Addiction isn’t like a part-time hobby. Defined as a disease by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), addiction often reaches a point where the addict is completely focused on getting their next fix or high. Anything else, whether it’s personal or professional responsibilities or opportunities to socialize with friends, falls by the wayside. This is just one of the common reasons why addicts isolate.
Reacting to Changes within the Brain
Biologically, certain drugs affect neurotransmitters in the brain. An over-production of neurotransmitters in the brain’s reward center create a craving for the euphoric feeling associated with some substances. It’s excessive production of dopamine, in particular, that causes a tolerance to build. As a result, there is a single desire to get more of the substance that produces that feeling, which often means forgoing social interactions.
Another common reason addicts isolate is to maintain the denial of their problems. With family members, for instance, making an effort to stay more detached may, in the mind of an addict, avoid uncomfortable discussions or suggestions they have a problem. Staying away from familiar friends and family members as much as possible can also be a way for addicts to hide their addiction as long as possible, which further helps maintain denial.
Staying Away from Intervention Attempts
Most addicts reach a point where they know some people close to them are well-aware that they have a “problem” they don’t perceive to be an issue. Consequently, there’s an attempt to avoid such people so intervention attempts can’t be made. Even if there aren’t immediate plans for an intervention, substance abuse may create paranoid feelings, such as thinking that everyone close to them is scheming behind their back to arrange an intervention.
Fearing Judgment or Ridicule
Some addicts believe they will be judged personally if people they know become aware of their addiction. There may be a fear of either being blamed for the problem or being ridiculed as being weak or not having enough self-control to stay away from potentially addictive substances. Even if such fears are unfounded, an addict may be absolutely convinced that others will judge them harshly.
As an addiction develops, priorities shift and sole focus in a person’s life becomes the substance that is, in their mind, helping them function. In reality, this isn’t the case at all, but an addict often fails to realize this, which frequently leads to more isolation. This increased withdrawal may occur when:
• Social obligations are forgotten because they are no longer seen as priorities.
• Social interactions are seen as distracting rather than enjoyable.
• There is more of a desire to figure out ways to keep getting the addictive substance rather than worry about regular socialization.
Isolation may occur as an addict places the blame for their behavior on others close to them. As a result, they may begin to avoid the people they see as being responsible for their addiction.
For some addicts, staying away from others can be related to changes in self-esteem. Addicts sometimes believe they are somehow flawed or not worthy of being around their friends and loved ones, which leads to purposely avoiding such interactions.
Addiction can become isolating over time. Even so, recovery doesn’t have to be the same way. Fortunately, there are plenty of treatment options available to address all aspects of addiction. For recovering addicts, a return to a less isolating lifestyle will also take time, but it’s something that typically becomes easier as new coping mechanisms are learned and support is given from both familiar and professional sources.