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How Emotional Immaturity Contributes to Substance Abuse

Everyone faces challenges throughout their lives, whether in the form of difficult relationships, internal struggles, or unexpected and painful events. Emotional maturity – one’s ability to understand and respond to their emotions and those of others – is a large factor in how we react to such stressful situations. Some people respond in ways that are healthy and productive, while others turn to damaging patterns of behavior and self-destructive coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse. Feelings and emotions are at the root of all our life experiences, so it is no wonder that those who struggle with addiction often tend to have difficulty relating to and controlling their emotions.

Signs of Emotional Immaturity

While it is often through no fault of their own, a person who hasn’t had the right environment or support to develop maturity in emotional response will typically present the following characteristics:


  • Helplessness in dealing with everyday stresses
  • Noticeable and easy-to-provoke stressed response
  • Low self-esteem
  • Exhibit characteristics of depression and anxiety
  • Belief that they are being targeted
  • Disappointment when fail to meet own high expectations
  • Intensely irritated a lot of the time
  • Tend to blame others and universe for things not going their way


How Emotional Immaturity Leads to Personal Issues

Emotional maturity is linked to a person’s development. Research shows that while adolescents may reason as well as adults, they often lack the same level of emotional maturity. Any number of factors may lead to emotional immaturity in adults, from lack of supportive parenting in childhood to underlying trauma. Whatever the cause, emotional immaturity can be crippling to one’s emotional and mental well-being. The inability to be in touch with, and to properly manage one’s own emotions inevitably leads to a warped self-image, dysfunctional relationships, and unhealthy attempts to cope with unacknowledged or unchecked feelings.

Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms and Substance Abuse

One of the key differences between emotionally mature and immature adults is the presence of different styles of coping mechanisms. Unhealthy styles of coping, such as escapist or avoidant styles, can include destructive habits like substance abuse. Many people engage in substance abuse in an attempt to escape powerful emotions such as grief, anger, or guilt. This desperate need to escape one’s own feelings does nothing to address the source of the problem. Instead, it only lets the source of the pain fester, adding new strain to one’s physical, mental, and social health. As damaging as these behaviors are, they can be corrected. Emotional maturity is a skill comprised of psychological attitudes and behavioral responses towards emotions, which can be learned and mastered.

Learning Emotional Maturity in Recovery

A comprehensive recovery program must address fundamental negative beliefs about one’s self utilizing cognitive and behavioral therapies. An effective treatment plan will help the patient develop the decision-making and problem-solving skills needed to respond to stressful situations and emotional difficulties in safe, productive ways. Treatment should involve replacing unhealthy coping mechanisms with healthier ones, such as stress management strategies like meditation and exercise, and finding a supportive community. The presence of such a support network is essential in helping the patient foster healthier relationship dynamics in their life.

Co-Occurring Treatment for Addicts

Emotional immaturity and addiction go hand-in-hand, with each contributing to the other. Emotional maturity is difficult to develop, but can be learned. Granite Recovery Centers offers comprehensive, personalized drug rehab treatment plans that treat co-occurring disorders (such as conditions related to emotional immaturity) that address the destructive emotional and behavioral patterns that lead to drug addiction. If you or your loved one wants to beat addiction and learn healthier ways to live, contact us at 855.712.7784 or send us a message. We can help.

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