The Impact of Social Isolation on Substance Abuse Risks

When a person struggles with substance abuse, social isolation can have a detrimental effect. Feeling disconnected from others can act as a major catalyst for people to begin to abuse drugs and alcohol, so isolation is something that should be avoided for those struggling with addiction or on the path to recovery. When battling addiction, a support system is a necessity. Without it, we become vulnerable and may slip back into the habits we are trying to abstain from. Today, we are going to talk about how substances act as a coping mechanism when we are suffering from loneliness or a lack of support. We will give you advice on how to develop a positive social network to enhance the recovery process and become the person you want to be. 

Understanding the link between isolation and addiction

When it comes to isolation and addiction, they often go hand in hand. Though addiction can be deep-rooted and complex, there are certain things that can make it worse, one of them being social isolation. As humans, we are naturally social and inherently desire connections with other people. Without it, we can lack a sense of belonging, so for those prone to substance abuse, isolation needs to be avoided. 

People have evolved to belong in social environments, and it is essential our social needs are met. Without them, feelings of loneliness, anxiety, discomfort, and distress can arise much more easily. Isolation can also exacerbate any underlying mental health issues we may have. This could include anxiety, a lack of self-worth, or depression. Over time, we may begin to feel alienated from society and develop a disdain towards it. Many environmental factors can leave us craving isolation, and once we begin to want it, we may turn to substances to help us cope. 

Furthermore, addiction and isolation are both things people can easily fall further into once they start, and the more we do, the more difficult it is to escape. People suffering from addiction may feel as if society does not want them or they are unworthy of support from their friends and family. When this happens, people often avoid social interactions and become even more reliant on substances to get them through.

What causes us to want to be away from everyone else?

We have talked about the catch-22 scenario of substances and isolation, but there are other aspects that can encourage us to isolate ourselves from society. It is essential to look at the root causes rather than the substance that might perpetuate the situation. Some of the primary reasons why people begin to isolate themselves from society are as follows: 

Trauma When a person experiences past trauma or has been a victim of abuse or neglect, it can lead to a fear of intimacy and trust in others. When we lose our trust in other people, it becomes easy to isolate ourselves and avoid social interaction as often as possible. Sometimes, people do this as a form of protection from being hurt in the future, or it can be from fear that social situations are going to bring back past feelings and memories. 

Mental health struggles – When people struggle with their mental health, it can cause them to withdraw from social interaction. Whether suffering from depression, PTSD, or anxiety, it can be easy to fall into social isolation. 

Self-perception – For those struggling with negative self-image or low self-esteem, it can cause a feeling of unworthiness, leading them to believe they don’t deserve to be part of a supporting network. If we believe we are undeserving of love and support from other people, we start to seek satisfaction from somewhere else, and this is where substance abuse can begin to increase. 

Does substance abuse help us cope with isolation?

Substance abuse can give us temporary relief from the feeling of isolation. However, it will ultimately make the problem worse. When we feel lonely or isolated, drugs and alcohol can help us forget these feelings, but when they come back, they are often much worse than before. If we want to cure emotional pain, a quick fix is never the answer. 

When a person relies on drugs or alcohol to cope with isolation, it is almost certain dependency will escalate. Each time a person uses this as a coping mechanism, they are strengthening the hold that substances have over their life. It is also likely that this behaviour will cause them to further isolate themselves. 

Ways we can overcome the desire for social isolation

Once we begin to desire isolation, it can be a slippery slope. Overcoming this desire can require some effort. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse and social isolation, here are some steps that can help us step out of our comfort zones: 

Set reasonable goals – It is always best to start off by setting realistic and achievable goals when rebuilding a social network. For example, reaching out to a close friend and meeting for food, coffee, or a walk is a great place to start. Additionally, if someone is too self-conscious to reach out to friends just yet, there are plenty of support groups designed to help people adjust to social interactions.

Don’t listen to negative thoughts – When negative thoughts arise, we must learn to identify and challenge them. These thoughts are significant culprits in promoting our desire for social isolation. They can often make us feel unworthy of connection and convince us that it is too late for recovery – they’re wrong! Once we single out these thought patterns, we must learn to replace them with positive thoughts and try our best to do the opposite of what they are telling us. 

Introduce self-compassion into your life – it is essential to be kind to ourselves as often as we can be. We must understand that it is ok to feel vulnerable. Whenever you get the chance, spend a moment to appreciate the positive aspects of yourself and treat yourself with love and kindness. The more we realise our self-worth, the better chance we have at beating addiction. 

Find professional help – When we feel like we are past help or we don’t deserve to get better, the tasks mentioned above may seem entirely unachievable. However, nobody is past helping, and everyone deserves a second chance. One of the most critical steps in recovery is seeking the help of a professional who can guide you based on your personal situation.

How to cultivate positive mental health and develop our social skills during the recovery process

One of the critical aspects of the recovery process and reintegrating back into society is partaking in certain activities that promote positive mental health. Though we believe that everything listed below is an essential component of recovery, it is necessary to be aware that not everyone will be ready to take it all on at once. If it seems like too much, take it at a steady pace to ensure your mind stays focused on the end goal. 

Seek a support group – Joining a group where we can feel comfortable discussing our feelings and addiction is a pivotal moment in recovery. It helps us integrate back into society at a steady pace and gives us a space where we can feel safe. Support groups will ensure that everyone taking part is treated equally with no judgement, so it is a brilliant place to start. 

Try a therapy session – Therapy sessions are a place where you can discuss your addiction and social isolation. Again, there is no judgement in therapy, ensuring that those participating feel comfortable discussing topics they might not want to elsewhere. A therapist will be able to find the cause of addiction and provide professional advice on what specific activities might benefit the individual. 

Practice self-care – To practice self-care doesn’t mean pampering yourself; it can be exercise, meditation, mindfulness, or finding a hobby you enjoy. Each of these activities has the power to enhance our mental health and promote our overall well-being. They can also make us more resilient to triggers and potential relapse. 

Take part in daily social skills training – There are multiple social skills training programs out there. These workshops are places where people can build much-needed confidence and improve their interpersonal and communication skills. Each one will be set at a pace that suits those taking part, so there is very little pressure involved. For those lacking meaningful connections and healthy relationships, these workshops can get you off to the best possible start. 

Become a volunteer – Sometimes, putting a little pressure on ourselves can be a positive thing. Applying for volunteer roles, whether it is in a store or for a charity, is a brilliant way to force us out of the house and encourage us to practice our social skills. Additionally, if we volunteer somewhere we care about, we are likely to meet like-minded people to help us build positive relationships. 

The benefits of social interaction during the recovery process

During recovery, social interactions are paramount. The more we connect with others, the better progress we are going to make. Socialising with others in a support group can give us the empathy, validation, and understanding we need while developing connections and positive relationships can provide us with love and guidance. Emotional support from social interactions will act as a driving force towards being clean.

Don’t put off getting in touch.

To round it up, there are five components that can promote a successful recovery and ease us out of isolation. A treatment plan, support system, healthy coping mechanisms, self-care, and a positive mindset. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or social isolation, seek professional advice for guidance on achieving all five and getting back whatever is missing from life. The recovery process is difficult, and social isolation can make it even more so. However, with the right plan in place and people around you, overcoming it is never impossible. 

If you would like to know more about how to overcome addiction, contact Calm Rehab today. Our rehab clinic in Bali strives to create a healthy, holistic, fun, and positive environment where our dedicated team of experts can provide the help and support we all need. 


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