Social isolation interferes with recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) and may cause people to feel lonely or misunderstood. Reducing social isolation improves the effectiveness of treatment and reduces stress. According to Substance Abuse, “Previous research has established that effective drug treatment may depend on the quality of an individual’s interpersonal relationships.” West Coast Recovery Centers provides clients with the skills to reduce isolation and build healthy social connections during treatment and aftercare.
What Causes People to Isolate Themselves During Treatment and Continuing Care?
Individuals in recovery often isolate themselves to avoid emotional pain. People may withdraw socially to avoid feeling judged or emotionally hurt by friends, family, colleagues, and members of the community. Emotional rejection or judgment can feel as distressing as physical pain. According to Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, “People who experience social pain often use the same language as they would for physical body insults, and for good reason, a ‘broken heart’ and a broken arm are represented through the same neural pathways in the brain . . . The human need for social connectedness is deeply rooted in our biology.” Social isolation is one way to avoid social pain.
People isolate themselves for many reasons, including:
- Feelings of guilt, regret, or shame
- Lack of a strong support system
- Feeling misunderstood, judged, or attacked by others
- Internalized stigmas
- Paranoia or distrust caused by co-occurring mental health disorders
The type of substance misused has a significant impact on how socially engaged people are during and after treatment. In addition, co-occurring mental health disorders may affect a person’s ability to feel comfortable in social settings. Treatment programs provide clients with an opportunity to build healthy social relationships.
3 Ways to Reduce Isolation During Recovery
Everyone has different motivations for isolating themselves from others. The cause of self-isolation helps the clinical team determine how to address it during treatment. Often, people go through a period of feeling separated from others due to their experiences with SUD and recovery. Engaging with peers, clinicians, and loved ones reduces feelings of loneliness and “otherness.” Listed below are three ways people in recovery can actively reduce self-isolating behaviors:
#1. Use Therapy to Identify and Address the Cause of Self-Isolation
Therapy is an essential recovery tool and provides clients with psychoeducation and guidance on how to manage symptoms. As noted in A Guide to Substance Abuse Services for Primary Care Clinicians by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Treatment generally focuses on negative patterns of thinking and behavior that can be changed through reality-oriented individual and group therapy.” Clients in therapy learn to identify the causes of maladaptive coping skills, including self-isolation.
Therapy reduces social isolation by providing clients with the following:
- A safe space for self-expression
- The opportunity to build trust with the care team
- Social skills development
- Normalizing healthy social interactions
Clients find it easier to change self-isolating behaviors once they identify the cause. Clinicians at West Coast Recovery Centers provide clients with essential insights, guidance, and support. Collaborating with the care team allows clients to safely acknowledge and address underlying issues affecting their social interactions.
#2. Reduce Isolation by Actively Engaging With Peers and Loved Ones
West Coast Recovery Centers helps clients reduce self-isolating behaviors by providing a safe environment where they learn to set healthy boundaries and engage with others. Families and peers are encouraged to provide emotional support through everyday interactions and therapy sessions.
Some social activities clients use to reduce isolation include:
- Regularly speaking with loved ones
- Joining sober groups
- Participating in community events and activities
- Family and group therapy
Clients benefit from regularly spending time with peers and family members. Family engagement is especially important for many people in recovery. According to SAMHSA, “[R]esearch shows that family support can play a major role in helping a loved one with mental and substance use disorders.” West Coast Recovery Centers offers family support services to ensure clients and their loved ones have the opportunity to develop stronger bonds.
#3. Engaging in Sober Events and Activities
Sober events and activities in the community provide people with a safe space to explore social relationships. The low-stress environment makes it easier for individuals in recovery to practice social skills, including setting boundaries, teamwork, and actively listening.
A few sober events or activities people might enjoy during treatment and aftercare include:
- Community events, including cultural festivals and volunteering
- Community-based educational classes or workshops
- Self-help groups, including 12-Step meetings
- Local exploration clubs and groups
West Coast Recovery Centers provides wholesome activities and events for clients and their loved ones. Clients are encouraged to take advantage of community-based services, groups, and activities. Spending time at sober events helps people in recovery gain confidence in their ability to manage their condition during and after treatment. The care team provides information about local events or activities clients can attend during treatment.
Social isolation has a significant negative effect on people recovering from substance abuse and mental health disorders. However, self-isolating is a common symptom of SUD. People may withdraw from social groups or loved ones to reduce the risk of being emotionally hurt. Treatment programs at West Coast Recovery Centers encourage clients to participate in healthy social activities. Peer engagement and support from loved ones help people feel more motivated to establish and maintain sobriety. The care team ensures clients have a safe and comfortable space where they can interact with others without fear of being judged. Clients are encouraged to add social interactions to their self-care. To learn more about our programs and services, call us today at (760) 492-6509.