The Loneliness Epidemic and Addiction

The growing loneliness epidemic in America may seem to have been born from the isolation required by the COVID-19 pandemic — the truth is that this trend of isolation and loneliness began long before COVID and it continues today. 

In this article, Cottonwood Tucson explores America’s loneliness epidemic and how it may be contributing to addiction and other mental health challenges. 

The Growth of Loneliness

The great irony of the Internet may be that while it has made most of us more interconnected than ever before — it has also contributed to the worrying trend of loneliness and isolation. The impact loneliness and depression have on both individuals and our society is quite serious. 

Loneliness often leads to depression and depression can take a negative toll on a person’s quality of life. Not only does depression impact the way you experience the world, it even has detrimental effects on physical health over the long term. People who are depressed are more prone to heart attack and strokes among other potentially fatal ailments. 

But, no one is destined to be lonely or depressed forever. It takes courage and willingness to overcome these obstacles — but it can be done. We hope this article will give you some insights as to how. 

The Connection Between Loneliness and Depression

Depression is a complex mental health disorder. Being depressed can sometimes be the result of biology and genetics alone. A person may just have lower-than-usual levels of certain neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. For many others though, depression arises as a result of life experiences or situations.

One of those situations is the condition of being lonely. Even if you are very self-sufficient and have strong self-esteem — you still have a natural need for companionship and positive feedback and validation from others. If you spend most of your time alone, it can be very difficult to get enough of these things. Even if you spend time with others, if you don’t have intimate platonic relationships or intimate romantic relationships — loneliness is the likely outcome. Research suggests that long periods of loneliness often lead to clinical depression

Why loneliness and depression are connected:

  • Human beings evolved to live in groups and communities – it is our nature.
  • When we spend too much time alone, not all of our emotional needs are met.
  • When enough of our emotional needs are unmet, depression is often the result. 

How Loneliness and Depression Can Lead To Addiction

The causes of substance use disorders vary widely. More often than not, there isn’t a singular cause for a person becoming addicted to alcohol, opioids, or another substance. Addiction is complex, but one thing we do know is that both boredom and depression are very common contributing factors.

Humans are social creatures by nature. Even the most shy and anxious among us need and crave human connection. Increasingly people are using the Internet and social media to try and fill this need. The problem of course is that connecting to people online isn’t the equivalent of meeting up in person. There is no intimacy or proximity. You cannot share an experience with another person in the same way when you’re miles apart. 

Understanding the progression of loneliness and depression to addiction: 

  • We aren’t meant to be alone all or most of the time. 
  • When we’re alone too much — we become lonely.
  • When we’re lonely for too long — we become depressed. 
  • When we become depressed — we look for ways to change that feeling.
  • Drugs and alcohol offer temporary ways to change the way we feel. 
  • The habitual use of drugs and alcohol leads to addiction. 

The Solution to Loneliness, Depression, and Addiction

We wish there was a simple answer to these complex problems. The truth is that managing a mental health disorder and overcoming addiction can be complicated. The good news is that no one has to climb the mountain all on their own. Millions of people overcome addiction and learn how to manage their mental health to live happy, productive, and fulfilling lives every year.

The one thing that nearly every one of them has in common is that they don’t do it alone. Asking for help in the form of mental health treatment or addiction treatment may be one of the best decisions you ever make. While we can’t give you a start-to-finish guide on how to resolve depression, loneliness, and addiction. What we can do, however, is tell you the right place to begin your journey towards wellness. 

Action is the answer and seeking help is the solution:

  • The solution to loneliness begins with spending less time alone. It almost always means getting outside of your comfort zone — because that’s where growth and healing are found. 
  • The solution to depression begins with asking for help to bring more meaning and purpose into your life and resolve any chemical imbalances or unresolved trauma you may have. 
  • The solution to addiction begins with admitting that you have a problem that you cannot solve on your own and becoming willing to ask for the help you need. 

Solutions for Depression, Loneliness, and Addiction

If you or someone you love is grappling with depression, loneliness, or addiction — don’t let another day pass without asking for help. You owe it to yourself or the one you love to take advantage of the available help. 

If substance use is part of the story — then a dual-diagnosis substance use disorder program like Cottonwood Tucson can help. If the challenges are mental health related alone, we can be of assistance there, too.  

Cottonwood Tucson’s nationally recognized treatment program is one of the very best in the country. Find the help you need and deserve on our 35-acre campus in the picturesque foothills of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. Call us anytime at  (888) 727-0441.

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