The Role of Loneliness in Addiction Development

Recovering from substance addiction is difficult and can sometimes feel like a very lonely journey. Many patients going through the addiction recovery process often say they feel lonely and isolated. The worst part of loneliness is that it can sometimes reflect how you felt when struggling with substance addiction. And loneliness and addiction recovery is seldom a pleasant combination.

People who feel lonely or depressed often turn to substances to cope with their symptoms. Abusing alcohol or drugs feels like a way to escape the feelings of emotional pain and loneliness. But sadly, when abusing drugs or alcohol turns into dependence, the loneliness becomes worse as relationships around the individual begin to disintegrate.

When entering substance addiction treatment, it’s crucial to find a supportive community to help you with the addiction recovery process. Social support groups are extremely powerful in helping people feel welcomed and to stay sober.

How Social Support Groups Help Combat Loneliness

Social support groups can give you a sense of belonging instead of feeling isolated. They help reinforce the feeling that you’re never alone, and you have a group of peers that you can call when needed. They also increase your sense of self-worth while giving you a feeling of security.

These support groups also provide resources for advice from someone going through the same substance addiction recovery process. Advice from peers who’ve never gone through substance addiction recovery can sometimes be unhelpful.

Is the Feeling of Loneliness Normal During Rehab?

The short answer is ‘yes’. Many patients feel loneliness during residential treatment as their regular social circle is stripped away. Most people struggling with substance addiction surrounded themselves with others who also abuse drugs or alcohol. This is to feel better about their substance abuse. But, in rehab, you do not want to be apart of a toxic social circle that may encourage using again.

So, since the former social support group is gone, it becomes easy to feel lonely because you don’t know anyone. That’s why it’s vital to find peers to connect with during rehab to help build a healthy social circle.

What is Loneliness?

Some might think that loneliness is a social pain caused by a shortage of intimate relationships. It’s a natural motivational drive similar to the physical need for sleep or food in many ways. That’s why the feeling of rejection can activate the same part of the mind that is linked to physical pain. Loneliness is a perfectly normal reaction for those who feel like their need for belonging isn’t met.

Anyone can experience the feeling of loneliness. But on the other hand, depression is a mental health disorder characterized by feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or grief. There is a connection between depression and loneliness, where feeling lonely is a symptom of deep, underlying depression. Constant isolation is also a leading cause of depression.

The Commonality of Chronic Loneliness

Across the nation, people are experiencing loneliness now more than ever. Surveys have shown that nearly three out of four adults reported feeling extreme loneliness.

The emotional impact of loneliness can greatly affect one’s physical health. Social support groups can help you to feel valuable, welcome, and loved while confirming you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. Loneliness can also cause health concerns, which include:

  • Coronary disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Compromised immune system

Loneliness and alcohol abuse often go hand-in-hand, putting them at a higher risk for developing a substance addiction.

the connection between loneliness and addiction

Loneliness and Addiction: How Loneliness is Linked to Drug and Alcohol Abuse

The feeling of depression, anxiety, or isolation can lead to substance addiction. However, some people will abuse drugs or alcohol to function in social situations, helping them feel more friendly. Nevertheless, those who are struggling with loneliness often abuse drugs and alcohol to substitute healthy interpersonal relationships.

Generally, people struggling with loneliness are at greater risk of developing substance addiction. For example, people who suffer from substance abuse may choose to:

  • Cut off loved ones while looking for new ways to obtain drugs or alcohol
  • Ignore work and social life to search for the next high or to alleviate withdrawal symptoms
  • Continue using drugs and drinking despite the stress it causes on interpersonal relationships
  • Continue using drugs and drinking despite the damage it has caused to mental and physical health

Usually, the substance abuse will also increase as these behaviors take hold, making you feel lonelier. Over time, drug and alcohol abuse becomes chronic, and that’s when addiction kicks in. When this happens, you’ll continue to engage in more dangerous behaviors, further affecting your mental, physical, and social well-being. From there, the loneliness increases, and other negative behaviors increase, causing you to slip deeper into addiction.

How Loneliness and Addiction is Linked to Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders and substance addiction are co-occurring disorders that often go together, with each one worsening the other’s symptoms. According to several clinical studies, roughly 50% of those diagnosed with a mental health disorder also encounter substance addiction. This statistic goes each way, with 50% of people suffering from substance addiction also becoming diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

Mental health disorders can become isolating, producing symptoms that won’t allow you to get out of bed, making seeking companionship impossible. In other circumstances, you may worry about the social stigma surrounding your mental health disorder. Popular culture often portrays those with mental health disorders as unsympathetic and a danger to themselves or others due to chemical imbalance in their brain.

This condition contributes to loneliness among people with mental health disorders and addiction for those who experience comorbid diagnoses. If that feeling of being isolated becomes too prominent, it can cause suicidal thoughts and feelings. Loneliness, mental health disorders, and substance addiction often co-occur, and only recently have medical specialists realized and began paying attention to the risks.

Loneliness and Suicide Risks

While people are more connected than ever before, loneliness is still a persistent issue that has been declared a public health risk. Loneliness is challenging to address because there isn’t a singular cause for the feeling and the effects are as unique as each person suffering from it. Lifestyle changes, physical capabilities, work conditions, mental disorders, physical disease, substance addiction, and other variables all cause various symptoms.

Loneliness is usually one of the first warning signs that other issues are at play. Research has discovered that loneliness is just as dangerous as smoking 30 cigarettes a day. People who are regularly experiencing loneliness feel they are 50% more likely to die untimely than people who don’t. Stress is also harder to deal with when feeling lonely and without having a support system to help deal with everyday life. Even things like overdue bills or getting sick can make people more at risk for suicide or self-harm.

Additionally, loneliness and other common symptoms of a diagnosed mental health disorder are also typical during substance addiction treatment. You tend to isolate yourself from loved ones because of the negative stigma surrounding addiction when really, this is when support is needed most.

Why People who Suffer From Addiction Isolate Themselves

Loneliness and alcohol or drug use are very common for people who feel constant loneliness. Even if drugs and alcohol are used to combat loneliness, they only intensify these feelings later on in life.

Why do alcohol and drug abusers isolate themselves? For many, they have no choice. As the substance addiction progresses, many abusers lose support from loved ones due to damaged healthy relationships. This may lead a substance abuser even deeper into isolation, where their entire life will be focused around drugs, loneliness, and alcohol.

Treatment For Loneliness and Addiction

Without the support of loved ones, loneliness and addiction will co-occur. Once substance addiction begins, it becomes harder to break without a recovery management program. Loneliness and addiction can even cause someone who ultimately becomes sober and leads a healthy life to relapse down the road. Each step of the recovery process can be very difficult if the loneliness isn’t also treated.

So, what methods can you take to break this cycle? Seeking help from a rehab center that treats loneliness and addiction is an effective way. Having support from loved ones during these difficult times makes it much easier to seek treatment.

How to Overcome the Effects of Loneliness During Rehab

Those who’ve enlisted the help of an addiction treatment program know how crucial it is to address loneliness’s adverse effects. Combating loneliness can help patients fight their addiction in the process. Creating positive relationships with other peers going through the same feelings will positively impact your life, allowing you to move past the feeling of loneliness without turning to alcohol and drugs.

loneliness and alcohol

Tips to help patients overcome loneliness and addiction during rehab include:

  • Create a strong support system
  • Spend quality time with loved ones
  • Participate in recovery gatherings and meetings
  • Educate loved ones until they understand your situation and the recovery process
  • Enroll in classes that will help you discover new passions and interests 
  • Practice mindfulness meditation i=to learn the difference between loneliness and solitude
  • Enhance your mood through exercise or artistic endeavors like yoga, dancing, writing, or painting

Get Help Today

Our caring and compassionate experts at Coastal Detox can help those in need of treatment for addiction. We understand the importance of addressing the underlying causes of loneliness and addiction with our individualized treatment programs. At Coastal Detox, you’ll find hope and healing that will help you along the recovery process. 

At Coastal Detox, we want to support each patient through every aspect of the recovery process. That’s why our treatment programs span a wide range of approaches and methods. Whether you’re struggling to overcome loneliness and addiction or something else, Coastal Detox can help. Contact us today with any questions you have!

Real Client Testimonials

  • Before coming to coastal I was hopeless, helpless, and my family wanted nothing to do with me. It wasn’t the first detox I’d ever been to, but it was the only one who showed me so much love and compassion. They gave me hope. It’s hard to put into words the amount of gratitude I have for this facility. The employees were my family when I had none. The staff went out of their way to make sure not only were my physical needs taken care of, but my emotional needs as well. From the first phone call prior to admission, to helping me set up continuing care, they never missed a beat. Even going as far as to help me with my legal issues via Zoom court. This isn’t just a detox, they are the family I never had. All of the techs, especially Karen, are phenomenal. They will take the time to listen to you, laugh, and cry(if needed) with you. If you are reading this and you or your loved one is suffering like I was, go to Coastal Detox. The level of care is more than I could ever put into a review. It wasn’t the first detox I’d been to, but it has been my last; I owe them everything I have today, including my life.

    Travis B. Avatar
    Travis B.
    12/07/2020
  • Had a really good experience at Coastal. The staff really went above and beyond in helping me get in and gave me the respect l, space and care I needed after I first got there. As I started to fell better they encouraged me to take part in groups which helped get me out of my head and bring positivity and health to my thinking. They had a great massage therapist, who came daily and it was evident the nursing staff genuinely cared. Got to know some of the staff as well and I’m grateful for the cooks Joe and Chris. Those guys literally made us sirloins and pork chops for dinner. Also I gotta thank Chris and Chris for helping me get in and setting me up with a transition plan. Real grateful for that help, I’m not sure if it’s management intention to hire guys named Chris but they got a good thing going there. Overall, I’m clean and sober today and walking it out. Coastal gave me a base that set me up for the success that I’m walking in today

    Brandon B. Avatar
    Brandon B.
    1/16/2020
  • My family is very thankful for Coastal Detox. They have went above and beyond for my son a few times. Unfortunately he has needed their help more than once and they have ever turned their back on him, even when he was at his worst. Jeannie and Chris have been amazing and kept me informed through the entire process. They truly care about the addict and want to help them especially when it would be easy to give up on them. I had many detox facilities be rude and uncaring to me when I was searching for help for my son, but Coastal never did that to us. I don't know the names of all the team members that have helped my son but I know their are many and y'all are angels!! One day we will be able to pay it forward and help someone as you have helped us. Thank you for all you do!!

    Brenda A. Avatar
    Brenda A.
    1/01/2020
  • Can not say enough nice things about Coastal Detox & staff. Family member was there, told me five stars for the facility & all whom she interacted with. Said the facilities, ambience..., cleanliness, grounds, food, (think their chef is five stars), were all top shelf. All I interacted with personally & on the phone were patient, professional, responsive & caring. Kudos to so many: Jeannie Jones, Clinical Director whom I spent the most face to face time with: great oversight, patience & follow thru. Raquel Barker, Therapist was so understanding & on spot with her assessments/care. Kris Garrigus Admissions Director, another Coastal professional whom I cannot say enough nice things about, always so patient & responsive to my probably too frequent inquires. Not to be forgotten is Judy Tucker, Director of Operations she too so patiently "put up with me"
    I highly recommend Coastal Detox

    Susan C. Avatar
    Susan C.
    11/13/2019
  • Can not say enough nice things about Coastal Detox & staff. Family member was there, told me five stars for the facility & all whom she interacted with. Said the facilities, ambience..., cleanliness, grounds, food, (think their chef is five stars), were all top shelf. All I interacted with personally & on the phone were patient, professional, responsive & caring. Kudos to so many: Jeannie Jones, Clinical Director whom I spent the most face to face time with: great oversight, patience & follow thru. Raquel Barker, Therapist was so understanding & on spot with her assessments/care. Kris Garrigus Admissions Director, another Coastal professional whom I cannot say enough nice things about, always so patient & responsive to my probably too frequent inquires. Not to be forgotten is Judy Tucker, Director of Operations she too so patiently "put up with me"
    I highly recommend Coastal Detox

    Susan C. Avatar
    Susan C.
    11/06/2019

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