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