Denial is one of the classic symptoms of addiction. If you’re using substances or drinking alcohol you’re likely hiding, minimizing, or rationalizing your substance use to yourself and those around you. You’re telling yourself, “This isn’t a problem.” And you’re justifying your behavior by telling others, “After Mary died, this is what keeps me sane.” Denial seems to keep everything in order in your head, even though somewhere inside you might know something is wrong.
And that distant part of you, the part of you that you keep pushing away in order to stay in denial and keep using is precisely what contributes to other symptoms. It’s common for those who experience addiction to also struggle with anxiety and depression. There’s a tendency to high levels of stress, feelings of unease, worry, and angst with addiction. You might be worried that it’s all going to fall apart. Since many people attempt to keep their lives together through the use of alcohol and drugs, there is little foundation to stand upon. If the drug use comes to an end, then addicts will have to face what they’ve been pushing away and that alone can create anxiety and fear.
At the same time, amidst the anxiety, there might be feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and loss, which is may be driving substance use in the first place. And it’s these feelings, especially when they’re being pushed away through alcohol and drugs, that can contribute to depression.
Furthermore, anxiety and depression tend to go hand in hand. One seems to exacerbate the other, especially when both are not being tended to in a healthy way. Although it might appear that you’re feeling better through drinking or drug use, instead, the substance use keeps those inner experiences at bay. Symptoms of anxiety and depression can continue to persist and even get stronger as an addiction develops. It’s as though the inner world continues to become more and more toxic.
If you’re noticing these symptoms in yourself, there are some steps you can take to help change your experience.
- Talk to someone. If you’re not quite ready to seek out professional help, at least talk to someone you trust. Let them know how you’re really feeling. Just talking it all out can be therapeutic.
- Educate yourself on addiction and the presence of other mental illnesses. It’s very common to have both an addiction and anxiety or depression. About 80% of those who struggle with addiction also have a mental illness. Learning more about the presence of these two together might shed more light on how you can support yourself in getting better.
- When you’re ready, call for professional help. If you’re using substances as well as feeling anxious and depressed, at some point, there’s a good chance that you’ll need professional support. Some people avoid calling a therapist or psychologist because of the stigma that tends to come with seeking out therapy. If this is the case for you, you might forget about the stigma once you realize that therapy is actually helping you change your life.
These are a few suggestions for finding peace amidst the chaos of addiction, anxiety, and depression.
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