When you think of unhealthy coping mechanisms, drug and alcohol addiction may come to mind. There’s no doubt that smoking, drinking, and the use of harder drugs like heroin, opioids, or methamphetamine are unhealthy coping mechanisms in their own right, but it’s also true that other types of coping mechanisms can contribute to addiction and mental illness.
Self-medicating with alcohol and other drugs is almost always a response to stress. One common stressor in today’s world is the coronavirus. Worrying about getting sick, worrying about loved ones getting sick, and dealing with all the life changes the virus has created can cause you to turn to an unhealthy coping mechanism, which in turn can lead to an addiction.
The holidays can also lead to self-medicating to deal with stress, as can things like work, family dynamics, bills, and more. If you want to help an addict, or if you want to increase the quality of your life and reduce your own addictive behaviors, it’s important to be aware of these unhealthy coping mechanisms that can lead to anxiety and addiction.
Avoiding Important Issues
We all have important things that are happening in our lives. Facing them head-on can be stressful, but it also contributes to greater mental health. If you avoid dealing with the issue at hand, it’s going to increase the mental effects of stress and worsen your mental state.
Whether your life situation is good or bad, there are always things you can do to work through stress. Even if you can’t fix the entire situation, there are steps you can take. For example, if you are putting off a doctor’s appointment for fear of bad news, your anxiety will only build over time. By confronting the issue, you lessen your dependence on unhealthy coping mechanisms in the long run.
Other important issues that are commonly avoided include relationship problems, bills that are piling up, office politics, and children.
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Better known as retail therapy, emotional overspending can seem like a little guilty pleasure, but it can turn into a big problem. Purchasing things you want can provide you with a high, making it an addiction in and of itself. However, it can also increase your risk of self-medication when the credit card bills start rolling in.
Overspending is great at masking anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges in the short run, but it will catch up to you in the long run. It doesn’t matter if you technically have the money, either. If you’re buying designer clothes instead of saving for retirement or a child’s college fund, that can quickly lead to feelings of guilt. And that guilt can easily translate into an addiction.
Hanging Out with People Who Drink or Use Drugs
Hanging out with the right people can help support mental health and decrease your chances of experiencing problems with alcohol and anxiety, but hanging out with the wrong crowd can have the opposite effect.
If you have friends who always want to meet up at the bar, or if you have friends who frequently use drugs in front of you, you’re going to be more tempted to drink and use yourself. If you’re stressed because of work or family obligations, you might be tempted to hang out with your friends more often, and the more you hang out with them, the more likely you are to develop an addiction.
Working Too Much
Work can be a huge contributor to stress, decreased mental health, and self-medication dangers. You aren’t alone if you feel like you could use a drink every day you come home from the office. But working can also form an unhealthy coping mechanism, where you disappear into your job to avoid dealing with issues in your personal life.
Sometimes, people will take on extra responsibilities at work to avoid responsibilities at home. And this can give a short relief, but it can’t last. As things at home get worse, many people turn to drugs or alcohol as a means to continue avoiding an unpleasant situation. For this reason, throwing yourself into work may seem like a healthy coping strategy, but it’s actually dangerous and could lead to more serious problems down the road.
Not Addressing Your Mental Health
One of the biggest contributors to an addiction is your mental health. Stress can cause all kinds of mental health problems that can include depression, anxiety, psychosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, there’s still a stigma attached to mental illness. Not to mention, accessing mental health services can be difficult or too expensive for many. Either might cause you to avoid addressing the mental health challenges you’re facing.
However, just because you aren’t dealing with your mental health issues doesn’t mean they aren’t affecting your life. Problems can manifest in a number of ways that include relationship problems, professional problems, and experimenting with different types of self-medication.
Whether you’re struggling with current stressors, like the coronavirus or the holidays, or more consistent stressors, like work or relationship problems, The Blackberry Center can help you learn healthy coping mechanisms to deal with life’s challenges so you don’t turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Call us right now at 888-512-9802, or fill out our online form and we’d be happy to tell you more about our addiction treatment and behavioral health programs.
Self-medicating can appear harmless at first, but over time, it can result in dependence on your substance of choice. In addition, it has been associated with the exacerbation of symptoms for some mental illnesses, and it can predispose users to developing mental health issues in the future. If someone with a mental illness self-medicates, then that means they aren’t taking the time to develop healthy coping mechanisms. This can lead to their mental illness worsening and drive them to lean more and more on drugs and alcohol.
Self-medicating with alcohol involves using it as a way to deal with things that are difficult. That might include temporary stressors, like the holidays, a health condition, or a mental illness. Even seemingly “casual” uses like drinking to deal with stress at work are examples of self-medicating with alcohol.
Many people self-medicate as a way to deal with stress. And while it feels good in the moment, it can lead to substance abuse as tolerances develop and you grow used to regularly drinking or using drugs. Self-medicating is also associated with mental illness, as people who experience depression, anxiety, and other disorders are more likely to use drugs and alcohol.
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