For most, the only thing worse than suffering from mental health and addiction alone is suffering from mental health and addiction during a pandemic. The safety regulations necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19 are fundamentally against human nature—social distancing and self-isolation do not exactly align with what we as humans need to keep our mental health in check.
While these guidelines are necessary to protect public health, they do not create an environment that is conducive to improving or avoiding mental health issues and subsequently substance use disorders. Feelings of loneliness and isolation often contribute to the development of mental disorders and/or lead individuals to feel they need to use drugs or alcohol to feel whole once more.
Despite this, even though the onset of the pandemic took nearly everyone by surprise, efforts are being made to provide mental health and addiction resources online. It is difficult to predict how long this new reality will last, but on a positive note, COVID-19 has propelled treatment services onto internet platforms that have the ability to make rehabilitation more accessible to everyone in the future.
Mental Health During the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a significant uptick of mental health issues in the United States, the Washington Post reports. The disorders most on the rise are, unsurprisingly, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. By the peak of the pandemic in May, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed that nearly one quarter of adults say the pandemic has minorly affected their mental health while one fifth of adults say it has had a major impact. Of the adults polled, more women reported a general decrease in their mental health than men.
It is clear that the mental health effects of this pandemic do not discriminate, but those especially at risk have already had issues with mental health or are frontline medical workers who courageously face the virus every day.
Social distancing and isolation, while very necessary safety measures for this pandemic, are known to cause negative emotions such as sadness, loneliness, fear, anger and boredom. For some, if these feelings intensify they can lead to depressive or anxious episodes and even actual diagnoses. For those already struggling with mental illness, it is extremely important to find a support system or search for online resources before symptoms grow worse.
While the isolation of living during this pandemic is a major factor of this sudden increase, many researchers are also deeply worried about mental health through the lens of the economic crisis. A study by the National Library of Medicine about mental health in the Great Depression showed that with every percentage point increase in the unemployment rate, there was almost a two percent increase in the suicide rate. With the initial plummet of global markets due to the pandemic, this statistic is extremely important to be aware of.
Substance Abuse During the Pandemic
Mental health and substance abuse are inextricably connected for some. Feelings of isolation, depression or anxiety can lead to cravings and even relapse for those in addiction recovery as well as new substance abuse disorders. The reality we are facing in this pandemic is scary for most, and with that comes the feeling that we need to escape.
Alcohol sales have gone up since the onset of the pandemic because of this desire, and with the decrease in outside responsibility from lockdown, it is easy to go overboard. With the absence of some form of work, social life or regular daily schedule, the temptation to use again or begin using is strong, especially when nearly everyone is stuck in their house with little to hold them accountable.
According to the National Library of Medicine, drug use, along with increasing the chances of developing a substance use disorder, can actually put individuals at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Those who consistently smoke substances likely have decreased lung capacity, and therefore it is probable that they are more susceptible to the respiratory risks of the virus. Alcohol consumption is already known to aggravate flu symptoms, so it is not far-fetched to say it will also have some unintended consequences on those diagnosed with COVID-19 as well.
In person medical assistance has been severely limited by the pandemic, slashing many inpatient and outpatient options for individuals participating in withdrawal and behavioral therapies. While many of the therapeutic services are now available online, those going through withdrawal are facing more difficulty going through it by themselves without the daily supervision of medical professionals. Despite this, there has still been a massive increase in online services for addiction treatment.
Online Treatment Options
While the element of in person interaction is extremely important in treating mental health and addiction, online services are the best way to receive any form of rehabilitation during the pandemic. Thankfully, Very well Mind has published a comprehensive list detailing several online services for those in need of counseling during this difficult time, including several hotlines, subscription based services and the following organizations:
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Cocaine Anonymous
- Mental Health America
- Narcotics Anonymous
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Eating Disorder Association
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
- National Institute on Drug Abuse
- National Institute on Mental Health
- Overeaters Anonymous
- SMART Recovery
- Tempest Recovery Program
If you or a loved one are suffering from mental health and addiction issues during the pandemic, you are not alone. Call us today to speak with an experienced, caring addiction specialist.
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