ERG: Get the facts about rehab
For people with drug & alcohol problems

How Self-Loathing Drives People Into Addiction

The Self-Loathing Cycle of Addiction and How to Break It

Chemical addiction to drugs or alcohol might be a physical condition, but it has its roots in mental health.

If you are alcohol or narcotic-dependent, there is a high likelihood that you will also suffer from issues around low self-esteem or self-loathing, whether you realise it or not.

So, how are the two connected? How can we see the signs of self-loathing that might drive you or someone you love into a spiral of addiction and what can be done to help?

The impact of shame

  • One in three people suffering from depression in the UK also suffer from addiction
  • More than half of people suffering from addiction in the UK have mental health issues
  • A sense of denial is common to both depression and addiction
  • Residential rehab is the most effective way of overcoming a dual diagnosis of addiction and a mental health issue
  • Self-loathing is closely tied to the concept of shame

If you just need a chat or need some advice, contact us here.

What are the symptoms of self-loathing and shame?

  1. Isolation: Shame and self-loathing often lead to a desire to withdraw from society and relationships. Shame causes us to hide away from the wider society that we perceive to be shaming us. In the case of self-loathing, we do not consider ourselves to be worthy of forming meaningful relationships
  2. Irrational anger: Shame, as an emotion, has the power to make us lash out in anger as a deflection from confronting the issues we face more directly. If you suffer from self-loathing, that anger is directed at yourself
  3. Blaming yourself: If you suffer from low self-esteem, you are more likely to blame yourself for mistakes and feel an element of shame if you are unable to find the right answers
  4. Addiction: The ultimate manifestation of shame and self-loathing is addiction, where you turn to substances that artificially alter the chemical balance in your brain to try and overcome the crippling problems associated with shame and self-loathing

Escaping the cyclical relationship

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that substance abuse and depression are intimately connected, with one being a driver for the other in a downward spiral of mental and physical health.

This kind of symbiotic relationship is known as a dual diagnosis and accepting and understanding the link between the two is crucial to you seeking the best treatment to overcome your problems.

If you are worried that your addiction may be fuelled by an issue of low-self esteem, self-loathing, or depression, take our self-assessment questionnaire to better understand how we can help you in your recovery.

Self-loathing makes you both the bully and the victim

extreme depression

An easy way to think about the relationship between self-loathing and addiction is as a case of bullying, but one in which you are both the bully and the victim.

Quite simply, self-loathing is a situation where, because of a chemical imbalance, you treat yourself badly and psychologically abuse yourself through constant criticism and a suppressed self-image that leads to low self-esteem.

The artificial high that alcohol and drug abuse can temporarily give you is often a quick release from the trappings of self-loathing.

However, the result of substance abuse can be to compound the sense of self-loathing. You are your own bully and you’ve trapped yourself in a cycle.

Toxic shame and learning to cope: How to handle it

Many of the best rehab clinics in the UK are pioneering dual diagnosis techniques to understand how issues of self-esteem and depression are linked to chemical addiction.

Castle Craig, in the Scottish Borders, is one such example of a facility where you can recover from addiction in a way that truly addresses the root causes of your problems.

Self-loathing is tied to your social relationships

The ultimate goal of any rehab is to help you recover from your chemical addiction to lead a healthy and happy life. In the case of dual diagnosis, it is important to understand that the very idea of self-loathing is usually rooted in how we see our relationships with other people, whether they be interpersonal relationships with friends and family or parasocial relationships with strangers.

Rehab can help to break the link between how you see yourself and the addiction issues that arise because of it, using a range of techniques, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Group Therapy
  • Complimentary and holistic therapies

Love yourself into sobriety

Given the strength of the relationship between self-loathing and addiction, it’s no surprise that the converse is also true. A sense of high self-esteem and a healthy, positive mental outlook can be instrumental in overcoming addiction, and overcoming the physical symptoms of addiction can help improve your mental state.

To begin the process of recovering from your dual diagnosis of addiction and self-loathing, speak to an expert here.

About the Author

  • Janet has worked within recovery for over 9 years and is an intrinsic part of ERG. She specialises in family therapy connecting the addict back with the family of origin.