The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has swept the world by storm. It has created new normals and changed the way we live entirely, at least temporarily. As COVID-19 began to spread and cities began shutting down gyms, restaurants, bars, movie theaters, clubs, and even schools and workplaces, millions of individuals from around the globe found themselves self-quarantining and alone with their own thoughts for the first time in quite a while.
For some, a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life sounded promising. Others have been struggling to maintain a sense of peace and well-being, especially if they consider themselves social or extroverted. Using drugs and alcohol to cope with stressful or new situations is not new, but it can lead to harmful and even deadly consequences if not treated.
Understanding the psychological, social, and physical ramifications of quarantining and isolation is essential to have a better understanding of what those who are struggling are experiencing, especially if they are turning to alcohol in order to cope with their new situations.
Isolation and Loneliness
Humans are social creatures. We spend much of our lives surrounded by relatives, friends, classmates, and coworkers. With the onset of COVID-19, many people were forced to self-quarantine and stay away from social gatherings and interactions for the very first time in their lives.
Experiencing existential loneliness due to extended isolation is common and has become more prevalent with the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals who are struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation are more likely to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcoholism, illegal drug use, and the abuse of prescription medications.
To prevent isolation and loneliness, video chats, digital messages, phone calls, safely social distanced gatherings, and other forms of contact are essential. If you believe your loved one is struggling with feelings of isolation, simply reaching out and connecting with them can make a big difference as they work through these trying times.
Millions of individuals struggle with anxiety daily, regardless of age, gender, and location. The fears of catching COVID-19 and spreading it to a loved one, coupled with isolation and self-quarantine, have caused anxiety to skyrocket in those who already struggled with managing their symptoms even prior to the pandemic.
Increases in anxiety are common when major life changes occur unannounced, especially among individuals who are predisposed to anxiety disorders, mood swings, chemical imbalances, or addictions. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic may manifest as:
- Irritability and mood swings
- Increased frustrating and agitation
- Inability to focus and remain calm
- Preoccupation with external threats and fears
- Preoccupation with COVID-19, safety measures, and prevention
- Increased or worsening depression
With so many unknowns and questions still circulating surrounding the progress of a COVID-19 vaccine, the safety of treatments, as well as the overall risk of the virus itself, it is no wonder that there is a massive uptick in reports of anxiety and other stress-related conditions.
Lockdowns, shutdowns, and stay-at-home orders have occurred in places across the United States and the world. Due to these circumstances, individuals who have developed a serious addiction to alcohol may find it even more difficult to obtain alcohol.
If they are heavy drinkers and quit drinking abruptly, people could experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. With fewer community resources and treatment programs readily available due to shutdowns, individuals may find themselves in dire or life-threatening scenarios.
Fewer Addiction Resources
Unfortunately, one of the negative effects of quarantining and shutting down various places is that there will often be fewer public resources available for those in need of assistance or for individuals who are seeking alcoholism treatment options that may help them through the pandemic.
With fewer addiction resources readily available to the public, individuals are more likely to turn to the use of alcohol in order to find a sense of peace and comfort. While using alcohol may provide an individual temporary relief from anxiety and fear due to the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol has the potential to worsen a person’s condition and ability to cope without the use of substances in the future.
Some of the long-term effects of using alcohol to cope with stressful situations and scenarios include:
- Increased anxiety
- Increased self-isolation
- A weakened immune system, which may make an individual more susceptible to becoming infected with the virus itself
- Health problems involving the heart, liver, kidney, and other organs and systems
- Disrupted social life
- Broken or damaged relationships
As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc in the United States and around the world, it is important to remain cognizant and aware of those who may be struggling with addiction, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and other ramifications of isolation and self-quarantining.
Although we are living in an unprecedented time in our history, we can still be a viable resource to those in need. We can provide such assistance by becoming familiar with the signs and symptoms of individuals who are struggling with the new realities of life.