Treating Anxiety and Addiction During COVID-19: Challenges and Strategies

The past few months have been difficult for all of us. However, those dealing with substance abuse and co-occurring mood disorders have been particularly affected by COVID-19. Today, we’ll explore how the pandemic has impacted the treatment of anxiety and addiction.


Access to Care for Anxiety and Addiction

When we first became aware of COVID-19, many of us were worried about maintaining our access to residential, outpatient or aftercare services. Indeed, at first, it seemed that we would not be able to continue with our treatment plans as normal. As the pandemic swept the nation, many centers suspended their programs until further notice. To compound this issue, Americans experienced unprecedented levels of stress – many people lost their jobs or were furloughed, lost loved ones to the virus or struggled to cope with life in lockdown.

Luckily, instead of shutting down, many centers have adapted to offer essential services for anxiety and addiction in the midst of COVID-19.


Remote and In-Person Treatment

In the words of Cumberland Heights CEO Jay Crosson, “Addiction treatment – right now – is not only essential, it’s life-saving. This is a particularly stressful time, and people who are staying home with their addiction… it’s going to show up in a big way.”

Our response to the pandemic has required innovation and careful attention to detail. We are still open for residential treatment and have adapted our protocols in adherence with CDC guidelines. Cumberland Heights has led the effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. We are in communication with the Metro Nashville Health Department and began taking temperatures for potential clients and employees weeks before other healthcare facilities.

Additionally, we have moved all of our outpatient programs to telehealth. This allows us to support clients from the comfort of their homes while reducing their exposure to others during this challenging time. Virtual meetings and therapy sessions have actually increased access to care for many people in the midst of the pandemic.


Our Support Systems

There’s an old saying about recovery: no one does it alone. It’s accepted that social support is a key factor in achieving and maintaining sobriety. This is why nearly all treatment centers focus on building a caring, connected atmosphere during rehabilitation.

The benefits of social support in early sobriety are countless. Addiction is a disease which thrives in isolation; when you begin to open up about your struggles and lean on others, recovery is finally possible. People who attend meetings or treatment programs experience a host of benefits, including…

  • Finally feeling safe and secure,
  • Being able to talk about your darkest moments with people who truly understand,
  • Reduced isolation and loneliness,
  • The ability to battle shame, self-doubt and guilt,
  • A feeling of belonging and
  • Hope and optimism for the future.

People with anxiety and other mental health conditions also benefit from group work. Speaking with others can help to provide perspective on the things you’re nervous about. It also serves as a reminder that you are not alone, and that you are not “crazy” – many other people feel the same way. Attending regular group meetings or spending time with friends can alleviate some of the worst symptoms of anxiety.

Social support doesn’t just come from 12-Step meetings or alumni events. It can also be found in our close relationships with friends and family members. Regularly spending time with others holds us accountable; it also provides an opportunity to share our struggles, feelings and worries. Socializing is a cornerstone of successful sobriety and improved mental health.


Changing How We Connect

Now, think about the way the world has changed during COVID-19. To combat the spread of the virus, it is necessary to practice social distancing and avoid large in-person meetings. This has fundamentally changed the way we interact with our support networks for anxiety and addiction. However, while we cannot sit face-to-face with big groups of family, friends or people in recovery, the pandemic has actually increased our ability to connect with others in new ways.

2020 has been the year of innovative communication. More than ever before, Americans are turning to their smartphones, tablets and computers to speak with their loved ones. Zoom, FaceTime and other video chatting apps have skyrocketed in popularity. While on these platforms, it’s not uncommon to play games or fire up a round of trivia. Instead of reserving deeper interactions for in-person gatherings, we have become more open to pushing the limits of video calling software and other online resources.

As we have mentioned before, many AA and NA meetings have also moved online. The pandemic presents a rare opportunity for those in sobriety. While most of us are used to attending local meetings, we are no longer limited by how far we can drive. If you feel like it, you can now pop into a virtual 12-Step meeting across the country! Build fellowship with your fellow man in Australia, Europe, Africa… the options are endless.


Help for Anxiety and Addiction

The pandemic has increased anxiety and addiction worldwide. Fortunately, there are options available for those who need support and clinical assistance at this time. Contact Cumberland Heights to learn more about our residential and outpatient programming for substance abuse and co-occurring mood disorders.