Worried isolation is making a friend or loved one drink more?
While a lot of the country is in isolation, many of us will find we have more time on our hands; more time at home and – if we choose – easier access to alcohol 24/7.
A lot of people across the country might be on their own for long periods of time. It won’t be uncommon for some people not to speak to anyone at all for days at a time.
Isolation – and loneliness – can have a huge impact on a person’s physical and mental health. In the middle of struggling with worry, a drink can seem like the answer to alleviate feelings of anxiety or boredom, or even to help you sleep.
But alcohol is actually a depressant, and it can interfere with processes in the brain that are important for good mental health as well as contribute to symptoms of severe depression. Drinking alcohol can also affect your weight and disrupt sleep.
If you are worried a friend, loved one or relative might be drinking a bit too much or be at risk from alcohol harm, here are five things you can do:
1. Stay connected
Now more than ever is the time to try to stay connected by phone or video calls. Ask yourself if you know anyone who is on their own or who might struggle with anxiety or depression. Or whether you know someone who has been addicted to alcohol in the past and could be at risk of drinking again. How often can you spare the time to give them a call? Can you make it regular, like every Friday and Tuesday evening?
2. Commit to drink-free days
If it’s someone you live with, why not commit to at least three drink-free days each week and build activities into your routine that don’t involve drinking, like playing board games, or try out some alcohol-free drinks and mocktail recipes.
3. Know the signs of alcohol dependence
The more people drink, the more they increase their tolerance for alcohol, and this can lead to dependence. If that sounds like someone you care about, it can be difficult to tell them you’re concerned. But check out our advice on how to start that conversation and familiarise yourself with the signs of alcohol dependence. Are they worrying about where their next drink is coming from? Are they finding it hard to stop at just one or two drinks? Are they drinking first thing in the morning? Are they more anxious or experiencing feelings of depression? Have they ever experienced physical symptoms like sweating, shaking, nausea that could be symptoms of withdrawal?
4. Take our online self-assessment
Drinkaware has an online self-assessment that can help you identify whether you should be concerned about how much you drink, or how much someone you care about drinks.
5. Get professional advice
We have compiled a list of support services that includes alcohol support across the country. We would urge anyone who is worried about someone else’s drinking to contact Drinkline on 0300 123 1110 or talk to a trained advisor anonymously online via Drinkchat. Consider other support providers too, that can give specific advice or practical support on issues like loneliness, mental health:
- Mind – advice about mental health and support services
- Samaritans – support for anyone with feelings of distress, despair or suicide
- Age UK – practical advice and support for older people in communities
- Childline – online or telephone support for children
- Young Minds – mental health advice and support for young people