Addiction & the Covid Connection: How Addiction has increased amidst the Pandemic.

Addictions, Asian Shame, Counseling & Coaching, Uncategorized0 comments

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

In the past year, I’ve seen my caseload and that of other colleagues jump significantly amidst this pandemic.  Is it a coincidence?  I don’t think so.  Unfortunately, the pandemic has brought about the perfect storm for addiction: isolation, secrecy, and a desire for escapism.

Addiction thrives in isolation and secrecy.  New clients have reported how the physical isolation from friends, family members, and co-workers has only added to that sense of loneliness.  In addition, those who were in the initial stages of addiction recovery but had yet to develop a strong connection or community of mentors, sponsors, 12 Step Groups or others avenues of help found themselves suffering in silence.

Combine this with financial stress, relational stress, and the stress or fear of catching a life-threatening virus takes a toll on the psyche.  Short of worrying about dying from the virus is the daily stress of being attuned to the ever-changing guidelines of safety: where to mask, when to mask, finding a mask, and worrying about social distancing all play a role in using up headspace better dedicated to other things.

This combined with other factors has made unhealthy behaviors such as anger, domestic violence, and impatience soar during these trying times.  As a specialist specializing in addictions and multicultural issues, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the impact of race relations and the concerns among certain ethnic minorities such as those in the Asian-American and African-American communities.

Regardless of race, compulsive or addictive behaviors offer a tempting respite for those who want to escape whatever mental, physical, financial, or relational purgatory they feel they’re trapped in.  It’s an easy out because addictions can give people a sense of control in that the “drug of choice” gives users a predictable outcome that they may be craving.  Whether it’s the relaxation that comes from smoking marijuana, the jolt of electricity in gambling, or a need to self-medicate the pain of grief or loss through drinking, all give the illusion that we can manipulate our circumstances for the better.

Despite the isolation and uptick in addictions, one encouraging sign I’ve seen in my practice is a heartfelt desire for wellness and healing.  People are calling and sincerely wanting help.  The pandemic was the tipping point that some people describe as leading to their “rock-bottom” or getting them to finally acknowledge their struggles and break one’s denial.

Therapeutically, clinicians have also responded by finding ways to be more creative during Covid.  Online sessions have replaced traditional in-person sessions.   This has made counseling less intimidating as clients can get therapy within the psychological safety of their own homes.  No longer do they have to drive to my office, wonder who will see them in the hallway, or worry about what they are thinking of them.  In other words, some of the barriers that have prevented clients from considering therapy have been eliminated.

Finally, this pandemic forces us to think about our mortality whether we like it or not.  In past years, we could have mindlessly preoccupied ourselves with conspicuous consumption, materialism, and other daily distractions.  But if we’re true to ourselves, Covid has smacked the existential crisis back in our lives.  People are reconsidering the meaning of their lives, their vocational or spiritual purpose, let alone the unhealthy or addictive ways they’ve dealt with them in the past.

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