When people suffer from anxiety or depression and are not getting proper treatment from psychotherapy or medication they often develop their own ways of dealing with the symptoms. Because treatment can be costly and time-consuming, those suffering from depression may take matters into their own hands without understanding the consequences of delaying professional help.
If you have issues of depression or a lot of stress you may not realize the ways in which you self-medicate. There are numerous ways to self-medicate when there are underlying issues that don't get fully addressed and although they might seem harmless at first they can quickly turn into a bigger and more complex problem.
These are some of the most common forms of self-medication.
1. Drinking Alcohol to Relieve Stress
Alcohol is a legal drug that is one of the most socially acceptable ways of relaxing and loosening up. Having a few drinks can relief symptoms of stress or sadness in the short term but if an addiction develops it can quickly cause depression and anxiety to escalate.
People who drink alcohol develop a tolerance and need more drinks to get the same effect. This turns into a dangerous cycle of alcohol dependence and addiction that becomes interconnected with mental health.
2. Using Prescription Drugs Non-Medically
It is no secret that painkillers like Vicodin or Oxycontin provide a sedated feeling in times of anxiety. Although they are provided by a doctor, prescription drugs are far from harmless.
When used non-medically or in excess these kinds of drugs can be highly addictive and when you take prescription medication to alleviate stress it can evolve into a serious dependency. If you have been taking more medication than is prescribed or going to different doctors to obtain more of the drug then you are most likely self-medicating to deal with your mental health symptoms.
3. Illegal Drug Use
Alcohol and prescription drugs can be a fine line to cross but illegal drug use is a particular problem that is especially difficult to recover from. These are drugs that relieve stress and anxiety in the short term but ultimately can dramatically increase mental health problems.
Drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy all provide temporary euphoria that people being to chase after especially when they suffer from depression. Illegal drug use can make you much more likely to deal with serious health problems and the possibility of a fatal overdose. Self-medicating with illegal drugs is one of the most dangerous ways to cope with emotional issues.
4. Comfort Eating and Binging
Not all forms of self-medication involve the use of drugs. Eating away emotions is one of the more common ways of coping with depression, stress and anxiety. People may turn to comfort foods to relax them and give them a feeling of happiness. Unfortunately this pattern can turn into a vicious cycle resulting in obesity and health problems.
Some people may even develop binge eating disorder which can become its own mental health problem with serious consequences. Food is not necessarily a drug but it can be equally addicting and dangerous for those of us who use it to medicate themselves.
5. Self-Harming and Physical Pain
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, some individuals may find that inflicting physical pain on themselves can actually relieve some of their psychic pain. Self-harming behaviors like cutting, burning or scratching are a form of temporary release from anxiety.
It is a way to use a more easily understandable pain to soothe the complex psychological pain that they may be dealing with when they have symptoms of depression.