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How is Addiction Related to Loneliness?

Social isolation, especially in childhood, is a major predictor of addiction risk. People who are more isolated are at greater risk for mental health issues and addiction. People are fundamentally social beings and isolation isn’t healthy. People who are socially isolated have fewer resources for dealing with problems. Therefore, when things go wrong, it’s more stressful than it would be for someone with a lot of social support. Isolation leads to higher stress, which leads to anxiety and depression. Both make addiction more likely.

Isolation can also make you feel like there is something wrong with you. This may lead to feelings of shame or inadequacy. Feeling like no one wants to be around you is bad in itself and it also perpetuates loneliness. If you feel like you’re inherently unlikeable or unable to relate to people, you are less likely to reach out, and therefore likely to remain lonely. This feeling of being weird or inferior is often a result of distorted thinking and self-criticism. It’s all in your head, but it feels real. These kinds of negative thoughts are likely to continue and get worse if you don’t have people around you to challenge your assumptions.

Loneliness, like most maladaptive behavior, usually stems from childhood. Children who are abused or neglected by their parents develop anxiety around being loved and accepted. If you have a parent who is indifferent, unavailable, or mean, you typically react in one of two ways: Either you become needy and try to win approval at any cost or you you disdain the need for any social attachment. They can’t reject you if you don’t care. The former usually end up in codependent relationships, which can be lonely in their own way because they are based on fear rather than connection. The latter are more likely to end up socially isolated. Both are at risk for addiction because they crave a kind of acceptance they aren’t getting and drugs and alcohol are often a substitute.

Loneliness also makes recovery more difficult. You don’t have people to encourage you or to discuss your problems with. You don’t have people to be accountable to. Worst of all, the negative feelings persist. This is why finding a group is so important for recovery. Even if you don’t feel like anyone in your group is going to be your new best friend, there are people there to listen and talk things over with. Being part of a group lets you know that you’re not uniquely burdened and things can get better. Best of all, it lets you be of service, which is perhaps the best way to feel better about yourself.

Don’t face addiction alone. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.