Self-Medicating for Anxiety Myths and Facts
When it comes to anxiety, it is important to separate the myths from the facts. There are plenty of anxiety myths we believe to help cope with our symptoms but many of us run into trouble when the myths we believe are simply not true. Perhaps one of the most common and dangerous anxiety myths is that self-medicating can help us get through an anxiety-provoking situation.
While the myth says that a drink or two might curb your anxiety in a social situation, the facts show that self-medicating produces only a short-term effect that leads us to avoid the actual source of our anxiety. The simple truth is that self-medicating with alcohol, marijuana or even cigarettes is an avoidance behavior that can cause more mental and physical health problems than it aims to correct.
Self-Medicating for Anxiety at a Glance
Most of us living with an anxiety disorder understand the appeal of using alcohol, drugs or cigarettes to get through difficult moments. Whether we are looking to manage social anxiety or real, emotional pain, it is easy to fall victim to the belief that a few drinks or maybe some marijuana can safely take the edge off. The concept of self-medicating is really quite simple.
First, we experience a down mood or anxious feeling. When anxiety, depression and other common symptoms of an anxiety disorder hang around for too long, we often find ourselves unable to manage them. A couple of drinks suddenly make us feel lighter, more confident, less self-conscious and better able to cope with our feelings. Before we know it, anxiety, worry and depression seem to fade away.
When Self-Medicating for Anxiety Turns to Dependency
Unfortunately, the problems that follow the short-lived benefits of self-medicating are harder to notice. One of the most common problems is that we slowly but surely begin to depend on substances to cope with anxiety.
Essentially, we develop a “solution” for our anxiety without ever learning how to cope with it on our own. We remove our inner ability to manage anxiety and replace it with a quick fix. If you have an anxiety disorder, then a dependency on alcohol, marijuana or other substances can not only keep you from addressing and resolving the actual problem but also take you further away from finding your own inner ability to cope with your anxiety symptoms. In the end, there is one very important concept that people with an anxiety disorder need to understand about self-medicating.
Particularly in people with social anxiety, alcohol, marijuana and other substances fulfills our desire to hide or mask our embarrassing or otherwise uncomfortable feelings (How to Avoid Feeling Socially Awkward). The problem people with an anxiety disorder who self-medicate often face is a deepened dependency to use such substances. We easily get hooked on the idea of self-medicating and turn to it more often. When dependency deepens, so does our anxiety about the dependency. We essentially develop another behavior to hide.
The perpetual cycle of dependency creates increased anxiety, growing shame and a greater distance between you and your ability to rely on your own inner devices to cope with and manage anxiety and depression.
Finding Healthier Alternatives to Self-Medicating for Anxiety
The first step to overcoming anxiety is debunking the myths and understanding the facts. Hopefully, a clearer picture on the perpetual cycle of self-medicating as it relates to alcohol, substance abuse and dependence will lead you to turn to more healthy treatment methods such as exercise, healthy diet, regular sleep and perhaps cognitive behavioral therapy.
In the meantime, please feel free to share your own personal experiences or beliefs about the concept of self-medicating to cope with anxiety. Do you find that self-medicating makes it more difficult for you to manage anxiety in the long run? Also, what are some of the most successful treatment methods you use instead of self-medicating to cope with and manage anxiety?
D'Aconti, A. (2013, November 6). Self-Medicating for Anxiety Myths and Facts, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, May 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2013/11/the-myths-and-facts-on-self-medicating-for-anxiety
Author: Anthony D'Aconti
I think the biggest myth out there that needs to be busted is that marijuana is not dangerous. Anything that is a mind altering substance and not prescribed and monitored by a physician is not to be accepted as an acceptable item for self medication. I eventually ended up using heroin, and I'm not saying everyone will go down that road. The place I went for recovery was just getting started in a way, and establishing guidelines. I had to take a medicine called Subutex to get off heroin. Eventually I got off that as well after a year, but everyone else that goes their is still on the medicine or left because they did not like the rules. I'm talking about over 100 people, and they think I'm special or something. One of the rules that changed after a time was that you could no long have marijuana on your drug tests anymore. People argued that not an addictive drug and it was doing no harm. To me it had held me back to the point where I was still at the mind frame of a 19 year old at the age of 34.
With the help of the psychiatrist at the establishment that helped me to get clean and my psychologist I am now in the best shape mentally I have ever been. I know I will have to take certain medication for the rest of my life to stay this way most likely and it's been a long road. I know it all started because I was unsure and always crying and just beginning to feel the effects of Emotional Regulation Disorder and trying to cope on my own. I feel good now, really good, and happy. I have had to adjust my medications with my doctors a lot because I hate feeling like a zombie. I don't want to go back, but I can't say never because that is something you don't do either. Self medicating is just not safe. Why do people have the idea that marijuana is OK and not addicting? I guess I used to feel the same way. No mind altering substances!
Thank you for sharing your story. I believe that many people are going to find this helpful and inspiring. Carry on!
Life circumstances can contribute greatly to depression and anxiety. You are wise to want to share with someone. Talking, and having someone listen, is a powerful way to heal and figure out ways to take charge of your situation. Have you considered seeing a therapist? Therapy can be very effective in sorting things out and overcoming depression. Therapists can also help you decide where to start and what to cover. It might be something you want to consider. I do know that you can overcome this depression even if it's not easy!
What you describe can indeed be part of anxiety and depression. However, especially if these symptoms are new or have never been addressed before, it's important to see a doctor so he/she can rule out anything else that could cause these symptoms. Then working with a therapist to cope with grief, anxiety, and depression can be very helpful.
The only thing that's worked for me other than using drugs is to go to therapy, belong to some kind of supportive community of people who understand anxiety, develop myself spiritually, eat well and exercise. And helping others recover from anxiety helps me manage mine better too.