Low self-esteem is frequently an underlying cause of drug and alcohol addiction. Self-esteem and addiction feed off one another: Feelings of worthlessness can trigger the desire to drink or do drugs to mask those feelings, which leads to feelings of guilt and shame, further reinforcing low self-esteem.
The reality is that many individuals with a drug or alcohol addiction are concealing low self-esteem. Northbound psychologists have identified three primary symptoms of low self-esteem that include:
- Feelings of incompetence: People with low self-esteem often feel incompetent in one or more areas in life. They may feel they’re “not good at anything,” and because of this they may align themselves with anyone who they perceive as being more capable.
- Feelings of immorality: People with low self-esteem sometimes feel unethical or immoral, unlovable, unappreciated and unwanted.
- Instability: People with low self-esteem often feel like a lack of stability in their lives and as though they have no control over things.
The Deep Symptoms
Individuals challenged with an addition may not only feel a lack of self-esteem, but may also have feelings of anger, loneliness, and depression. A person may begin to have difficulty communicating, which can lead to social conflicts. This can further lower self-esteem, and the person may turn to drugs or alcohol to escape their problems. Drugs or alcohol mask negative feelings, but when continued, the individual eventually develops a tolerance, then a dependence, then an addiction.
Individuals with low self-esteem who have a drug or alcohol addiction often have problems with relationships. Many come from abusive or dysfunctional backgrounds, and as a result, they may unconsciously decide they are not capable of creating nurturing and positive relationships.
Those with low self-esteem often suffer with self-destructive mood swings which can further damage personal and professional relationships.
We Lift Spirits
At Northbound Treatment Services we understand the connection between self-esteem and substance addictions. This is why an essential part of our treatment is giving our patients the tools and supportive environment needed to improve their self-esteem. Five things our experienced therapists use are to have the client:
- Write Their Own Affirmation: Writing a simple, positive statement about oneself may not seem genuine initially, but in time reciting positive statements has a strong impact on self-esteem.
- Forgive Oneself for Past Mistakes: People who struggle with addiction are often plagued by self-blame, which worsens self-esteem. Forgiving oneself for past mistakes has a healing effect and lessens the likelihood of relapse.
- Accept Compliments: It is important to hear and really absorb kind words from others. We encourage our clients to resist the urge to dismiss a compliment.
- Do Something Kind Every Day: Doing kind things for others is rewarding in itself and is more likely to be reciprocated. It does not have to be a grand gesture, but rather something as simple as holding a door open for another person.
- Start Making Changes: Self-determination is a key self-esteem builder. For people with addictions, change often happens in stages. Breaking change down into smaller, more manageable actions is the key to the success of many. With each small change, celebrate your success in moving towards your goal.