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Apex Recovery Blog

How to Cope With the Psychological Pain of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

a person holds their neck while hunched on a bench

Over the past year, we’ve seen an increase in substance abuse in San Diego, particularly among young men. As concerns grow about the prevalence of lethal contaminants like fentanyl, we’re working harder than ever to help San Diego residents begin their healing process.

Today, we’re going to talk about one of the often-overlooked conditions that can coincide with substance abuse: psychological pain.

If you’ve been struggling with both substance abuse and mental health, you’re in the right place. Our goal is to provide information and resources that will help you find a path to recovery.

Read on as we talk about the link between drug and alcohol abuse and psychological or emotional pain. Stick around as we discuss some of the tools and resources that will help.

Why Does Substance Abuse Cause Psychological Pain?

Perhaps you didn’t notice signs of anxiety, depression, or other forms of psychological pain before your substance use. What is the connection between the two? Does substance abuse bring on psychological pain?

There are mental, emotional, and physiological reasons that contribute to an increase in distress or mental illness when abusing drugs or alcohol. 

The Mental and Emotional Link

Substance abuse can disrupt your life in a number of ways. It might impact the relationships that you have with friends and family. It might hamper your ability to do your job or meet other obligations in your life.

Many people who struggle with substance abuse experience feelings of distress, guilt, and paranoia. You might feel distressed or guilty about your dependence on drugs or alcohol and how it’s affecting the people you care about. You might feel paranoid that people will discover your substance abuse or substance-related activities you partake in.

Many people find this psychological pain debilitating. They don’t want to burden others with their need for help, which can make their pain worsen. The truth is that there are many people who want to help you, including trained professionals.

The Physiological Link

The psychological pain associated with substance abuse doesn’t just come from your mind or emotions. There is also a chemical change occurring in your brain and body that can make it difficult to emotionally regulate.

For example, substances like drugs and alcohol release a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This is one of the neurotransmitters that are responsible for pleasure. Without interference, you may also feel the effects of dopamine when you eat or complete an activity you enjoy.

Prolonged substance abuse can “hijack” your body’s dopamine release system, among other things. As a result, you may not experience pleasure unless you’re using drugs or alcohol. When these substances leave your system, you may start to experience withdrawal symptoms, which can include psychological pain.

Can Psychological Pain Cause Substance Abuse?

What if you did experience anxiety, depression, or some other form of psychological pain before using substances? Is it possible that your pain led to substance abuse? 

The reality is that there is a high comorbidity rate between substance abuse and mental illness. Substance abuse and depression, for example, often coexist. Anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and PTSD are also common comorbidities of substance abuse.

We often find that people use substance use as a coping mechanism. This is sometimes referred to as “self-medicating.”

Substances like drugs and alcohol can provide temporary relief from emotional pain. As we mentioned already, they can also produce short-term feelings of pleasure or euphoria. They may also serve as a distraction from current stressors or traumatic memories. 

The trouble with this kind of coping mechanism is that it doesn’t get to the root of the problem. At best, it prolongs the problem. At worst, it exacerbates it. 

How to Combat Both Substance Abuse and Psychological Pain

If any of this rings true for you, what are the next steps? Is it possible to tackle your substance abuse and your psychological pain? The answer is yes, and we’re here to offer tips and resources.

Consider a Detox or Rehab Program

Many people are unable to break their dependence on substances on their own. In fact, it can require medical intervention to safely curb drug and alcohol abuse. Oftentimes, the first step toward recovery is a detox program or rehab program that will help you to establish a new baseline without substances in your system. 

Seek Counseling

During the recovery process, you will start to learn what fueled your substance abuse. To quit for good, it’s important to address the root cause, not just the symptoms. This is where mental health counseling comes in, allowing you to safely talk and learn about your psychological pain.

Find Long-Term Support

In the past, you may not have felt like you could reach out to loved ones for help. You may not have had the support system in place that would make emotional healing a possibility. Before completing a rehab program, it is useful to make a plan that involves long-term support.

This can include things like seeking family or couple’s counseling. It can also include moving into a sober home and finding a counselor or therapist to meet with regularly.

Discover New and Healthy Coping Mechanisms for Psychological Pain

No matter how things started, substances became a coping mechanism that you relied on to avoid psychological pain. Now, it’s time to learn new and healthy coping mechanisms that will help you to face your problems head-on and get the help you need. With the help of your support team, you will discover life-long solutions that will keep you from wanting to use substances as a coping mechanism.

Apex Recovery Rehab Is Here to Help

Many people don’t understand the strong link between drug and alcohol abuse and psychological pain. We hope that this guide has shed light on one of the lesser-known realities of people struggling with substance abuse.

If you’re ready to take the next step, Apex Recovery Rehab in San Diego is here to help. Learn how to get started today.

Call Our Toll-Free Hotline 24/7 at 877.881.2689