The Vicious Cycle: Guilt, Emotional Pain, and Substance Abuse
Often, people in addiction treatment centers are recovering from experiencing an endless cycle of guilt, emotional pain, and short-term relief from substances. This negative feedback loop can eventually lead to mental health issues and other side effects.
Health Complications Beyond the Mind: The Physical Impact
In addition to the psychological effects of addiction, drug and alcohol abuse have the potential to lead to an array of other health consequences and conditions. Chronic substance use is a risk factor for the following illnesses:
- Disorders that affect decision-making
- Heart disease including high blood pressure
- Reduced immune function
- Stomach issues
- Respiratory problems
- Liver damage
- Kidney disease
How Drug Abuse Alters the Brain’s Reward System
Dopamine isn’t the only neurotransmitter that affects your mood and mental state; serotonin, norepinephrine, and many more play a part. Just like addiction, mental disorders aren’t usually the result of one trigger or cause. Not everyone will experience the following mental illnesses, but many people do.
1. Anxiety: The Dual Role of Stimulants and Depressants
Anxiety is best described as a disorder of the fight-or-flight response, where someone perceives danger that isn’t there. It includes the following physical and mental symptoms:
- Rapid heart rate
- Excessive worrying
- An impending sense of doom
- Mood swings
- Restlessness and agitation
There are a lot of similarities between anxiety and the effects of stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine. Conversely, using central nervous system depressants can also increase the risk of a person developing anxiety. Although they calm a person’s nerves while they’re intoxicated, they intensify anxiety when the effects wear off.
Additionally, many addicts experience anxiety around trying to hide their habits from other people. In a lot of cases, it’s difficult to tell whether anxious people are more likely to abuse substances or if illicit drugs and alcohol cause anxiety.
2. The Stigma of Addiction: Navigating Shame and Guilt
There’s a stigma attached to addiction in society, and there’s a lot of guilt and shame for the individuals who struggle with the condition. Often, this is adding fuel to a fire that was already burning strong. People with substance use disorders tend to evaluate themselves negatively on a regular basis, which is a habit that has its roots in childhood experiences. Continual negative self-talk adds to feelings of shame and guilt.
When you constantly feel as if you’ve done something wrong, it’s tempting to try to cover up these challenging emotions with drugs and alcohol. These unhelpful emotions contribute to the negative feedback loop that sends people spiraling into addiction.