How Emotional Immaturity Affects Addicted Individuals
Research and studies have all come to the same conclusion; those that abuse addictive substances display emotional immaturity. This stunts an individual’s capability to deal with the highs and lows of life. Addiction treatment aids individuals that struggle with emotional immaturity because it allows them to develop strategies that help with the stresses and joys of life without the crutch of alcohol or drugs.
What is Emotional Immaturity?
Being mature emotionally means that an individual is able to cope with any emotion that comes in life. Emotionally mature people will be able to deal with the suffering in life, and also the joys, with grace and dignity. Those that are emotionally immature will not be able to handle their own feelings. For those that are addicted to alcohol or drugs, will display emotional immaturity by using substances to handle unwanted feelings, and are not comfortable being truly themselves. It’s possible this decision making is influenced by taught behaviors from their family or the disease of addiction has taken root.
Substance Abuse and Self-Medication
Studies have shown that the earlier a person begins using addictive substances, the higher the chances are for emotional immaturity to be apparent in that individual. This is because alcohol and drugs can dull a person’s feelings and make it easier to deal with whatever life throws their way. After a while of doing this, using drugs or alcohol becomes a crutch for dealing with emotions. Self-medication of feelings is a major reason why many individuals develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol in the first place. Once a person that is emotionally immature stops using drugs or alcohol, unwanted feelings and emotions start to overwhelm them, causing them to reach once again for the substance of their choice. During treatment, emotionally immature individuals are given coping techniques so that they are better prone to dealing with unwanted emotions.
Characteristics of the Emotionally Immature
- Hard pressed to deal with the challenges and changes of life, and have developed a learned helplessness in dealing with these stresses.
- Affected by stress more dramatically. Develop depression or anxiety disorders at a higher rate than the emotionally mature.
- Have low-self esteem because of the inability to deal with emotions. Feel that they deserve what comes to them because they view themselves as deserving.
- Constant disappointment due to higher expectations of those surrounding them.
- Afflicted by intense irritability because life has not gone their way. This makes it hard for the emotionally immature to develop and maintain healthy friendships. Also, this makes them prone to blaming others for their actions and experiencing frequent mood swings.
- Look to the future with indifference. Because of their inability to deal with the stresses of life, they dread their own future.
Dangers of Emotional Immaturity in Recovery
- The emotionally immature will not be able to cope with their negative emotions, so they will react to drugs or alcohol and relapse to handle stressful situations.
- Recovery takes work and the emotionally immature may not be able to handle the pressure of the work that needs to be put in once they have stopped using drugs or alcohol.
- Support is vital for individuals in recovery. Those that are emotionally immature will find it harder to maintain and develop healthy relationships throughout recovery. Those without a support system are prone to loneliness; one of the major reasons for relapse in early recovery.
- For the best chance of overall well-being and happiness, a person in addiction recovery should be emotionally mature. Those that are emotionally immature will find it hard to remain content during sobriety. They may look to drugs or alcohol to combat boredom.
How to Develop Emotional Maturity in Addiction Recovery
- Overall, emotional maturity occurs via practice. Once in recovery, you will no longer be able to look for drugs or alcohol as a crutch for unwanted feelings. Practicing handling these new and intense emotions will allow you to develop ways of dealing with them in the future. Be assured, it does get easier the more you practice.
- Instead of jumping from one addiction to the other once treatment concludes, stay focused on having zero addictions. Many people like to spend the energy they used to spend on their addiction developing new addictions like gambling, working out, or even dating. Take some time to accept your emotions rather than hide them with new addictions.
- The development of acceptance in recovery is vital to emotional maturity. Understand that your expectations for recovery may not be a possible reality. Also, you must be willing to accept your emotions and who you are as an individual so that you are not constantly disappointed throughout recovery. Know that the work that you put into your recovery will benefit you.
- Spend time around those in recovery that are emotionally mature. We are social creatures and the people surrounding us influence us. If you place yourself in an environment that thrives on emotional maturity, it will undoubtedly rub off on you.
- During high-stress times, your emotional sobriety is at risk. Practice mindfulness and acceptance techniques to work through the emotions you are unfamiliar with in recovery. Meditation, journaling, and exercise are all great ways to practice peace of mind and mindfulness in recovery.