What is the Connection Between Isolation and Addiction?
Isolation plays an often-overlooked role in the cycle of addiction. Often, isolation and addiction go hand-in-hand with many individuals.
Regardless of personality type, we are all social creatures, longing for close family and personal connections.
In fact, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the need for love and belonging are among the most basic human needs – ranking just after the safety and basic physical needs, such as food and shelter.
Without a sense of belonging and affirmation, it is common for individuals to feel that their lives do not have meaning, which results in anger, frustration, and depression.
These experiences can result in self-harm and high-risk behavior, which may lead to even greater isolation.
But, with professional guidance, you, or your loved one, can break this cycle of isolation and addiction.
Understanding Isolation and Addiction
Psychologists have compared loneliness and isolation to an epidemic due to its sweeping and catastrophic qualities.
Additionally, the origins of isolation are more complex than a simple lack of exposure to others.
Just like physical illness, isolation can be influenced by genetic predisposition, with some individuals being inherently more susceptible to feelings of isolation and disconnection.
Also like a disease, isolation can spread through communities, especially those in which crime and poverty are prevalent. In these contexts, distrust can be rampant, with crime, poverty, and drug use leading to community-wide fear and despair.
Furthermore, all ages and demographics can experience loneliness and isolation.
In fact, according to a recent study conducted by Cigna, nearly half of 20,000 surveyed adults reported they sometimes or always felt alone, and 40% of participants said they sometimes or always feel their relationships lack meaning. This has significant implications for substance abuse.
Researchers have even discovered a link between isolation and high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even chemical addiction.
Effects of Isolation on Addiction
There is a stereotype of addiction as resulting from a “party” culture in which individuals abuse drugs and alcohol with friends, only to end up losing control. However, this is not entirely accurate.
Even though many people may have their first encounter with drugs or alcohol at a social gathering, it is usually not the friends or the party that causes the spiral to begin.
As we’ve seen in the previous studies, isolation and addiction form a self-perpetuating cycle. Many individuals first engage in high-risk behavior because they already feel isolated and that their lives do not matter to those around them.
In turn, however, high-risk behavior further isolates those individuals as friends and family members begin to distance themselves from frightening or erratic behaviors.
Moreover, as people begin to slip into addiction, they often begin to close themselves off from others – shutting the door on those remaining relationships they have, such as spouses, siblings, and parents.
Relationships may become even more damaged if the person struggling with addiction resorts to theft or violence while in the throes of addiction.
Self-isolation can result from shame regarding addictive behaviors, but it can also result from chemical changes in the brain.
As addiction sets in, the brain soon becomes rewired to focus primarily on the need for more drugs or alcohol.
Family, friends, work, and activities soon fall by the wayside, as the chemical dependency increases.
Tragically, this lack of connection can create barriers to recovery.
When those struggling with addiction do begin to reach out for help, they may no longer have friends and family who can help them with seek treatment.
Mental Illness, Isolation, and Addiction
No matter the individual’s age or background, there is evidence that isolation can have dire consequences for mental health.
And while substance use is a well-known coping mechanism for those experiencing a mental health crisis, it only serves to temporarily numb psychological pain, while privately worsening the addict’s physical and emotional well-being.
Thus, people who abuse substances to deal with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, loneliness, stressful situations, suicidal thoughts, or other serious mental health concerns are only pushing away their feelings – and those they love.
One particularly devastating reality of isolation is that it can also be created or furthered by institutional factors, such as generational poverty, lack of reliable transportation, disabilities, language barriers, and lack of community engagement resources.
Therefore, unlike milder loneliness issues, it cannot always be addressed through increased connections and social skills.
This is because those facing significant isolation issues need professional assistance to address underlying concerns, like lack of resources. For, even if they can beat their substance use “cold turkey,” the underlying isolation, and subsequent mental health issues, will remain and reemerge.
There are excellent treatment options that can help those struggling with isolation, addiction, and mental health issues find the support they deserve.
While a situation may seem complicated and irreversible to those facing addiction, treatment teams understand the cycle of anguish and addiction caused by isolation.
With professional help, isolated men and women can develop treatment plans that will address physical and mental health issues. They will also begin identify resources and programs to assist with employment, resource access, and meaningful emotional connection.
Treatment for Isolation and Addiction
Almost anyone seeking freedom from addiction can benefit from staying in a treatment center, but it can be especially therapeutic for individuals suffering from a combination of isolation and addiction.
This is because, for these individuals, several types of therapies and treatments may be employed to simultaneously alleviate underlying conditions.
For example, someone struggling with chemical addiction, combined with general anxiety, and isolation, will more likely find relief in an immersive treatment environment, that includes physical and psychological recovery resources.
Depending on the nature of substance abuse, the recovery journey may begin with medical detoxification under the supervision of healthcare professionals.
Medical detox allows the body to become accustomed to life without an addictive substance and allows medical providers to help control and monitor the pain and anxiety that come with withdrawal.
Since the effects of withdrawal can be traumatic to drug and alcohol users but experiencing the withdrawal in a safe and supervised environment reduces the likelihood of a serious complication.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can also be highly effective in breaking the cycle of addiction by helping with the management of stressors, self-sabotage, and guilt.
Additionally, group therapy, one-to-one counseling, and twelve-step programs may also be used to help those in need of connection develop healthy relationships with those who understand their experience.
Recovery centers may also utilize nutrition counseling, financial counseling, fitness programming, lifestyle counseling, and other holistic treatments to help reduce isolation, increase coping strategies, and empower those in recovery to start a new, healthier life.
Do you want treatment but are worried about how you can pay for it?
We have a team of financial professionals who provide free insurance verification.
We will work with you to determine how to move forward with the treatment in a way that works for you.
How to Get Help
Overcoming isolation and addiction is difficult, and we know it may feel impossible to rebuild your life.
Our state-of-the-art facilities, dedicated team, and responsive programs will help you find the rest and recovery you deserve.
Call BriteLife Recovery and start your new beginning.