too much, all too often people self-medicate to numb their pain instead of seeking professional help. While drugs and alcohol may make you feel better temporarily- they are certain to make things much worse long term. A lot of times people don’t even realize they are self-medicating until they find themselves in a full-blown addiction. To prevent this from happening, or at least stop it in its tracks, it’s important to recognize the signs of self-medication in yourself and those you love. When Your Instinct Is To Reach for Substances It’s common for people to have a drink after a long or tough day, but if you look at your habits, ask yourself if the first thing you want in a stressful situation is an addictive substance. If what you crave to relieve your stress and anxiety is drugs or alcohol, it’s likely you’ve been self-medicating through substances. When your first instinct is to cover up what you’re going through by getting high, it’s a clear sign you don’t know how exactly to handle your emotions. It may feel like you’re dealing with the problem if you’re able to temporarily forget about it while under the influence, but letting these thoughts and feelings go undealt with will only make things worse in the long run. A healthy mindset will make you want to reach for a friend, some time alone to think, or professional help when under extreme stress-not a bottle or a pill. Your Mental and Physical Health is Suffering Initially, drugs and alcohol make you feel better. You feel lighter, happier, and maybe even slightly euphoric. Over time though, substance abuse dangerously worsens both your mental and physical health and in many cases stops giving you the “happy high” you are searching for. If drugs and alcohol no longer make you feel good and you’re only using them to avoid the worse alternatives- you have been abusing substances and should seek help. These kinds of situations are typically what happens when an individual begins to be dependent on a drug, no longer using for pleasure but for necessity. You Panic Without Access to Drugs and Alcohol Drinking and doing drugs can lead to worsening feelings-both mental and physical- but how do you feel when you are sober? Do you panic if you think you can’t use? Do you get irritable, angry, or restless when you go long periods of time without drinking or getting high? People who self-medicate often report feeling this way- they are obsessed with being able to ease or numb how they really feel. Things are Getting Worse, Not Better Everyone deals with stress and trauma in their lives at some point or another- and with strong coping mechanisms and emotional support, things tend to improve naturally and over time. When problems are dealt with head on- only slapped with a drug or alcohol band-aid, they will inevitably just get worse. Those who self-medicate put so much effort into getting their next fix- they neglect other key aspects of their lives and find themselves in a far worse place than before. Areas of your life that will struggle if you’re self-medicating include: Work or school Financial struggles Relationship problems Anxiety, depression and other mental health symptoms Difficulty in finding joy Low self-esteem, confidence Physical health problems Do These Signs Relate to You or a Loved One? Talk to someone. Whether it be a friend, relative or counselor, talking to someone is a step in the right direction. Voice your concern and listen to feedback. Reaching out for help is the first step, the hardest one to take, but it is the most important. Learn to Cope in a Healthy Way. Stressed? Anxious? Overwhelmed at Work? Go for a run, learn something new, clean the house, go to a yoga class or practice meditation. There are many steps you can take that are healthy and beneficial to not just stress, but your quality of life overall. Attempt to moderate your use of substances.If you’ve been self-medicating for some time, you may already have a physical addiction and need to seek treatment by a medical professional or treatment center. Evaluate Underlying Issues. Sometimes generalized feelings of depression or anxiety that lasts for several months or more will lead to substance abuse. Talk with your doctor about any mental health condition you may be experiencing. Recovery Is Possible If you are a loved one is self-medicating through drugs or alcohol, our medically trained staff is ready to help you find your way back to sobriety. We understand how difficult life can get, but we also know that substance is not the answer. Call us today to find out more about how we can give you back your health and the life you deserve.