May 11, 2023

Are Low Self-Esteem and Addiction Linked?

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Medicially Reviewed By:
Dr. Priya Chaudhri
credentials here

When our self-esteem is damaged in some way, most likely occurring in childhood, it can impact daily life in many ways. Low self-esteem is linked to such things as low income earning potential, poor health, relationship problems, and substance abuse. In fact, low self-esteem and addiction are often co-occurring conditions. Read on to learn why that is.

What Is Low Self-Esteem?

The term “self-esteem” refers to how someone views and values themselves. Self-esteem is a construct of how we feel about our own abilities and personal qualities. Thus, when someone suffers from low self-esteem, they have a low opinion of themselves and a lack of worth or value.

There are a number of ways someone may come to have low self-esteem. In most cases, the event or events that caused low self-esteem arose during childhood. Some of the most common causes of low self-esteem include:

  • Being bullied as a child or teen.
  • Having a highly critical parent; was frequently punished.
  • Having a parent who withheld affection.
  • Was praised only when achieving a desired goal.
  • Having experienced or witnessed a trauma.
  • Having divorced parents.
  • Child physical or sexual abuse.
  • A negative body image.
  • Struggles with gender identity.
  • Having a learning disorder.
  • Trouble making or keeping friends.

Is Low Self Esteem a Risk Factor For Addiction?

So, what is the connection between low self-esteem and addiction? In essence, someone with low self-esteem may turn to alcohol or drugs to help them numb their feelings. This is especially true when the low self-esteem has turned into a case of depression. The numbing effects of the substance provide a sense of comfort and escape from feeling worthless or unloved.

Of course, the problem with using a substance as an escape is that it can potentially turn into a substance use disorder. This occurs when the substance use becomes a chronic habit, leading to a higher tolerance. As the brain becomes used to the presence of the substance, the alcohol or pills have a waning effect. This leads the person to increase consumption as they chase the initial effects.

Telltale Signs of Addiction

Of course, not everyone who leans on a substance as a means of self-medication will become addicted. The problem is that it is almost impossible to know in advance who may or may not develop a substance use disorder.

Knowing the warning signs of addiction can help you recognize them and take action:

  • Increasing tolerance to the substance.
  • Neglects responsibilities and obligations
  • Change in appearance, such as weight gain or loss, dilated pupils, bloating, and tremors.
  • Doctor shopping to get more refills.
  • Withdraws from friends and family and avoids social events.
  • Puts drug or alcohol use first in life, which harms relationships.
  • Obsessed with the substance, having enough on hand, using or drinking, recovering.
  • A decline in work or school performance.
  • Continues to use the substance despite mounting negative consequences.
  • Financial and legal problems caused by the substance abuse.
  • Withdrawal symptoms emerge when the substance wears off.

7 Ways to Improve Self-Esteem

If you struggle with low self-esteem and addiction, a significant part of getting better must involve improving your self-esteem. This may seem like an impossible task, especially if your self-esteem has been a part of you for decades.

Still, there are ways to change your perception of yourself and rise above a lost sense of self. Here are 7 tips to improve your self-esteem:

  1. Start seeing a therapist. A therapist can provide support and guidance in your quest to improve the way you see yourself. These mental health experts are trained to provide the steps to take to develop healthy and positive self-esteem.
  2. Practice gratitude. Make it a new habit to review your day and find at least three things to be grateful for. This exercise should include how you made a positive difference in someone’s day.
  3. Give back. One of the surest ways toward better self-esteem is through helping others. Find a charity you believe in and volunteer your time. By being a help to others, you will naturally feel better about yourself.
  4. Practice self-care. Show yourself that you are valuable and worthy with a little bit of pampering. Schedule a day at the spa, a massage, or a pedicure for a little self-indulgence.
  5. Set some achievable goals. Improving self-esteem starts with accomplishing goals. Set a few simple goals for yourself, such as new fitness goals, savings goals, or learning a new skill.
  6. Shift your thoughts. Catch yourself in the midst of negative self-talk and immediately correct your thoughts. Wear a rubber band on your wrist and snap it each time you catch yourself with a negative thought. Then, reframe that thought as a positive.
  7. Get healthy. Taking care of your body and your health sends a message to yourself that you are worthy. Overhaul your diet if you think you can improve it, and start a daily exercise routine.

How to Conquer Addiction

If you have low self-esteem and happen to engage in substance abuse, you will need to enroll in an addiction recovery program. Here is what to expect:

  • Detox: The detox and withdrawal process generally takes about a week or two to complete. Medical support is provided throughout the detox process to reduce the withdrawal symptoms.
  • Psychotherapy: Evidence-based therapies are clinically studied and shown to be effective in treating addiction. In therapy, you will learn new ways to cope with stress or negative emotions.
  • Group therapy: Small groups provide a space for peers in treatment to get to know each other within a supportive setting.
  • Family therapy: Family groups help the whole family unit heal and move forward together as their loved one enters recovery.
  • Education: Classes help teach coping skills, life skills, relapse prevention planning, stress management, and addiction education.
  • Holistic activities: Holistic methods can further enhance the treatment experience by promoting relaxation while reducing stress.

It is absolutely possible to improve your self-esteem and escape the clutches of addiction. Reach out for help today!

Elevation Behavioral Health Provides Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Elevation Behavioral Health is an upscale private residential treatment center for individuals struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse. If you struggle with low self-esteem and addiction, reach out to us today at (888) 561-0868.

Our team of experts is here to help you.