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Will the COVID-19 Pandemic Fuel a Wave of Addiction?

Will the COVID-19 pandemic fuel a wave of addiction? The 2020 pandemic is still a significant problem throughout the globe — especially here in the U.S. In addition to the physical issues associated with the virus, more research surfaces about the pandemic’s lasting mental health effects.

Unfortunately, many predict that mental health professionals won’t keep up with the number of people who need help with depression and anxiety due to this pandemic.

That means more people will undoubtedly turn to other coping mechanisms. As a result, we will likely see a wave of addiction in the coming months and even years.

Since February 2020, doctors and ER units nationwide have already seen an explosion in alcohol-related issues. Sales of alcohol have also consistently gone up throughout the pandemic.

Knowing this, how do we approach this wave of addiction?

The Mental Health Impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 has caused plenty of more issues than merely physical illnesses. People who once dealt with addiction are at a greater risk of relapsing. Those who feel as though they don’t have anywhere else to turn may look at alcohol or harder drugs like opioids for the first time.

What aspects of the pandemic are contributing to these mental health issues?

The biggest one, undoubtedly, is loneliness. Even if you consider yourself to be an introverted person, people are social, by nature. Feeling completely isolated and disconnected from others can make you feel alone, without any support. Studies show the negative impact of loneliness lasts for years. It can even impact your physical health.

Of course, it’s impossible to ignore the uncertainties of this entire pandemic. People have lost jobs, children run risks going to school, and even though places have started re-opening, many states still have mask mandates.

There is still so much anxiety surrounding COVID-19, and it only builds up with the upcoming (and volatile) presidential election. Feelings of anxiety combined with feelings of loneliness, are often a recipe for disaster.

How People Cope on Their Own

Because depression and anxiety are so prevalent, there are a variety of ways to deal with them. Some people take medication; others seek therapy. Sadly, far too many people find harmful ways of coping, including drug and alcohol use.

Pseudo Comfort

Since January of this year, for example, Texas has seen a massive rise in both alcohol and guns/ammo sales — which is a horrible combination. But, people are looking for ways to numb whatever worries they may be feeling. That goes far beyond alcohol into harder drugs. When you learn more about opiate addiction and the brain, you find that it can lead to euphoria feelings. Who wouldn’t be looking for that right now?

Unfortunately, the effects of drugs and alcohol don’t last, so people need more and more to get by.

Substance Abuse

Will the COVID-19 pandemic fuel a wave of addiction? Absolutely. But, there is hope for those feeling anxiety from the effects of this pandemic.

If you are feeling anxious, depressed, stressed, or overwhelmed, you are certainly not alone. Still, you also don’t need to turn to a substance that will only compound the issues.

Even if you can only reach out to someone digitally, do whatever it takes to make connections and find your support system. The times are still uncertain. Together we will see it through, and you don’t have to depend on substances to feel better about the state of the world.

Feel free to contact me if you’re struggling to get through this pandemic or visit my page on opiate addiction and the brainto learn more about how I can help. Together, we can work on more effective ways to work through your anxiety so you can manage your symptoms daily.

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How the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacts People with OCD

How does the pandemic affect people with OCD?

Now that we have been living through the COVID-19 pandemic for several months, specific areas of concern are starting to shift. Naturally, there is an ongoing concern for everyone’s physical health and safety — especially those at a higher risk of contracting the virus.

But, research suggests already that there is a significant risk for long-term mental health issues in the wake of COVID-19.

There are expected spikes in people with anxiety, depression, and fear over the coming months and years. Some experts have even expressed concern that the mental health community will not be able to keep up with all that society needs.

For people who already have conditions, however, COVID-19 can take an even higher toll. For example, people with OCD may have a harder time dealing with this pandemic than others. Let’s explore this concept.

What Are the Challenges for People With OCD?

People with OCD tend to have difficulties with discomfort. Well, nothing has been more uncomfortable than the uncertainty of this pandemic. COVID-19 is not just an irrational fear. It is a real virus that has swept over the world. Unfortunately, no matter where you stand politically, it’s clear that the U.S. hasn’t done the best job to keep it under control.

So, the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic can cross over into struggles those with OCD already have.

When most people think about OCD, the first thing that comes to mind is an obsession with cleanliness. If you have the disorder, you know that isn’t the whole story. Yet, it’s a big part of it for many people. The idea of worldwide contamination makes it easy to trigger common OCD symptoms.

There are several things related to this pandemic that can serve as triggers for people with OCD, including:

  • Being told to wash hands frequently
  • Staying six (or more) feet apart
  • Excessively searching for information about the virus
  • Emergency/panic shopping

Even now, as most states are starting to open up with restrictions, the idea of being in lockdown or staying away from people can make symptoms worse for those already struggling with OCD.

What Can You Do to Manage Your Symptoms?

What can you do to manage your OCD during this time of uncertainty? First, give yourself some slack. This pandemic is anything but an everyday occurrence. Most people are trying to get through it in their own way. If you notice your symptoms getting worse, take a deep breath, and give yourself a bit of a break.

If those symptoms are getting out of control, there are a few things you can do to manage them effectively.

Make a Plan

One of the best things you can do is to create a reasonable safety plan. That might include only washing your hands before you eat when you come in from the outside, or after you’ve been in a public place (instead of cleaning them obsessively throughout the day). Other coping mechanisms could include:

  • Limiting your time watching the news or looking at social media
  • Practicing self-care as much as possible
  • Talking to a therapist and leaning on your support system

Seek Professional Help

Talking to a mental health professional can make a big difference in how you feel. Things like counseling for loss can help you to come to terms with the things you might have had to give up because of this pandemic, whether you’ve lost your job, you know someone who passed away, or you’ve just had to deal with the loss of your everyday routine.

Therapy can also help you to learn healthy management skills to keep your symptoms at bay.

This pandemic won’t last forever. For people with OCD, it can feel more overwhelming than it does for others. If you’re struggling to manage your OCD, please contact me or visit my page about counseling for loss to learn more about how I can help.