Using substances to change your mood, handle stress, or deal with painful emotions is a common coping mechanism among men. Sometimes, you might not be aware that you are using substances to cope and, therefore, develop a severe addiction. When this occurs, you risk developing other mental and substance use disorders that can create lasting effects on your overall health.
Continuing on such a path, you stand to deepen your addiction and thus require a higher dose each time you need to self-medicate. Such behavior can lead to a severe or even fatal outcome. Therefore, it is essential to recognize the onset of using substances to self-medicate and address these behaviors before they worsen. Let’s look at what self-medicating is, how to spot the signs and how to manage your stress and anxiety in healthier ways.
What Is Self-Medicating?
Amid navigating a pandemic and likely having your life transformed, your stress and anxiety might be at an all-time high. Given that you might be living with more stress, anxiety, and grief than you can handle, you might have slowly implemented substance use into your daily regimen to help you cope. It could have begun as having a drink each night to help you unwind or settle your anxiety.
When you use drugs or alcohol in this way, you are self-medicating. You might realize that you have an underlying mental health problem, but don’t know healthier coping methods. Therefore, regularly using substances, drugs, or alcohol to numb any grief, stress, or anxiety can become very harmful to your mental and physical health.
Signs You Are Self-Medicating
It is not always easy to identify the source behind self-medicating. Men have a difficult time expressing emotions, which often leads to drug and alcohol use to cope. If you are partaking in substances like alcohol or marijuana that are more socially acceptable, you might not realize you are self-medicating to get by.
Understanding why you are self-medicating takes examining your motives. For example, do you use pain killers to manage pain or stress? Do you drink to be sociable, or are you trying to improve your mood? Having a better understanding of your motives helps you address the root of why you are using. Other signs that you may be self-medicating include:
- Using alcohol or drugs when you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed. While many people have used substances to cope with bad news, regularly drinking or using drugs is a strong indicator that you are self-medicating.
- Drugs and alcohol make you feel worse. Substances are only a temporary fix. Once the numbing effect of substances wears off, you are likely to feel even worse. Self-medicating can interfere with sleep, energy and weaken your immune system. Your mood and emotional wellbeing will also suffer and therefore lead to increased use.
- If you worry about coping with a situation without access to drugs or alcohol, you are likely developing a dependency. Further, if you become anxious when your prescription runs out, this could also be a sign of dependence.
Recognizing Your Patterns of Substance Use
To find healthy and effective ways of managing your problems and emotions, you need to recognize how you are self-medicating. Such recognition takes being honest with yourself and those closest to you who have your best interest at heart. However, whether you are drinking, using drugs, or both, it might be common to rationalize your substance use.
You might try to shift all the blame for your troubles to external causes such as the pandemic. Such behavior is not conducive to helping you overcome your substance use and improve your health. Here are a couple of ways to address your use and motivate yourself to help manage it:
- Find the connection between your substance use and moods by tracking them. Keeping a journal or notepad that records your feelings and when you have the impulse to use can help you uncover the root of your stress and anxiety.
- Limit the frequency you use substances. Are you able to avoid using substances on some days? Make a note of how you feel these days. Do you feel less or more stressed, anxious, or depressed when you don’t use it? Limiting your use can help reveal the severity of any developing dependency and usually indicates that it is time to seek help.
Seek Healthier Ways to Cope
It can become too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you are powerless and have no control over your problems. There are always ways to change how you feel and improve your symptoms no matter what you are facing. To do so usually involves both professional help and tools that you can use in your own life to manage and cope. You might respond well by using the following examples to manage your stress, anxiety, and depression in healthier ways.
- Seek professional and familial support
- Get more exercise
- Adopt a relaxation practice such as yoga or mindfulness
- Improve sleep
- Cultivate healthier nutrition
The onset of an addiction can occur fast and unknowingly. Therefore, it is essential to monitor any changes in your behavioral patterns and address them should you notice that you are using substances more frequently or isolating yourself from others. At Choice House, we offer a space designed to help men identify the sources of their anxiety, stress, and depression. Our models of therapy act to help you address your substance use and how it relates to your emotional wellbeing and therefore work to provide healthier alternatives to cope. With Choice House, you will learn how to restore the trust and confidence within yourself and others. Our programs operate to speak to the needs of men and offer scenarios and challenges similar to the difficulties you will face in recovery. If you are currently using substances to self-medicate, then the time to get help is today. Learn more by calling (720) 577-4422.