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How Low Self-Esteem Can Lead to Substance Abuse in Women

Jan 21, 2022

Self-esteem is made up of several elements, including confidence, competence, and a feeling of belonging. The quality of each one can be a factor in someone’s potential to misuse drugs and alcohol. What ties substance use disorders to self-esteem is worth exploring. The process may reveal to you some important areas in your life that need extra attention.

Low self-esteem in women can contribute to substance use disorders for many reasons. She may begin using drugs to feel a sense of belonging in social settings where she is otherwise shy and withdrawn. She may remain in unhealthy relationships where misuse of substances is common. A woman with low self-esteem may use drugs or alcohol to mask her physical symptoms of depression, anxiety, or trauma. Dual diagnosis treatment is recommended for any person with a substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health disorder.

Four Stories Revealing How Low Self-Esteem Leads to Substance Abuse

1. A woman with low self-esteem may begins using drugs to feel a sense of belonging.

People with low self-esteem may feel excluded in social settings with peers, unable to be on an equal footing with others. Their sense of self-worth may keep them from initiating new connections. They may even have trouble sustaining friendships long-term as they are wracked with doubt about how they appear to others.

The appeal of substances for women with low self-esteem comes from an instant sense of belonging in a group where others are using them already. The drug becomes a kind of “membership card” into the group or setting. Regular use may make them feel accepted by the group, and stopping the drug or alcohol use might feel like a big risk of losing status within the group.

2. A woman with low self-esteem may remains in unhealthy relationships where substance use is routine.

People with low self-esteem may be willing to accept whatever is offered to them, even if it’s not what they truly want. They may accept less at work and in relationships. Rather than breaking these relationships off, a woman with low self-worth may do whatever it takes to continue them. It could mean accepting troubling behavior from friends and romantic partners. It could also mean sustaining relationships with active drug users as long as they provide the attention desired.

3. A woman with low self-esteem may masks physical symptoms with drugs or alcohol.

Depression, anxiety, or some other mental health disorder can appear in a woman long before she begins misusing drugs or alcohol. She may turn to substances to hide some of the physical symptoms she’s experiencing, such as headaches and fatigue. When she doesn’t search for other solutions, the drug use may become routine. Someone who begins to use substances to cope with feelings at home can eventually risk losing their job by using drugs or alcohol during work hours or showing up under the influence.

4. A woman with low self-esteem may escapes trauma by regularly using substances.

Unresolved trauma from childhood or adulthood can lead to painful experiences for a woman. Trauma can be tied to certain settings, events, or thinking about specific memories. The feeling can appear quite suddenly, too. A woman who feels her self-worth has been lowered by the shame, guilt, or fear tied to a traumatic experience may begin using drugs or alcohol as an escape. Periods of intense trauma may be accompanied by more frequent substance use or higher amounts of a particular drug.


Hannah’s House is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration.

We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety.

For information on our programs, call us today: 866-952-5532.

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