The impact of COVID-19 on addiction & mental health

The link between COVID-19 and mental health

2020 has been an extraordinary year, and the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives of everyone across the globe. Uncertainty is ongoing regarding when, or even if, life will return to normal. The situation in the UK has been fluid, with mixed messages from the government causing confusion. “The new normal” is an ongoing reminder of the most difficult year for humanity in recent times. “Protective equipment” and “social distancing” are phrases that will be in our minds forever.

Our working lives have changed, probably permanently. Jobs that could not be done from home now are and the workplace has altered to leave some unrecognisable. There have been unprecedented restrictions on the places we can go and the people that we can see. We’ve all been unable to see family and friends and video calling has become the norm. The continual awareness that COVID-19 lurks in the background has resulted in one of the most damaging years for mental health in history.

Impact on mental health services and care services

It is difficult to measure the impact that COVID-19 has had on mental health and care services across the United Kingdom. These services have been stretched so thinly that appointments have been cancelled on a widespread basis and this may take many months to correct. Since the pandemic began in January, there’s been a 43% increase in emergency or urgent mental health care. The number of people diagnosed with a mental health condition has increased 8% in the same timeframe. This has affected women and people in the age group of 18-24 more than any other demographic.

There’s no special trigger for a mental health condition developing, but there are several factors that can cause it. The most common are your biology, your family history of mental health and perhaps most tellingly of all in this year, your life experiences. It’s a sad fact that this pandemic has had a big, negative impact on a lot of people in a variety of ways, from job losses to holiday cancellations.

Mental health and lockdowns

The implications of a long period of lockdown on mental health are stark. During the lockdown in the UK, there was a 12% worsening of chronic health conditions and a 12% increase of alcohol consumption. The latter is particularly troubling as this has seen an increased amount of people suffering with addiction. There has also been a 36% rise in the number of people struggling to sleep and a 32% increase in the number of people who feel they have difficulty in eating.

This may be a reflection of your own experience during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be a story you’re familiar with because of a friend or family member. But unfortunately this is the situation across the country.

There are some specific symptoms of someone who is suffering with a mental health problem. Sleep patterns will have altered drastically, someone may be sleeping far too much or not sleeping at all. The same can be said of appetite. It could be you don’t feel like eating at all, or that cupboard full of snacks has become more tempting if you’re stuck at home all day as many of us have been.

 You may notice that someone has grown apathetic or withdrawn or are keeping themselves to themselves. Personality changes are a big indicator of mental health changes or the development of an addiction. You may notice that someone has become more aggressive and started to think illogically. Lockdown has been a stressful, difficult time for everyone and it’s a regrettable fact that people have turned to substance abuse in order to survive the long days of being stuck at home with nobody to talk to.

The unfortunate thing is that an individual may be suffering from all these problems themselves but have not noticed due to their conditions. Unfortunately, most of these people will require assistance in the immediate future.

Mental health statistics

Although there’s been a recent element of acceptance from the government that more money needs to be spent on mental health care, the importance of mental health is still all too often underplayed. Mental health accounts for 10% of the world’s global disease count.

75% of mental health disorders begin before a person reaches the age of 24. In 50% of cases, symptoms manifest themselves before they turn 14 years old. Regrettably, the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult for young people as schools and further education centres have closed. Statistically, job losses have been higher for people in the 18-24 age bracket than any other.

Protecting your mental health during lockdown

With the UK alternating between full lockdowns and tiered systems to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, there may be further difficult times ahead in the future and you should take steps to help your mental health by knowing what you need to do if your mental health suffers. You should also research where you can go as restrictions are making it difficult to visit Accident and Emergency and hospitals.

Setting time aside to look after your emotional health is essential. As important as it is to stay informed, you should take breaks from the news. Continually being reminded that there may have been as many as 75,000 deaths as a result of the pandemic is not good for anybody’s mental health. Regular exercise is also important, as well as focusing on having a balanced diet and having a regular sleeping pattern.

It is essential to not drink alcohol to excess and to avoid illicit drug use. Excessive consumption rapidly leads to an addiction.

Rehab Clinics Group can help

The full impact of COVID-19 may not be recognised for a long time. As lockdowns come to an end and a vaccine is issued, it’s likely there will be a wave of mental health difficulties. The likelihood of someone developing an addiction in recent months will have grown significantly – or an existing condition will have gotten worse.

Are you concerned that your addiction has worsened? Do you think you might have developed an addiction during lockdown, or has COVID-19 impacted your mental health to the extent you’ve started drinking or taking drugs to cope? If so, drug and alcohol addiction treatment provider Rehab Clinics Group can help you.

Please call us today on 0800 470 0382 or text help to 83222 to discuss your issues and how we can help you.  

About Farrukh Khurshed

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