Health experts: Pandemic could drive fearful, bored to dangerous coping mechanisms

Behavioral health specialists at Fort Knox warn community members to be mindful of engaging in coping mechanisms that could prove addictive and dangerous to their health and relationships. (U.S. Army/Released)
May 26, 2020

Behavioral health specialists at Fort Knox are warning the community to exercise caution when using some coping mechanisms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the experts, feelings of uncertainty, grief, loneliness and boredom  because of quarantines and social distancing can foster an environment where people seek ways to take their minds off stress that only add to it.

“There are things we do to cope with our circumstances that become detrimental to other aspects of our lives,” said Mary Healey, clinical director of Fort Knox’s Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care Program. “Our anxieties and uncertainties can snowball, and factor into our response. If I use alcohol, drugs, food, pornography or whatever, I could be more inclined to do those things to excess in times of stress.”

She said some things normally enjoyed in groups may become addictive in seclusion.

“There are social drinkers who are fine when they’re around others, but when they drink alone they lose accountability,” Healey said. “We are social beings. We’re meant to be with others. There is accountability there, and we don’t always do as well without that.”

John Emary, a trainer with the Employee Assistance Program office, said isolation may strip our lives of many coping mechanisms that we need.

“Most addictive behaviors can increase when circumstances are out of the ordinary routine,” he said. “Routine and maintaining contact with professional support have been the two largest challenges my clients have been dealing with.”

He said people need to maintain a balanced life to keep from falling into trouble.

“We should try to maintain the structures of support that were working,” he said. “We teach that each person must engage five dimensions in their life. Besides caring for the physical needs of eating, sleeping and exercising, they must care for the emotional and psychological equilibrium. They must connect spiritually to a purpose or being outside of themselves that gives their life meaning, they must foster their social relationships with friends and supporting groups, and they must focus on the most important social relationship – the family.

“If an individual has not been working on these strengths, their [resilience] is diminished and they will have to work harder to maintain equilibrium in life.”

Emary said anyone facing an addiction or relapse into addiction needs to know that the situation isn’t as bleak as it might seem.

“[Most] help centers and support groups did not close their doors,” he said. “Local groups and professionals in Hardin County may have changed their routines and way of business, but [many] still offer online tools to connect, and some still offer standard meetings with limited attendees.”


Editor’s Note: Behavioral Health/SUDCC and the EAP programs provide confidential assistance through email, phone calls and scheduled consultations. If you need assistance, call SUDCC at 502-626-9892 or EAP at 502-624-8361. Voicemail is monitored many times throughout a day.