Why Self-Medicating Anxiety Can Lead to Addiction

Some people tend to self-medicate when they feel something different about themselves. This technique allows them to save from having to pay for a doctor’s consultation, especially when medication for headaches or colds are readily available over the counter. However, it is a different story when an individual is going through anxiety, because self-medication may lead to addiction.

Treating anxiety disorders through “prescribing” your own medication should be discouraged. Masking depression with drugs or alcohol may have become the immediate solution for some people, but the need for a professional help should never be disregarded.

Mental Illness and Addiction

To live a normal life, many of us try as much as possible to see things in a positive perspective. Unfortunately, we go through different kinds of challenges in our lives, whether it’s personal or work-related. While it’s relatively easy for some people to cope with stress – by taking a short vacation or dining out with friends – individuals suffering from depression may have difficulty dealing with certain circumstances.

Clinical depression is a serious mental condition that comes with severe consequences that may affect the individual and his/her loved ones.

People suffering from depression have a difficult time living a stable, normal life. It is estimated that about 10% of Americans suffer from this type of psychiatric disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As a result of this condition, some tend to turn to substance abuse.

Here’s the sad reality: a huge number of drug users get hooked on drugs to escape from their problems. Being in an unhappy relationship or losing a job have become triggers for some of these individuals. Wanting to mask out all the pain, fear or anger, the best solution that they could think of is to become numb and feel carefree by being intoxicated. Unfortunately, using these substances frequently can lead to addiction.

Self-medicating with drugs may do more harm than good. When a self-medicating individual going through anxiety or depression has constantly turned to drug use, the best way is help the person is to seek a good dual diagnosis program that can help him/her return to their normal lives.

What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis refers to a condition where a person who has an existing mood disorder or mental illness is also discovered to have alcohol or drug problems. This means that a person who has a dual diagnosis has two separate illnesses, and each illness needs to have its own treatment plan.

The good news is that mood disorders and substance abuse problems are both treatable issues. Keep in mind that this has nothing to do with character flaws. Dual diagnosis may happen to anyone, regardless of age, race or economic background.

At first glance, the use of medication to address an anxiety attack does not pose any danger. However, the problem arises when the brain forgets how to use its own normal coping mechanism and the person begins to rely on the “quick fix” to feel better. This is where the addiction begins.

A person with dual diagnosis may experience some inner turmoil, which may not be obvious in the beginning. Drug or alcohol use, which may appear helpful at the onset – may start to consume a person’s thought process and (in the long run) take over his/her entire life. Realizing their shame and loss of control may drive them to use their substance of choice more frequently.

People who are diagnosed with both mental illness and substance abuse disorder need all the help and care that they can get. If you are a friend or family member, you can help them by spending time with them as they go through the journey towards recovery.

If you or your loved ones think that you need help, this online anxiety quiz may help you discover a potentially hidden mental issue.

Common Mental Illnesses Found in People Addicted to Substances

A large number of people addicted to drugs suffer from more than one mental illness. Therefore, more than treating the individual because of substance dependency, complete psychological analysis and treatment can ensure that the individual leaves the rehabilitation facility fully treated and ready to face life again.

The most common mental illnesses found in drug addicts include the following:

  • Anxiety: This refers to several disorders that cause fear, nervousness, fear, apprehension, or worry.
  • Depression: This is a state wherein an individual often sulks and worries about negative aspects of life. People who are depressed tend to experience a feeling of sadness or loss of interest in activities that they once enjoyed in the past.
  • Cluster B personality disorders: This is characterized by an overly emotional or dramatic behavior or thinking.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder: This may occur after a person has experienced a great deal of trauma – say, a life-threatening accident or loss in the family – and may lead to stress.

How Childhood Trauma May Cause PTSD and Substance Abuse

You may have heard horrific stories of children being molested by family members or close friends, all of which may cause negative constructs on the mind of the young victims. It’s never easy to treat a child who has undergone such an ordeal. Letting the child live and act as if nothing happened may prove to become a lifelong burden, and may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Some children with PTSD often times grow old without being given the kind of treatment to help them deal with what happened to them in the past. If they fail to find an outlet for the fear and pain that they have gone through, children who have experienced severe trauma have a high tendency to turn to alcohol and drugs.


Anxiety and drug addiction are two different monsters that feed off each other when neither is treated properly. That’s why individuals who may be suffering from both mental illness and substance abuse should submit themselves to treatment.


You don’t need to feel alone when problems such as this comes up. Maryland Recovery offers various programs – including dual diagnosis treatment services – to suit the needs of individuals who may be suffering from both mental disorder and substance addiction.

Written by Nicole

Nicole Clarke is a media coordinator for addiction treatment centers. When she isn’t writing blogs, she is probably hanging out with her pet birds or practicing yoga. She is a big advocate for holistic health and loves working in the drug recovery community where she can make a positive impact on others.

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