The symbiotic relationship between drug and alcohol addiction and self-esteem is complex and oftentimes hard to understand. While they do go hand-in-hand, many questions need to be answered to fully comprehend the psychology behind self-worth and addictive behaviors.
The main one being poor self-image, a problem that needs to be solved in conjunction with addressing one’s addiction issues, or will it naturally work itself out when the addictive behaviors don’t occur anymore?
The answer to this question varies from person to person. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Each person’s circumstances or struggles with addiction are different. However, what isn’t contradictory is that professional treatment at a rehab facility is necessary to recover. Treatment can break the treacherous cycle of addiction and improve your low self-esteem.
The addiction specialists and multidisciplinary team at Granite Mountain Behavioral Healthcare in Prescott Valley, AZ, can help break this cycle of addiction, thus, improving one’s self-esteem.
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The Relationship Between Self-Esteem and Addiction
While these are various common reasons and risk factors of addiction, numerous evidence-based research studies have proven that the root cause of addiction is the result of low self-esteem.
Not effectively addressing the major role that self-esteem plays in all aspects of life, including addiction, unfortunately, and all too commonly, leads to various complications health-wise, socially, mentally, and physically.
Missed signs of addiction and any sort of psychological distress can also deter someone from receiving the professional help that they need, hinder their addiction recovery process, and also cause individuals to potentially relapse. So, why is self-esteem such an important component of addiction recovery?
What is Self-Esteem?
What exactly is self-esteem, where does it arise from, and why is it so influential and important in our lives?
In the world of psychology, self-esteem is defined as a person’s overall self-worth or personal value. In other words, it is how much you value, respect, like, and appreciate yourself. Use the power of positive psychology if you will.
Importance of Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is often viewed as a personality trait, which encompasses a variety of beliefs, including appearance, emotions, and behaviors. It is extremely influential and important because it plays a significant role in all aspects of a person’s life, including mental health, relationships, success, failures, and motivation.
There are both healthy and low levels of self-esteem, which can fluctuate from time-to-time depending on your genetics, age, environment, people around you, attitude, etc. However, it is often our experiences that form the basis of our overall self-esteem, positively and negatively. Although, it is important to note that there needs to be a balance between too little and too much self-worth a person can have.
Signs of Good Self-Esteem
If you exhibit the following signs and behaviors, you most likely have good self-esteem.
- Having confidence, but knowing the difference between that and being arrogant
- Being able to accept who you are
- Can take constructive criticism and feedback
- Has the ability to say no
- Has a positive outlook on things, and is always able to do so even when times are hard
- Ability to see things from various perspectives, including strengths and weaknesses
- Expressing your needs, wants, and opinions
- Does not seek approval from others
- Not afraid of failure or setbacks
- Accepts imperfection
Confidence in one’s value as a human being is something that doesn’t come easy for everyone, which makes it a beneficial psychological resource. Whenever someone exudes confidence, it commands attention and is noticeable.
Signs of Low Self-Esteem
If you exhibit the following signs and behaviors, you may be experiencing low self-esteem.
- Negative outlook and defeatist attitude
- Lack of confidence
- Inability to express your wants and needs
- Focus on weaknesses and negativity
- Not being able to see things from other perspectives
- Trouble accepting criticism or feedback
- The belief that others are better than you
- Comparing yourself to others
- Putting yourself down
- Intense fear of failure
Self-esteem is a characteristic that inevitably changes over time, and therefore, success or setbacks both personally and professionally can negatively impact a person.
How Low Self-Esteem Causes Addiction
The effects of low self-esteem can be detrimental, especially when suffering from addiction. Becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol is a consequence of a choice and compulsive addictive behavior.
For people who have developed low self-esteem over time due to various reasons, commonly experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, and as a result, they turn to drugs and alcohol to mask their pain and insecurities. Low self-esteem results in self-medicating.
In other words, those with low self-esteem turn to drugs and alcohol to numb pain and escape from reality. These substances are seen as a way to escape.
What Happens to Self-Esteem When Using?
For people with low self-esteem, drinking, and taking drugs allows these individuals to feel like they appear more confident than they really are.
Again, the whole reason why people engage in these addictive behaviors in the first place is that they believe that these substances make their problems or feelings disappear, despite the consequences. Easy accessibility of drugs and alcohol also is a major contributing factor.
However, doing so compulsively, actually makes matters worse, and often leads to dependency and addiction. What some people fail to realize at the time is that these euphoric feelings from the drugs and alcohol are temporary and short-term.
These substances turn out to not be a permanent solution for their pain and suffering, but rather, a temporary release. Along with health consequences, mentally physically, and socially, addiction resulting from substance abuse, ends up severely affecting a person’s self-esteem, causing their self-confidence to dissipate quickly.
Eventually, individuals suffering from addiction are incapable of overcoming these challenges that caused them to turn to drink and take drugs in the first place. As their substance use disorder worsens, the lower their self-esteem becomes.
Simply, the more one uses, the worse they end up feeling about themselves. What was once just a low self-confidence issue has now spiraled in addiction, which has taken control of all aspects of one’s life.
This cycle of addiction and low self-esteem is only able to be taken hold of with help from medical professionals and addiction specialists.
Addiction Risk Factors
Oftentimes, people wonder what is it that makes people want to make that choice to use and abuse drugs and alcohol in the first place? The answer to this can be complex, as addictive behaviors vary from person to person, but, mainly because various factors increase the likelihood of developing an addiction.
The common reasons why people turn to the use of substances include but are not limited to:
- It’s a choice that results in consequences
- Family history of substance abuse (Genetics)
- Co-occurring mental illness
- Coping mechanism (Self-Medication)
- Environmental factors and peer pressure
Addiction is a chronic disease that severely affects the brain and body. While this is true, neurological functions are not the sole cause of substance use disorders (SUD). Many different components play a role in the cause of addiction.
In other words, drug and alcohol addiction is not just the result of one factor in a user’s life. Instead, it is a combination of them that exposes people to this destructive path. There are three main areas of risk factors that contribute to dependency and addiction. They are as follows:
Drug and alcohol addiction is 50 percent attributed to genetics. Research has shown that children who are the product of addicts are approximately eight times more likely to become ones themselves.
Not everyone who has a family history of substance abuse will be an addict, but the probability and susceptibility of becoming addicted are high. Males are more likely to become addicted to drugs and alcohol than women.
Environmental Factors and Influences
The environment that you are in has a major effect and influence on people’s behaviors. Being at home or school is very influential on the possible development of substance use disorders.
As mentioned before, having a family history of drug use and alcoholism increases the chances of someone else having the same genetic predisposition for addiction.
At school and work, peer pressure and fitting in is a huge risk factor for addiction, as well as stress. Feelings of stress and anxiety in these environments are normal but often result in the gravitation towards substances, as people believe it will help them cope or forget what they are feeling at the time. However, it just exacerbates the situation, resulting in a host of health problems, physically, mentally, and socially.
Drug Choice and Methods of Use
The likelihood of addiction depends on the drug or alcoholic beverage of choice. Especially with drugs, the potency of certain drugs leads to dependency and addiction.
With one use of a drug, that is usually all it takes, which commonly leads to polysubstance abuse, meaning the use of one or more substances. The way a drug is taken, the meaning if it was snorted, injected, or in pill form. Drugs that are smoked or injected have a much faster euphoric or high effect on the body.
As a user takes a drug or drinks more and more, the body becomes tolerant and dependent on the substance, which means that with each time of use, a higher dosage will be required to keep feeling the same drunk or high effect. Thus, tolerance and dependence lead to addiction.
However, one answer that many researchers have agreed upon is low self-esteem. Self-esteem is defined as confidence in one’s own abilities. This type of self-respect plays a crucial role in the likelihood that a person will abuse drugs, which in turn means that a drug abuse treatment program works to combat and improve the factors that influence low self-esteem.
Mental Health and Addiction
People who don’t suffer from mental conditions associated with self-esteem, such as anxiety and depression, don’t fully understand why people turn to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol as a means to cope instead of seeking treatment for their symptoms.
Mental illness is a major risk factor for substance abuse, and often these conditions occur simultaneously. This is defined as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. Someone with mental health issues commonly develops a substance use disorder.
Unfortunately, but all too often, the underlying mental illness is left undiagnosed and untreated. Thus, conditions worsen, along with a person’s self-esteem.
A major reason that people also don’t receive the proper help that they need is because of mental stigma. Feeling of shame, guilt, and embarrassment often take over, making a person with addiction reluctant to admit to themselves, friends, and family that they need help, or they are in denial that they need help in the first place.
This avoidance to seek help not only worsens mental health and addiction but, most importantly, an individual’s self-worth. People with low self-esteem feel that they aren’t worth receiving help or that there is no one out there to help them when in reality, there is.
Importance of Self-Esteem During Addiction Recovery
The drugs and alcohol are no longer in your system as you went through the process of detoxification. Addressing one’s lack of self-esteem is now a priority.
For those in addiction recovery, healthy self-esteem becomes a powerful tool and resource to turn to, which not only helps people stay on the road to long-term recovery, but also prevent relapse.
Think of it in this logical way: When you are feeling good about yourself and value what you have to offer, you are more likely to stay motivated and on a successful path to recovery and avoid entering into the cycle of addiction.
In the early stages of recovery, people are very emotional and at a very low point with poor self-esteem. That is why building up your self-worth during this crucial time can make a big difference in your recovery journey, increasing the chances of a successful outcome and long-term sobriety.
Improving Self-Esteem Through Addiction Treatment
The good news is that help for addiction, and low self-esteem is available! Steps to rebuilding your self-esteem despite your addiction are possible with the right treatment plan and resources.
There are three major causes of poor self-esteem in recovery, immorality, instability, and insignificance. Knowing what causes these negative feelings makes it easier for us to build up you or your loved one’s self-esteem through methods of therapy and counseling.
Whether you are contemplating receiving help or already on the road to recovery from addiction, here are three tips on how to rebuild, boost, and improve your self-esteem during addiction recovery.
- Think positively: I know it is easy for someone to say, but the power of positive thinking does make all the difference in all aspects of life. By using psychological techniques of reframing, meaning flipping a situation to be positive rather than negative, it helps to see things from a different perspective, so that you can handle it effectively. In addiction recovery, maintaining a positive attitude will help motivate you and others to not give up.
- Self-forgiveness: Take responsibility for your actions, but don’t beat yourself up. Think about how far you have come and allowed yourself to be forgiven. This way, you will be able to move forward and focus on recovery.
- Affirmations: Give yourself daily affirmations such as I am receiving the help that I need and doing well, I am a warrior, I am beautiful. Also, give other people a compliment and smile, it will make you and others around you feel positive energy, and that you are all in this together.
Granite Mountain Can Help You Recover
To truly understand the connection between low self-esteem and substance abuse, one needs to first understand that low self-esteem is a result of many conditions, including addiction and mental illness.
Having low self-esteem during addiction recovery is very common in the beginning, but there are methods of treatment to help treat substance abuse and mental illness. With time, your self-esteem, confidence, and worth will all return, as the cycle of addiction will no longer be in your path.
To learn more about how we can help individuals combating addiction rebuild their self-esteem and prevent relapse, contact us at Granite Mountain today!