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How to Handle Loss with a Mental Illness

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January 14, 2021

To those battling a substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental illness, may not feel like there’s necessarily a new you just because it’s a new year. And maybe you’re also dealing with the loss of a loved one or a job due to COVID-19. Compound those challenges, and each day may feel overwhelming. Dealing with losses due to COVID and a mental illness or addiction can be a difficult burden to overcome.

A mental illness impacts an individual’s behavior, thinking, mood, feeling, and can even impact their capacity to be relatable.

An addiction is a chronic yet treatable disorder consisting of compulsive drug seeking, long-term changes in the brain, and ongoing abuse of the drug regardless of consequences.woman struggling to deal with losses due to covid

At American Addiction Centers, the nationwide leader in addiction treatment, we treat substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression. If you find yourself struggling with an addiction, please reach out for help.

Types of Losses Due to COVID

This pandemic and our new way of navigating through each day have been a part of our lives for nearly a year in the United States. And during this time, all of us have experienced loss on some level, whether it’s of a loved one, a job, connecting with others, or just the loss of a general sense of security when we enter public places.

So, how do individuals suffering from a substance use disorder or co-occurring mental health disorder confront their existing challenges and the new ones that have evolved due to COVID?

We understand that death is part of life. But the pain of losing a family member or friend still hurts, regardless if the loss was from COVID or some other cause. Responses to the inevitable vary with each individual, but research has demonstrated that many can recover from loss over time if they have healthy habits and social support.

As the U.S. death rate for COVID-19 cases hit about 382,120 in mid-January, according John Hopkins University, the more devastated families there are that are left behind to deal with the aftermath.

Healthy Ways to Cope with Grief

  • Accepting your feelings.
  • Talking about your loved one’s death.
  • Remembering/celebrating their life.
  • Caring for yourself and family.
  • Reaching out to other friends and family who are dealing with this same loss.

The economic impact hasn’t been any easier either. Losing a job in general is rarely a positive experience. Many have different opinions about money, but we can all agree that it provides food, a home, clothing, a sense of security, and other necessities. Losing the means to be able to consistently have these needs met can be stressful.

And let’s not lose sight of the fact that the current social restrictions require people to quarantine in their homes and to avoid public indoor venues and crowded public spaces. Although this behavior helps to minimize the transmission of COVID, for some with a mental illness or a substance use disorder, this type of isolation can be harmful in ways specific to their needs. Be sure to take advantage of technologies when possible by using platforms that allow you to connect to others virtually so that you don’t feel completely alone. Overall, it’s best to resort to healthy coping mechanisms to work through losses due to COVID and mental illness.

The Connection Between Mental Health Disorders and Addiction

There are several risk factors that may contribute to a mental health disorder.

Risk Factors for Mental Health Disorders

  • Feeling lonely or isolated.
  • Use of recreational drugs or alcohol.
  • Life experiences, such as stress or a history of abuse.
  • Family history/genes.
  • Chemical imbalance in the brain.
  • Traumatic brain injury.
  • Having a medical condition (e.g., cancer).
  • Mother’s exposure to toxic chemicals or viruses while pregnant.

Addiction is a medical illness caused by the continuous misuse of a substance or substances, and is the most serious form of a full spectrum of substance use disorders.Person looking up after overcoming losses due to covid

Both a mental illness and an addiction are treatable under licensed medical professionals. If you’re finding that you’re battling with these challenges, as well as the ones created by the pandemic, you’re not alone. The best way to handle these issues is to reach out for professional help, surround yourself with loved ones, and to develop healthy habits for you to stay on track.

If you’re currently struggling, there are resources available to help you achieve long-term sobriety and to live a healthy and productive life. Don’t let a battle with substance abuse, a co-occurring mental disorder, or the pandemic hinder you. Please reach out to get the help that you need today.

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