Loneliness is a state of isolation and disconnection from others. Intense loneliness can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair which can often cause a person to misuse substances. This is a vicious cycle, since drug and alcohol abuse can also produce feelings of isolation.
Loneliness, in psychological terms, is defined as a distressing feeling of having fewer social connections or relationships with less depth than desired. Moving to a new community, being rejected, experiencing a breakup, losing close family members and friends, or falling out with those who are a critical source of support can be painful experiences associated with loneliness.
Using drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism
Loneliness can be a serious problem that creates significant long-term physical as well as mental problems. Loneliness can weaken your immune system, cause sleep disorders and unhealthy eating patterns, and it can increase desire for addictive substances like alcohol or drugs.
Loneliness can also be incredibly harmful to a person’s mental health, especially if they’re experiencing addiction alongside mental health disorders like depression. People may attempt to self-medicate when they are lonely because of the powerful emotions connected with isolation, including anxiety, sadness, and invalidation.
Engaging in alcohol and drug abuse or other addictions will worsen the problems if not addressed immediately.
The vicious cycle of loneliness and addiction
Loneliness and addiction can often work together in a vicious cycle and further isolate people. The addiction, as well as the issues that come with it such as financial struggles, personal or legal problems can lead to resentment and distrust in the relationships people do have.
Substance abuse is a coping strategy that will always end in failure, leaving the user feeling lonelier than ever before.
How to deal with addiction and loneliness
If you’re experiencing loneliness and are also dealing with addiction or are currently in recovery, then we have the following suggestions:
- Remove yourself from any toxic relationships which you formed to avoid loneliness and to have a situation to abuse substances in.
- Reach out and connect with your positive support network, family and friends.
- Discover new ways to fill your time, such as taking up a new hobby, a new form of education, or volunteering.
- Connect with people who are having similar experiences in recovery.
- Take steps to become more aware of your inner critical voice and feelings and share them with others. This is sometimes challenging at first, but it is critical in preventing relapse.
- Set some healthy goals around the amount of time you spend alone.
The link between loneliness and addiction has been well documented. If you are feeling lonely, there may be the temptation to self-medicate with substances like alcohol or drugs.
This is a vicious cycle which will lead to even more isolation in your life. If you’re experiencing this problem, take steps now towards removing yourself from any toxic relationships that only exist because of loneliness and substance abuse issues. Reach out instead to people who have similar experiences as yours for support.
Remember that loneliness and addiction can be powerful, but they don’t have to control your life. You can take back control by seeking help and support from trusted friends, family members, your local support group and professionals.
If you are struggling through addiction, we can support you. Contact us today for an introductory consultation.