For some, the feeling of loneliness only comes around every so often. It’s a feeling that can quickly be resolved by meeting up with friends or family, but for others, it is much more serious.
In psychological terms, loneliness is defined as the distressing experience of having fewer social relationships, or relationships with a lower depth, than one wishes. It can be a painful experience following rejection, moving to a new area, following a breakup, losing close family members and friends, or falling out with those who are a main form of support.
Intense loneliness can be a symptom of deeper issues, and can even lead to drug or alcohol misuse. This is a vicious cycle, as the use of drugs and alcohol can also lead to feelings of loneliness too.
Using Drugs and Alcohol as a Coping Mechanism
Loneliness can cause real damage to the human mind and body. It can weaken your immune system, affect your sleep, causing unhealthy eating patterns and even cause arthritis. It can trigger an increased desire for addictive substances such as alcohol, smoking and drugs.
The deep feelings associated with loneliness such as anxiety, sadness, and invalidation mean people seek ways to self-medicate.
Someone may be experiencing loneliness alongside addiction and mental health disorders like depression. Loneliness will only exacerbate all of these issues if it is not treated as soon as possible.
The Vicious Cycle of Loneliness and Addiction
As previously mentioned, there is a potential for loneliness and substance misuse to work together in a vicious cycle.
Drugs and alcohol can actually further isolate people. The addiction, and the issues that come with it; such as financial, personal and legal struggles, can lead to resentment, distrust, and fear in the relationships they do have.
The coping mechanism of substance abuse will always backfire, leaving the person to feel lonelier than ever.
How to Deal With Addiction and Loneliness
If you’re struggling with feelings of loneliness, there are some tips to help you tackle the issue on the Mind website here.
If you are also dealing with addiction, or are currently in recovery then we have the following suggestions:
- Remove yourself from any toxic relationships which you only formed to avoid your loneliness and to have a situation to abuse substances in.
- Consider reaching out to family members and friends.
- Learn new ways to fill the gap, such as taking up a new hobby, a new form of education, or finding volunteer work.
- Connect with people who are going through the same experience as you in recovery.
- Be aware of your own feelings and try to open up to others about them. This can be difficult at first but is a strong factor in avoiding relapse.
- Set yourself healthy goals, including the amount of time you spend alone. If loneliness contributed to your addiction, you will want to avoid isolation again.
If you are struggling through addiction or the recovery phase, at Parkland Place we can support you. Reach out to a member of our team today to help avoid feeling alone. We understand the detriment of loneliness and will do our best to help.