This guest blog post was provided by Toby LeBlanc, LPC.
Often substance dependence is associated with mental and emotional difficulties. Recovery from substances may mean a person will need to recover in other areas of their life as well. Here are three common issues which perpetuate the substance dependence cycle:
Depression: Depression is very insidious. It can sometimes manifest itself so slowly it’s hard to know anything is wrong. Most people recognize it as sadness but it has many other symptoms: low motivation, sleeping too much/insomnia, fatigue, not enjoying things which used to bring pleasure, isolating, etc. Using substances temporarily alleviates some symptoms of depression, though the fall out afterwards can be much worse. Because of this, users often use to ease this pain as well. See the cycle?
Anxiety: You’re getting ready for the big interview and your heart is beating quickly. You realize your mind is racing with the ideas of what might happen. Maybe you feel something like this when you are not getting ready for that interview. If this is the case you may be struggling with pervasive symptoms of anxiety. Many users self medicate these symptoms with drugs and alcohol. Many have been know to use in order to handle social situations or “wind-down.” When the drugs and alcohol wear off the symptoms can come back with a vengeance making the user think they cannot survive without their drug.
Trauma: The definition of this word has become broader. Once it was used only to describe the effects of war, rape, car accidents, and domestic violence. Now clinicians are recognizing trauma happens to almost everyone though to varying degrees and through differing events. Trauma leaves one feeling as if they have to constantly watch their back for danger. It makes individuals respond to situations in ways they don’t even understand. The experience of the traumatic event is something incredibly painful to carry. While substances can numb the heaviness of the burden, they do nothing to lessen the load.
This list is in no way comprehensive. There are many other issues not listed here which can complicate recovery from substances. The good news is all are treatable on some level. Whether it is to lessen the effects of the mental/emotional difficulty, or to heal from it completely, there is hope.