Tag Archives: mental illness

Addiction and Isolation

A Cycle of Addiction and Isolation

Addiction steals from people. It steals time and destroys relationships and communities. Often, people suffering from addiction end up increasingly isolated. This could be due to their own guilt and shame, and they then cut themselves off from those around them. With the stigma around addiction, many communities may also knowingly or unknowingly cause others to become isolated. The many causes and effects of addiction may be rooted in loneliness, isolation and mental health disorders, which are often in turn made worse by addiction. This creates a cruel cycle that continues until someone, or many people, can help break it.

Isolation due to Mental Illness

It is an unfortunate truth that there is a stigma around mental illness. When someone is struggling with their mental health, others may have a hard time relating. Even those with mental health problems may hold a self-stigma around the issue. In an article published by World Psychiatry, the authors wrote that in addition to views held by the general public, “…even well-trained professionals from most mental health disciplines subscribe to stereotypes about mental illness.”* They also found 3 common views regarding people with mental illness:*

  1. People with mental illness are to be feared and kept away
  2. They are dangerous and reckless; need to be controlled
  3. They are like children and cannot make decisions for themselves

Given the information above, it’s understandable that resources are difficult to find or that people are reluctant to seek help. If anyone is dealing with addiction and mental illness, they may be more reluctant to get treatment and their isolation will increase. Without a support system, someone might turn to substances to cope with their problems.

How Technology Isolates Us

Technology has provided humans with a lot of incredible opportunities, particularly when it comes to connecting. There are of course downsides to this and many of the issues can lead to increased isolation. As people give more attention to devices, they take away from time to give to family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. This can be harmful to maintaining strong relationships with those around you. When someone is dealing with addiction and/or mental health problems, a strong community is essential to their health. As technology is still a newer phenomenon in terms of history, a lot still needs to be done in the way of research. Certain studies do show connections between technology and isolation, though the exact cause and effects are not conclusive.

Still, a study reported on by NPR revealed that it is possible social media increases people’s perception of isolation.* Social media allows us to present our lives in any manner we want, and show only the good times. According to the study, some people may feel excluded because they were not there in the moment, or even because their life does not look as good as what they see online.

A feeling of isolation is not going to absolutely result in substance abuse or addiction. However, it is possible that some people will turn to substances to cope with being lonely or socially isolated. Many substances, and especially alcohol, seemingly make it easier to connect with others. Advertising for alcohol is incredibly effective in presenting the idea that alcohol will allow you to be social, and to always have fun when it is consumed. Social media can further this notion with people posting about the fun they are supposedly having, with alcohol being a constant presence.

Rebuilding

Issues with mental health, loneliness, and technology do not mean someone will struggle with substance abuse or addiction. Not everyone who is isolated is going to always struggle with these problems. They are just a few factors that might play a part.

Many different steps can and should be taken to remedy these problems. One is to work on removing the shame and stigma around addiction and mental health disorders. Another action, that everyone can be a part of, is to build strong communities. Someone in recovery is in great need of community to have a better chance at maintaining long-term sobriety. Relapse is a normal part of recovery, but someone with a community around them has a better chance at overcoming any relapses. Addiction is complicated and it is hard to fight. It is something that absolutely requires the effort of multiple people.


Someone might have lost most of their community while they were struggling with addiction. They also might have lost contact at any point in their lives because of mental illness, technology, or any other number of causes. Whether or not someone has a strong community on the outside, Reflections will work with each patient to provide that. We help our clients rebuild a community and provide the tools they need to succeed after treatment. At Reflections, we work with clients to remove the shame from addiction and mental illness. It is important that people know that treatment is possible and that they do not have to be alone. If you or a loved one needs help, please contact us today.

Resources*:
Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness – World Psychiatry
Feeling Lonely? Too Much Time on Social Media May Be Why – NPR


Initial Intake

At Reflections Recovery Center, each patient will go through a psychiatric evaluation. This applies to anyone, no matter what state they believe their mental health to be in. A psychiatric evaluation can be essential for many people in recovery. An initial assessment will allow our team to understand if each patient needs any psychiatric services and to what extent. An evaluation will provide a clear picture of our patient’s history covering mental health, physical health, and anything to do with addiction. The truth is, psychiatric help can prove beneficial for anyone. The most healthy people in the world still need to take care of their physical and mental health. With each patient, we want to have a complete understanding of their behavior and history. This will allow us to identify and treat the underlying causes that contributed to their addiction.

When we talk about underlying causes, we are not saying there is a total lack of personal choice and responsibility. Realistically, any person can become addicted under certain circumstances. Any person can choose to participate in, or abstain from, the consumption for certain substances. While there is a personal choice, clearly not everyone is on the edge of addiction.  It is the underlying causes that may make a person more susceptible. Underlying causes may also be what takes it from occasional use or experimentation to abuse and addiction. With a psychiatric evaluation, we hope to identify psychological, social, and biochemistry issues that might be contributing to addiction. Someone may struggle more deeply with one or it can be a combination of all three problems. Each issue can also feed into the other problems creating a negative cycle.

Mental Health Screening

Identifying and treating mental health problems can help significantly when dealing with addiction. The severity of mental illness is something that can obviously have a wide range. Someone might struggle with a psychological issue and it may not be as severe as other problems. Nevertheless, every person, no matter the severity, should have their mental health taken just as seriously. Many people suffer from mental health disorders and turn to substance abuse to self-medicate. Unfortunately, anxiety is not always perceived to be as serious as other mental health disorders. While it may not be as severe as other disorders, this leads many people to brush it off as something that people should be able to work on by themselves. For anyone struggling with anxiety, this can create a sense of helplessness. Someone may then turn to abusing alcohol or prescription drugs to cope with their undiagnosed and untreated anxiety.

Biochemistry and Addiction

In each patient’s initial evaluation we will also look at their biochemistry with lab testing. This will allow us to look for genetic factors that might be contributing to addiction. We also want to look for any other physical ailments that can be treated. As stated above, anxiety is something that might come up in a psychological assessment. There are of course many ways to treat this, such as medication or various forms of therapy. It could also be the case that someone’s anxiety could be biochemical issues that can also be treated with a holistic approach. With poor nutrition, our bodies deal with inflammation and that greatly impacts our mood. This can leave someone feeling depressed, lethargic, and incredibly anxious.

Identifying Social Issues

The environment that we are each raised in shapes who we are. It can be what makes us unique and capable of doing incredible things. Our social and cultural surroundings can also unfortunately be what drags us down. Some of it is out of our control – our families, where we live, and often our economic status. Illicit drugs may be more widely available in certain places, and this will absolutely be a factor in addiction rates. Cultural elements that can contribute to addiction can include social media, friend groups, and entertainment sources.

These elements are not inherently bad at all, but can quickly become problems. Social media can be isolating and also misleading. It can present the image that users want, which can make substance abuse appear fulfilling when it is not. Entertainment, in many formats, can present a similar image. In particular, alcohol is presented as a means to a happier, more social life. Many people even find humor in stories or behavior that is a result of heavy-drinking. This normalizes heavy-drinking and binge-drinking, which pose significant risks to every person’s health. Understandably, this makes it difficult for most people to recognize when alcohol use turns to abuse and addiction.

Moving Forward

If we can identify the factors that contribute to addiction, we can help our patients work to move past them. We cannot guarantee a complete fix for everything, no one can. However, we can help provide tools for dealing with problems as they arise in life. An article published on the U.S. National Library of Medicine, regarding psychological evaluations, noted, “While in therapy, patients strengthen their motivation, acquire skills supporting them to resist temptation of use, encounter gratifying activities not involving drugs able to replace former ones, and improve their problem solving skills.”* This explains what we want to accomplish at Reflections. We hope to provide all of that so our patients can live a full life and avoid relapse.

With therapy for mental health issues, we can work with patients to provide tools to ease and manage symptoms. Lab testing will give us a closer look at a patient’s biochemistry; we can identify physical issues that are contributing to addiction and keeping them vulnerable. Social issues might seem like a simple fix, but can actually be quite complex. We will need to identify where in the patient’s social environment they may be faced with problems. Is it a friend group that is encouraging use of various substances? It can be incredibly difficult to make a clean break or continue to participate in the same social circle and resist temptation.

A psychiatric evaluation will help provide a comprehensive look at each patient’s history. All patients will be unique in their needs and that is something that can be found at Reflections Recovery Center. We recognize the need for group therapy, but also individualized help. With everything we provide, we want each patient to walk away better equipped to maintain sobriety and to also live a full life in every aspect.

*Resources:
The relevance of the psychological evaluation in drug dependence – NIH