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How COVID-19 Has Impacted Mental Health and Addiction

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on many different aspects of life. The pandemic has made us reevaluate the ways in which we work, shop, and engage with others. Due to the scale of the pandemic, it has also played a major role in substance abuse and mental rates among many different people.

How Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted Anxiety?

The pandemic has had a serious impact on the mental health and well-being of many people. Some people have found that existing mental health issues or disorders were made worse by the pandemic, while others began experiencing symptoms for the first time. Anxiety and depression were the two mental health disorders that many people felt were made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The early stages of the pandemic were a particularly stressful time for many. There were long stretches when it felt that no one really knew what was going on or how to stop it. This caused many people to feel an overwhelming anxiety around the outside world. Seemingly mundane activities, such as grocery shopping and pumping gas, now felt dangerous. 

Even now, as more and more Americans continue to get vaccinated, many people still will feel a lingering sense of anxiety in public. The last year has been focused on safety and well-being by avoiding crowded areas, indoor dining, and other contact with people outside your household. Even in instances where those scenarios are now considered safe, or at least less risky, many people will need time to overcome the fear that has been instilled in them over the last year.

How Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted Depression?

Depression is another mental health condition that has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a given year, it is estimated that 6.7% of adults in the United States suffer from at least one depressive episode. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, 28.4% of American adults have reported symptoms of depression. That means over four times as many adults in the United States felt symptoms of depression this year than what is considered normal.

The drastic increase in depression is likely in large part due to the isolation many people felt during the pandemic. Due to the dangers of engaging in physical contact or even being too close to those who live outside of your household, social distancing and safety precautions became necessary for both personal and public well-being. Unfortunately, this also meant many of us were completely isolated from friends and family for long stretches of the last year. This social isolation is a major factor in the development of symptoms associated with depression.

Of course, social isolation isn’t the only factor. Stress or concern over health and safety could also lead a person to feel depressed. Additionally, those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic or those who were forced to continue to work in-person, as “essential workers”, were far more likely to experience negative mental health effects during the last year than workers whose jobs became remote.

Why is COVID-19 Affecting Substance Abuse?

While the effects of the COVID-19 on mental health make sense based on how people work through stress and loneliness, how the pandemic has affected substance use may seem less direct, although in many ways it is all related. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 13% of adults in the United States reported new or worsening symptoms associated with substance abuse. This issue is especially prevalent among young adults, where that number rises to 1 in every 4 individuals. 

The reasons for this climb in substance abuse rates are varied and likely each case is different. What we do know is that many young adults are already at a higher risk to suffer from substance abuse or mental health challenges than older generations, and yet many still do not actively seek help or treatment. We also know that many high school and college students were negatively impacted by the pandemic when most schools closed for the majority of the year. This is a major event that could cause significant distress and even further feelings of isolation.

The substance abuse rates are likely most commonly related to two primary factors: the worsening mental health of many due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability to engage in healthier coping habits. As mentioned previously, the pandemic has had a serious impact on the mental health of our nation as a whole. Many people who struggle to cope with feelings of anxiety and depression may turn to substance abuse as an escape or form of self-medication. Additionally, some people rely on hobbies or activities to deal with these feelings. Many of these activities may have been unavailable or altered due to the pandemic, leading more people to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope.

What To Do If COVID-19 Is Causing Mental Distress or Substance Abuse?

The most important thing anyone can do if they are experiencing mental distress or substance abuse issues is seeking professional medical help. Despite the drastically climbing rates of mental health disorders, substance abuse, and suicide, many people refuse to seek help in dealing with their issues. Some may feel embarrassed by their problems, while others may not see them as serious enough to warrant treatment. Neither of these reasons or any reasons should be enough to prevent a person from reaching out for help.

Due to COVID-19, support groups and therapy sessions have had to find ways to engage digitally. Telehealth options exist for anyone uncomfortable with in-person meetings still, while more and more offices will open to face-to-face visits for clients who prefer treatment that way.

If mental health or substance abuse issues are affecting your life in any way, reach out today.

At Warner Park Recovery, we’re here to help individuals and families by providing exceptional addiction treatment options. We’re a dual diagnosis (mental health combined with substance abuse treatment) program that offers partial day, intensive outpatient, and traditional outpatient levels of care. We regularly treat patients from the Woodland Hills, Calabasas, Topanga Canyon, The Valley, and Thousand Oaks areas. If you are looking for help with addiction treatment, please give us a call to learn more about our professional services!

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