Self-Medicating for Mental Health: What You Should Know

We all make an effort to take care of ourselves. Maybe you sneak in a nap on a day you’re feeling particularly tired. Or maybe you spend tonight binging a show to decompress after a stressful day at work. We’re doing our best, right?

We’re gonna pull an improv move on you and say, “Yes, and.” Yes, we’re all trying to make the right choices to get ourselves through. And sometimes those choices are less healthy than others. That’s especially true when it comes to self-medicating.

What is self-medicating?

Great question. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You take something, not at the advice of your doctor but because you hope it will make you feel better. 

At a simple level, you’ve probably done this with ibuprofen or cough syrup. But when it comes to mental health, it usually gets more complicated. To ease anxiety or numb depressive symptoms, for example, people often turn to substances. We’re usually talking drugs and alcohol. But you can also self-medicate with anything that will distract you, from work to food and trash TV. You’ll look for anything to fill the time and keep your mind off the real problem at hand. 

It’s a slippery slope. We all want to feel better (that’s why you take ibuprofen when you’ve got a headache). But when you feel like the only resources at your disposal to ease your discomfort are things to make you feel numb or distracted, that’s what you reach for. 

The problem here is two-fold. First, self-medications usually have a short-term numbing quality. That means you need more and more to keep the pain away. And all the while, you’re not dealing with the root of the problem. 

Secondly, a lot of the things people use to self-medicate are addictive. So now, on top of a mental health problem, they’ve got a substance problem, as well. In fact, it’s pretty common for people who check into rehab to need mental health treatment. A lot of times, they didn’t get into the substance just for fun. They turned to it in an attempt to self-medicate. 

All that said, you don’t have to be headed toward a rehab situation to be self-medicating. Some of the substances people use to cope include food and caffeine. 

A self-medication check

The main thing to note here is this: if you’re continually making a choice to try to ease what you’re feeling, you could be in a cycle of self-medication. Take a look at your habits. They could be a sign that it might be time to seek out some help. 

We know that this isn’t easy. Evaluating your choices — and particularly being honest with yourself about self-medicating — means being vulnerable about your mental state. We want to encourage you. This work is hard, but it’s WORTH IT. 

You could self-medicate to try to soothe yourself for the rest of your life, or you could get on a new path. With tools like therapy, addiction treatment, doctor-prescribed medication, support groups, good friends (the list goes on and on), you can break the cycle. You can get the tools you need to address your mental health challenges at their core, not just cover them up at the surface. 

We’re rooting for you! In fact, we think you deserve a treat. Get yourself some Doughp and let it be a reminder that life is raw, but it’s sweet, too.