It is very common for people with undiagnosed depression or anxiety to begin relying on drugs or alcohol to relieve the emotional pain they go through on a daily basis. Drugs and alcohol help temporarily numb pain, ease anxious feelings, or distract a person from whatever emotional turmoil they are going through.
When a person suffering from depression does this, they are unconsciously looking for some kind of solution. Drinking or getting high does work for awhile, but eventually it only makes the problem worse, leading to intensified emotional pain and depression.
What starts out as a seemingly simple solution can easily turn into a full blown addiction. Many people will use alcohol to calm themselves before a social event, or relax after a stressful day.
This is a harmless practice for some, but for others it can easily develop into dependence. That's when a person can turn what was only meant to be a solution, into an addiction that takes on a life of its own.
Once this occurs, an addiction begins to affect the lives of everyone around the person, including family, friends, romantic partners, and even co workers. Someone who has suffered from depression for years or even their whole life may have a harder time recognizing the fact that they use drugs or alcohol to mask their pain, or that they even have an addiction.
The cycle of self medication begins innocently enough, but then continues to affect a person's life in many ways, including harming their ability to cope in healthy ways. Here is an overview of how the cycle can develop:
-An emotion that can't quite be described bothers a person on a regular basis. It can be an anxiety, a feeling of deep sadness, hopelessness, or isolation, or anger without any obvious origin.
-A person discovers that drinking, smoking pot, or using an illicit drug does something to take the edge off. They may feel calmer, more optimistic, relaxed, or more confident after drinking or using drugs.
-The person then begins to rely more and more on a substance to bring themselves relief, until their normal, healthy ability to cope is lost.
-As a person's dependency grows stronger, they begin to feel more anxious and even shame about what their habit. They may try to hide the extent of their drinking or drug use from others. The anxiety secretly grows stronger, making the need for drugs or alcohol even more necessary to cope.
-As both the person's anxiety and dependence grow stronger, they begin to lose touch with their inner selves and become less honest with themselves. There is shame present, but a person may not fully be aware of it or even want to acknowledge it, so they choose to chase it away with more drinking and drug use.
-Life begins to get more complicated. A person will begin to neglect their life responsibilities, behave strangely, or otherwise draw concern from others.
-The inner emotional pain, sense of shame, and dishonesty becomes so strong, the person has no choice but to drown it all out with their addiction. The more they drink or use drugs, the more that inner turmoil increases. At this point the person feels they have run out of options. They may begin blaming others for their addiction.
-Addiction has taken hold of the person's life. Without getting any help, they will continue to live trapped in a cycle of shame, depression, and addiction.
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