• Staff Writer

Self-Medicating and Mood Disorders


When self-medicating, it can be anything from taking over-the-counter cold medicine to drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs to treat some sort of unpleasant symptom. Anything you take without a doctor’s orders is considered self-medicating, even holistic measures. Of course, taking something for your headache or heartburn is going to be much safer than drinking or taking drugs. It is important to note the risks of self-medicating, especially when struggling with a mood disorder.

When someone has a mood disorder, suspects they do, or has symptoms of one, using drugs or alcohol to ease the overwhelming emotions may seem like the only outlet, but it is dangerous and often creates more problems in the long run.


Understanding What Self-Medicating Means


The general public needs to understand the consequences of self-medicating. Without professional guidance, taking medication can lead to adverse effects. Anything from taking too large of a dose, the wrong medication, something you’re allergic to, or something that would interact with something else you take can be detrimental to your physical and mental health.

Self-medication is generally described as taking drugs or home remedies without consulting a doctor. There are many reasons for this practice. Whether it is a matter of health insurance, cost, or convenience, many people would rather take it upon themselves to feel better in some way than reach out for help or guidance. It makes sense. If you have a minor problem, you don’t want to make an appointment, wait in a waiting room, take time off work, or spend a lot of money. However, when it comes to treating issues like mood disorders or mental health on your own, the risks outweigh the benefits tenfold.

Self-medicating symptoms like depression or anxiety are not the same as taking cold medicine for a cough. Treating mood disorders is much more intrinsic and personal than your average stomach ache or cold. You might believe that having a few drinks will deplete your anxiety, but depending on something so dangerous for a particular sensation leads to addiction and an increase in anxiety when that sensation wears off, leading to using more substances to deal with the symptoms. This isn’t just a pattern but a snowballing effect that quickly gets out of control.

Many times self-medicating is more dangerous than the initial symptoms. Of course, taking an antacid for heartburn or stomach upset won’t have the same effects as drinking to ease anxiety. Using drugs or alcohol to deal with stress, anxiety, or depression, is very likely to lead to substance abuse.

Roughly a quarter of people with mood disorders use drugs or alcohol to manage their symptoms. This is most common for those dealing with bipolar disorder. Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol can increase the odds of comorbidity of substance abuse and mental illness. Although many people find that self-medication can relieve their symptoms, this is temporary and, in the long run, causes more trouble than it helps.

Some risks of self-medication include:

  • False self-diagnosis

  • Delays in proper medical advice

  • Drug interactions

  • Adverse reactions

  • Incorrect dosage

  • Masking of a severe disease

  • Risk of drug or alcohol dependence

Mood Disorders and Self-Medicating


Mood disorders are also known as affective disorders. Common symptoms include overwhelming sadness, lack of interest, and fluctuating between extreme happiness and sadness. These symptoms are intense enough to disturb the everyday life of someone, whether diagnosed or not. This is another issue regarding self-medicating. Someone experiencing these symptoms may use drugs or alcohol to numb feelings or change them while worsening the problem and delaying a diagnosis and treatment. From there, they may develop a substance use disorder and then need treatment for co-occurring disorders, which can be more challenging to diagnose and treat.

Those at greater risk of developing an addiction due to their upbringing or genetics are more likely to self-medicate to ease mood disorder symptoms. In this case, one problem feeds the other, making seeking treatment more challenging.


A Solution


Although there are available treatments for those self-medicating, the best solution for this problem is prevention. Teaching people with mood disorders or addiction in their family history about self-medicating and its risks can help prevent it from becoming a problem. Doctors can also screen for signs of self-medicating during routine visits and check-ups to ensure healthy practices and prevent drug interactions and further issues. It is essential to note the safety risks self-medicating can lead to for both professionals and users.

With a mood disorder, people are more at risk of self-medicating, and having that practice leads to addiction or a lack of treatment. It is so vital for those in treatment for addiction recovery or mental health treatment to understand these risks so they can avoid this behavior.


Self-medicating is incredibly common for so many physical and mental health issues. Although many over-the-counter and holistic treatments are praised for their convenience and safety, the impact of self-medicating is almost always dangerous when it comes to mood disorders—deciding to use drugs or alcohol without professional guidance and approval risks worsening symptoms, addiction, and co-occurring conditions. Self-medicating can mask symptoms making them less likely to be diagnosed and treated correctly. It can also cause severe anxiety and depression as the effects wear off. The symptoms you were trying to control with drugs or alcohol can quickly become even more challenging to deal with, making professional intervention necessary. Professional care is essential for mood disorders, especially when self-medication is at play. At California Care Detox & Treatment, we provide support and guidance throughout the detox process so that we can offer the most accurate diagnosis and treatment for you. Call (949) 281-0632 now to get help.

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