While this post is aimed at what seems to be an inevitable need to self-isolate and quarantine ourselves to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the information contained within is applicable to any time or situation you find yourself when you are isolated or forced to stay indoors. In these trying times, many people start to feel cooped up and stressed out. These are perfect conditions for many people to trigger a relapse.
Crises and Emotional Contagion
Depending on where you live, the weather can be awful. Snowstorms frequently keep people indoors for days at a time in certain parts of the United States. Hurricanes in the Southeast for states like our very own Georgia and Florida, especially, are a reality that we face every year. When a hurricane is closing in, businesses close and everyone begins preparations.
The hurricane example is a perfect parallel to what you are undoubtedly experiencing with coronavirus—or Covid-19. At this point, we cannot deny the need to quarantine and slow the spread of the virus down. What has occurred in China and Italy serve as costly examples of what the United States needs to avoid. In other words, we are just beginning to get hit by the hurricane.
Outside, there’s a sense of eerie quiet and disruption that is in the air. Many businesses are closed, and people are preparing to be if not already locked up inside. Turn on the news, go on the internet and you can’t get away from it. Everyone is talking about coronavirus, about whether it is serious or not, whether we will be okay or not.
Anyone would be right to feel scared and concerned in this situation—especially with something that is invisible to us such as a virus. If you had only your own fear and paranoia to contend with, that would be manageable. However, when almost everyone is feeling some level of fear or concern, it can feel like the world is ending.
This phenomenon is called emotional contagion and what it essentially means is that the emotions and behaviors of one person will directly influence yours in a similar way. Emotional contagion is presumably a byproduct of our ability to empathize and sense other people’s emotions.
As more people begin to operate based on fear and scarcity (think of the news media’s emphasis on empty grocery shelves during video segments), that fear begins to influence you and impacts your emotional state as well. When a pandemic or global event such as coronavirus springs up, the collective shift in atmosphere engenders a nationwide panic that causes people to behave more reflexively instead of logically. In other words, fear hijacks your brain.
How Emotional Contagion Affects Your Sobriety
Go to any AA meeting, therapy session, addiction consultation, and you’ll be told that fear-based behaviors are almost always destructive. Fear is a useful human emotion, but when left unchecked it can quickly become a monster that causes you to seek extremely short-term gratification at the expense of medium to long-term health.
Combine the fact that people are concerned about coronavirus, they are concerned about the economy, the news media is constantly covering the issue by discussing the lethality of the virus and lastly, that you are advised to self-isolate, and you have a recipe for potential relapse.
Addiction is a form of Isolation
All current and former people who have suffered from a substance use disorder understand how isolating of an experience it can be. Many people in recovery report that suffering from an addiction was like leading a double life. One in which they put on their everyday face—their mask and head out into the world. But on the inside, they are alone and are seeking refuge.
We wrote an article on the merits of group therapy as a healing tool. Whether it is addiction, mental health issues, or just life in general, isolation tends to get in the way of our growth as people. There is a reason why solitary is called a punishment in prisons. And while you won’t be locked away in a room alone during the coronavirus pandemic, you do risk being subjugated to old, negative thought loops that were once responsible for keeping you in a bad place.
Avoiding Relapse During Self-Isolation or Quarantine
Relapses do happen, and it is more important to get back on track than to beat yourself up about it. That being said, it is better to avoid it altogether.
The problem with being alone for too long is that you have no one to reflect off of. Addiction or not, you fall prey to your worst mental habits. Due to the recommendations (and in certain locations mandate) of social distancing, many non-institutional resources that are usually open to those in recovery such as group meetings are not available at the moment in full capacity.
However, the recovery community is resourceful and knows the importance of the work they do.
If you are practicing social distancing as of now, look into your local recovery resources’ actions in response to Covid-19. Many chapters of AA, for example, are offering to do meetings through Zoom or other means of online video communication. Telehealth services are seeing a rise in usage as people are unwilling to risk leaving their homes but still need consultation and support.
Addiction Treatment Georgia
Southeast Addiction Center is an accredited Substance Abuse Treatment Center located in the Atlanta, Georgia area. We are dedicated to helping those who are suffering at the hands of a substance use disorder.
During these challenging times, substance use may rise as a response to the added stress and unique circumstances that coronavirus is placing on the population. More than ever, we feel we have a duty to be available in any capacity to those who are seeking treatment or help.
Contact us today at (866)-223-3943 so that we can decide the best course of action to navigate the current climate and offer our assistance.