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How Personal Loss Affects Addiction

by | Aug 26, 2020

In a year where deaths related to Covid-19 are fast-growing and routinely compared to past American disasters, it’s likely we all personally know someone affected by the virus. There’s no question the level of loss and grief in our midst is at an unprecedented level for most of us. That’s why we’re going to spend some time today looking at how loss and grief become more destructive forces through their impact on substance use and how to recognize when that’s become a threat to the well-being of a loved one of yours.

Grief after personal loss can be devastating to a person, and drive them to withdraw or isolate, feel mood swings, stop taking care of themselves, and sleep all day or not sleep at all. The addition of overwhelming new emotions, and even feelings of physical pain, may fuel their desire to self-medicate using drugs or alcohol. If you have a family member who’s suffered a personal loss recently and appears to be showing signs of personal neglect and substance use, treatment for both substance use and any underlying mental health disorder is available.

Grief can feel endless at a time when so many people are suffering personal losses.

Not only are people dying of Covid-19 , but other causes are still responsible for taking lives every day. Broadcast and cable news focuses on statistics and stories of death to inform viewers of what’s happening with the pandemic, and it can feel overwhelming to someone who’s lost a loved one this year. This daily reminder of death may be intensifying feelings of grief for some people.

You may not see the outcome of grief as easily in loved ones right now.

At a time where people in many towns and cities are still spending the majority of their time masked and socially distancing in public or staying at home, any kind of access to people who are dealing with grief is sharply limited. It could be an uncle in a nursing home with visiting restrictions or a cousin across town. The circumstances have made it easier for those enduring grief to remain withdrawn and isolated.

Feeling grief while in isolation may draw a person to self-medicate to cope with the loss.

The physical signs are there, even if loved ones can’t see them. The person grieving may sleep all day or not all, they may be moody and have outbursts, they may stop most forms of daily self-care, and they may even become sick or develop chronic pain. If there’s access to alcohol or prescription medications, they may turn to these substances as ways to manage their emotional feelings and physical pain.

Current grief can be tied to earlier losses or even undiagnosed mental health disorders.

While someone’s response to a recent loss can stand on its own, the intensity of the response can be connected to past losses or a mental health disorder that’s not yet been diagnosed. The person consumed by grief may not even be aware they’re responding, in part, to a past traumatic event, for example.

Finding ways to gain understanding of the details of their situation can help you make informed decisions.

Helping a loved one from a distance, out of state or across town, can begin with an attempt to reach out and invite them to have a conversation by phone. As more people of all ages have learned how to access video chats, your invitation could involve a video chat so you can visually assess how your loved one is doing. Finding ways to stay updated and become aware of any potential changes in their health and well-being will be valuable for them and your whole family.

Treatment for substance use and a co-occurring mental health disorder in the grieving individual is available right now.

Research what evidence-based treatment options are available, and if your loved one is willing to discuss them, present those options and your willingness to be a support system. Many facilities, including Hanley Center, offer comprehensive family programming where you can actively participate in sessions with counselors to learn about substance use disorders, the skills needed to sustain recovery, and much more.

Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 844-501-4673.

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