Self-Care & Self-Medicating

Last month we offered a simple list of self-care techniques to help our clients stay healthy, happy, mentally sharp and financially secure. This month we are sharing something NOT to do, which is to use destructive behaviors to cope with stress, depression or anxiety: a practice called self-medicating.

Some people do it with drinking, some with smoking, others with painkillers, gambling, food or shopping.The objective of self-medicating is to distract oneself from personal problems, rather than seek a solution or treatment. The temporary “high” or relief from symptoms is why people self-medicate. The problem is that they may be treating the wrong thing in an
unhealthy way. A common example is drinking alcohol or using drugs to escape the fact that a person is depressed or anxious. Instead of dealing with the underlying mood problem or life stresses, drugs and alcohol allow the user to simply avoid the issue. The problem is that this approach leads to many more problems.


Examine your relationships. Are they healthy? Are they lasting? Has anyone said something to you, such as a comment about your shopping, drinking or smoking?

Are your finances suffering because of a certain habit that you justify as “blowing off steam”? Problems at work are usually a red flag, with job-loss being a real risk. Can you stop your habitual, destructive behavior or has someone asked you to stop?


Hire a licensed mental health professional. Self-medicating is based on self-diagnosis. Realize that if you really understood what was wrong, you would treat it in a more successful, less destructive manner, i.e., with exercise instead of diet pills

Second, determine with a professional what treatment options are appropriate for that diagnosis and what your insurance covers. Get needed referrals. Most communities have free and low-cost help available.

Steps in the right direction take some effort, but examine the effort to self-medicate. How far have you gone to cover up your stress, anxiety or unhappiness? Taking care of yourself is a valuable use of your resources.


Find helpful articles at the “Do You Self-Medicate?” page at Psychology
Today online at
“Recognizing Forms of Self-Medication” by Stephanie Faris, Published
on 3/28/12 and medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD available at