How Loneliness Fuels Addiction
While loneliness is often a momentary feeling for many that happens every once in a while, for others it can be more serious. Loneliness is a state of distress or discomfort that results when one’s desires for social connection and actual experience of it do not match up. Even some individuals who are surrounded by others or in a long-lasting relationship, may still experience a deep and persistent sense of loneliness. Research has found that loneliness and addiction can have negative effects on overall well-being and long-term physical health.
While some people attribute loneliness to simply a lack of friends or family, there are other factors that can cause these feelings. Situational variables, such as physical isolation, divorce, or moving to a new location can contribute to loneliness. Losing someone close, such as a parent, sibling, or significant other can also be a cause. Additionally, it can be a symptom of a mental health disorder such as depression, or vice versa. Introverts may be less likely to seek social connections, which can lead them to feel isolated or lonely.
Loneliness can lead to various negative mental and physical health effects including cardiovascular disease, increased stress, weakened immune system, depression, and alcohol and drug misuse. Deep feelings of sadness, exclusion, and invalidation from loneliness can cause individuals to engage in drug or alcohol use as coping mechanisms. Drinking or doing drugs is also a way to combat co-occurring disorders such as depression which may be the cause of loneliness and then lead to addiction. Substance abuse becomes a way to avoid confronting problems and negative feelings by providing temporary relief. However, substance abuse will only isolate individuals more. Addiction affects the people around the person with substance abuse issues and can drive them further away. The negative impacts of addiction, such as financial, legal, and personal troubles, can also further exacerbate feelings of depression and low self-esteem already a part of loneliness. The vicious cycle between loneliness and addiction can make people feel there is no way out and drive them down the hole deeper. However, there are healthier and more positive ways to deal with loneliness and combat substance abuse or addiction.
9 Best Tips to Combat Loneliness
Focus on developing quality relationships. Seek out people who share similar interests, values and attitudes as you.
- Strengthen Existing Relationships. While building new relationships is important, improving existing ones can also be helpful. Try calling a friend or family member you have not spoken to in a while.
- Join a Class or Group. Meetup Groups are great ways to find other people who share similar interests as you. You may also consider taking a class, fitness group, or joining a book club. Your local community center may have several options for you.
- Volunteer. Not only does volunteering present a great opportunity for meeting new people, it can also build self-esteem when you help others.
- Find Support Online or Join an Online Community. Loneliness is a widespread issue and there are many people online looking to connect with others. There are online support groups as well as apps for meeting like-minded people such as Friender and Skout.
- Talk to Strangers. Interacting in small ways with people around you are great ways to combat loneliness. Next time you grab a coffee or see your neighbor, try striking up a conversation.
- Practice Self-Care. Make sure you are doing things that take care of your well-being such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, and exercising.
- Keep Busy and Schedule Fun Activities into Your Day. Make sure you aren’t spending all your free time scrolling through your phone. Do things that are meaningful and make you happy, such as a hobby or keeping your home clean.
- Adopt a Pet. Pets can provide companionship and fight loneliness in several ways, especially a dog or a cat. Taking your dog for a walk can open you up to meeting other dog owners on your walk together and they also provide unconditional love.
- See a Therapist. If you are feeling depressed or anxious, which is preventing you from being around others, it is important to talk to a therapist about how to combat those issues. They can also help you with feelings of loneliness.
How to Get Help for Addiction
Addiction is a complex medical condition and only attempting to combat loneliness on your own may not prove successful in stopping substance abuse. Long-term substance abuse will cause changes in the brain which causes a compulsive need to use. The best way to combat loneliness and addiction is through a drug and alcohol rehab program.
Asking for help for addiction can be difficult, especially if you are dealing with loneliness, and often may seem easier to continue living in this downward path. However, asking for help with addiction and getting treatment, will be the best decision you ever made. Some ways to make asking for help easier include:
- Writing a letter, email, or text. It may be easier to express yourself through written words. You can express how you are struggling with controlling substance intake and that you want help.
- Ask for help from a medical professional. Make an appointment with your doctor or a therapist and let them know how you are struggling with substance abuse. They can help you take the next steps and offer you resources as well.
- Reach out for help online or over the phone. There are numerous resources online, such as helpline numbers, chat rooms, and treatment facility websites. It can be easier to reach out online than face to face when asking for help. These resources can help you take the next ideal steps.
- Participate in a peer support meeting. There are numerous peer support meetings throughout the country such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. There are people there who know what you are going through who can be easier to talk to and can offer you resources for getting help.
- Talk to someone you trust greatly. Even though you may feel alone, there are people in your life who care about you and that you can talk to. Open up to someone you trust and let them know how you have been struggling. They can help you make sense of what is going on and help you find the resources needed to take the next steps.