Self-Medicating for Anxiety Myths and Facts

November 6, 2013 Anthony D'Aconti

Self-medicating for anxiety can develop so innocently and easily. Learn the myths and facts about self-medicating for anxiety. Read this.

When it comes to anxiety, it is important to separate the myths from the facts. There are plenty of anxiety myths we believe to help cope with our symptoms but many of us run into trouble when the myths we believe are simply not true. Perhaps one of the most common and dangerous anxiety myths is that self-medicating can help us get through an anxiety-provoking situation.

While the myth says that a drink or two might curb your anxiety in a social situation, the facts show that self-medicating produces only a short-term effect that leads us to avoid the actual source of our anxiety. The simple truth is that self-medicating with alcohol, marijuana or even cigarettes is an avoidance behavior that can cause more mental and physical health problems than it aims to correct.

Self-Medicating for Anxiety at a Glance

Most of us living with an anxiety disorder understand the appeal of using alcohol, drugs or cigarettes to get through difficult moments. Whether we are looking to manage social anxiety or real, emotional pain, it is easy to fall victim to the belief that a few drinks or maybe some marijuana can safely take the edge off. The concept of self-medicating is really quite simple.

First, we experience a down mood or anxious feeling. When anxiety, depression and other common symptoms of an anxiety disorder hang around for too long, we often find ourselves unable to manage them. A couple of drinks suddenly make us feel lighter, more confident, less self-conscious and better able to cope with our feelings. Before we know it, anxiety, worry and depression seem to fade away.

When Self-Medicating for Anxiety Turns to Dependency

Self-medicating for anxiety can develop so innocently and easily. Learn the myths and facts about self-medicating for anxiety. Read this.Unfortunately, the problems that follow the short-lived benefits of self-medicating are harder to notice. One of the most common problems is that we slowly but surely begin to depend on substances to cope with anxiety.

Essentially, we develop a “solution” for our anxiety without ever learning how to cope with it on our own. We remove our inner ability to manage anxiety and replace it with a quick fix. If you have an anxiety disorder, then a dependency on alcohol, marijuana or other substances can not only keep you from addressing and resolving the actual problem but also take you further away from finding your own inner ability to cope with your anxiety symptoms. In the end, there is one very important concept that people with an anxiety disorder need to understand about self-medicating.

Particularly in people with social anxiety, alcohol, marijuana and other substances fulfills our desire to hide or mask our embarrassing or otherwise uncomfortable feelings (How to Avoid Feeling Socially Awkward). The problem people with an anxiety disorder who self-medicate often face is a deepened dependency to use such substances. We easily get hooked on the idea of self-medicating and turn to it more often. When dependency deepens, so does our anxiety about the dependency. We essentially develop another behavior to hide.

The perpetual cycle of dependency creates increased anxiety, growing shame and a greater distance between you and your ability to rely on your own inner devices to cope with and manage anxiety and depression.

Finding Healthier Alternatives to Self-Medicating for Anxiety

The first step to overcoming anxiety is debunking the myths and understanding the facts. Hopefully, a clearer picture on the perpetual cycle of self-medicating as it relates to alcohol, substance abuse and dependence will lead you to turn to more healthy treatment methods such as exercise, healthy diet, regular sleep and perhaps cognitive behavioral therapy.

In the meantime, please feel free to share your own personal experiences or beliefs about the concept of self-medicating to cope with anxiety. Do you find that self-medicating makes it more difficult for you to manage anxiety in the long run? Also, what are some of the most successful treatment methods you use instead of self-medicating to cope with and manage anxiety?

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APA Reference
D'Aconti, A. (2013, November 6). Self-Medicating for Anxiety Myths and Facts, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Anthony D'Aconti

June, 27 2017 at 11:47 am

I feel I've never lived up to any form of any potential I once had. I have a wonderful girlfriend sitting on the opposite end of the couch from me sitting in total silence because of some dumb fight we had last night because I couldn't let some dumb thing slide. I don't like my job or a majority of the people there. But that job provided for that young lady. I live far away from where I grew up and would like to go back but she's probably never leaving this city and I can't imagine life without her. We had plans to start s family and her to go back to school but then her mother and sister died leaving her without any family. So I used to go to the bar just to get rid of the depression and anger of my job and a few of the people there caused but now I find myself getting drunk there to avoid going home. I try to get myself to a point where I'm smiling so I can come home to her depression and deal with trying to help her cope. But I can't even cope with my own problems it's gotten progressively worse because now I'm drunk and can't seem to let stupid stuff go. Then I start a fight over that stupid stuff and instead of helping myself or her I'm hurting us both. Realizing that I need to quit right now.

May, 16 2016 at 11:02 pm

I think for a long time I've been anxious/depressed, and I've been trying to cope, however, I'm beginning to think it's becoming unmanageable. Perhaps there are things in my past that I won't outright come to terms with and my sense of self worth has been in shambles basically all my life (in mid 20s). To this day, I struggle greatly with getting my needs met, and it pains me to ask for help even when I know I need it, but I can't. Back in university, I finally made it to see a counselor to talk about my bad feelings that I can never aeem to shake, but last minute I turned around and told myself that I can do it on my own. Now I find myself self-medicating with alcohol, material things, and less than ideal people. In a way, I feel that with all of those things mentioned above, I don't have to explain myself. I feel like it helps but I have a nagging feeling that it may turn into an even bigger problem.

June, 7 2015 at 9:32 am

After many years of substance abuse I am now 2 years + clean and sober at the age of 34. The substance abuse started off innocently enough I thought at the age of 19 with marijuana and alcohol. To most people I come in contact with now I was a late bloomer in regards to any illegal substance abuse. As far as anxiety and other psychological issues they had been in play for awhile and I had been seeing a counselor up until college.
I think the biggest myth out there that needs to be busted is that marijuana is not dangerous. Anything that is a mind altering substance and not prescribed and monitored by a physician is not to be accepted as an acceptable item for self medication. I eventually ended up using heroin, and I'm not saying everyone will go down that road. The place I went for recovery was just getting started in a way, and establishing guidelines. I had to take a medicine called Subutex to get off heroin. Eventually I got off that as well after a year, but everyone else that goes their is still on the medicine or left because they did not like the rules. I'm talking about over 100 people, and they think I'm special or something. One of the rules that changed after a time was that you could no long have marijuana on your drug tests anymore. People argued that not an addictive drug and it was doing no harm. To me it had held me back to the point where I was still at the mind frame of a 19 year old at the age of 34.
With the help of the psychiatrist at the establishment that helped me to get clean and my psychologist I am now in the best shape mentally I have ever been. I know I will have to take certain medication for the rest of my life to stay this way most likely and it's been a long road. I know it all started because I was unsure and always crying and just beginning to feel the effects of Emotional Regulation Disorder and trying to cope on my own. I feel good now, really good, and happy. I have had to adjust my medications with my doctors a lot because I hate feeling like a zombie. I don't want to go back, but I can't say never because that is something you don't do either. Self medicating is just not safe. Why do people have the idea that marijuana is OK and not addicting? I guess I used to feel the same way. No mind altering substances!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 9 2015 at 8:54 pm

Hello Stephanie,
Thank you for sharing your story. I believe that many people are going to find this helpful and inspiring. Carry on!

May, 30 2015 at 2:52 am

From last couple of years i feel depressed very often. The reason for that was my job, career and future. Later my depression increased in recent past where uncertainty happened in life. I lost job, i still work though but not in the satisfactorily environment as i had earlier .My mother committed suicide due to depression,my father is living alone, I am away from my wife and kid for my job unfortunately the job security is still less and i am ill treated in job. Cannot leave job as me and my family needs the earnings from it to survive. My mind if full of thoughts never get relaxed. The time i get up and until sleep i don't feel happy for any moment. Night i get disturbed sleep. Some time i feel like sharing this to someone but it ends up in where to start and what to cover.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 31 2015 at 6:02 pm

Hello Rithwik,
Life circumstances can contribute greatly to depression and anxiety. You are wise to want to share with someone. Talking, and having someone listen, is a powerful way to heal and figure out ways to take charge of your situation. Have you considered seeing a therapist? Therapy can be very effective in sorting things out and overcoming depression. Therapists can also help you decide where to start and what to cover. It might be something you want to consider. I do know that you can overcome this depression even if it's not easy!

March, 10 2015 at 6:53 pm

can you answer my Q I am grieving for my husband I have got Anxiety and depression any every morning I wake up feeling sick and nevous going down my legs and hands and face is this normal

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 18 2015 at 2:43 pm

Hello Susan,
What you describe can indeed be part of anxiety and depression. However, especially if these symptoms are new or have never been addressed before, it's important to see a doctor so he/she can rule out anything else that could cause these symptoms. Then working with a therapist to cope with grief, anxiety, and depression can be very helpful.

Dr Musli Ferati
November, 19 2013 at 12:09 am

On relation to dependency, your ascertainment of self-medication as the way to manage daily troubles, I can say that it is accurate work. People find out often alcohol or others psychotropic substances to soften their anxiety as unavoidable emotional experience. This manner of resistance with life difficulties exhibits many dangerous consequences for our global physical, psychological and social performances. There are a lot of manners to face and to overcome life problems, instead to use these psycho-active substances. If these activities didn't work out, then appropriate psychiatric treatment is the best way to manage anxiety and depression. Essentially, it ought to avoid to practice the habit of using alcohol, marihuana and others illegal intoxicated substances as calming means through everyday embarrassments.

Greg Weber
November, 9 2013 at 3:58 pm

I self medicated with drugs and alcohol for years without even knowing I was doing it. When I first got sober 15 years ago, I discovered just how much my using was masking my anxiety symptoms.
The only thing that's worked for me other than using drugs is to go to therapy, belong to some kind of supportive community of people who understand anxiety, develop myself spiritually, eat well and exercise. And helping others recover from anxiety helps me manage mine better too.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Anthony D'Aconti
November, 11 2013 at 8:49 am

Congratulations on getting sober! It's great that you were able to recognize that self-medicating only masked the symptoms of anxiety. Thank you for sharing the treatment methods that have helped you overcome anxiety. I think it's great that you find relief through helping others recover from anxiety.

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