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Ways New Social and Political Climates Affect Trauma Survivors

Jul 8, 2020

In a short period of time, massive shifts to the social and political climates in the U.S. have occurred, and their impact on certain vulnerable groups is becoming more evident. One of those groups is made up of trauma survivors, including women who were already living with depression, experiencing panic, and struggling to function in their daily lives before the pandemic began. Today, let’s look at five ways that the changes going on in our larger society are affecting trauma survivors specifically and how to respond.

For trauma survivors, the loss of social connections during the pandemic can lead to intense feelings of abandonment and isolation. For some women, a history of trauma or abandonment trauma can lead to substance use disorders and deteriorating mental health. If excessive drinking or substance use follows the feeling of abandonment or social isolation, seeking help from a facility offering co-occurring disorder (or “dual diagnosis”) treatment is highly recommended.

Trauma survivors may feel abandoned during this time.

As origins of abandonment differ from person to person, feelings of abandonment now can be set in motion by a variety of circumstances. In early childhood, it may have started with a parent who was emotionally unavailable, one living with a mental illness, or the loss of a parent at an early age. Now as an adult living through a pandemic, a trauma survivor may experience a form of post-traumatic stress connected to the prior abandonment.

Feelings of abandonment can stem from the sweeping loss of daily or routine contact with important figures in your life in any settings: school, community, religious institutions, etc. The people whose presence provided stability and support may seem invisible and out of reach now. The more you valued them in a typical week, the greater the feeling of abandonment might be without them.

Response to abandonment feelings:

Feelings of abandonment can be devastating and lead to behaviors that add to the disconnection, such as self-harm, reliance on substance use, or avoidance of all relationships. Some of the other symptoms of abandonment trauma include emotional flashbacks, overreacting to situations, and a strong desire for control over people and situations. If you recognize the signs of these feelings, it’s important to reach out to a doctor, a good friend, an addiction specialist, or anyone you trust to listen and help you determine what next step will be most helpful.

Trauma survivors may feel abandoned by their own family.

A personal loss of a close friend or family member during this time, whether from Covid-19 or some other cause, can lead to feelings of abandonment in trauma survivors, too. This includes the sudden loss of a spouse or a partner who provided a sense of safety and security for the trauma survivor. Even when you consciously know their departure was no fault of your own, it can still get attached to the losses and disconnections of early childhood.

Abandonment can also include a loss of connection with a family member who physically remains in the home yet does not meet the needs of a trauma survivor’s need for safety and security during this uncertain time. This scenario might look like a substance use disorder or mental health disorder in a spouse or partner. Another example would be a family member with distinctly different viewpoints, political or otherwise, on how to respond to the pandemic whose interaction is characterized by polarizing and divisive comments.

Response to feelings of family abandonment:

When feelings of abandonment by a family member occur, they can be accompanied by increased substance use as a means of coping with the depression or anxiety you’re experiencing, too. The development of a substance use disorder at this time is a sign that you’re in need of treatment for both the existing trauma and the emerging SUD. Identifying a facility offering a dual diagnosis treatment with trauma-informed care is a highly recommended next step in this situation.

Trauma survivors may feel intensely isolated right now.

A feeling of isolation isn’t unique to trauma survivors, but their reaction to it may be intense and unmanageable at times. A comprehensive change in routines and schedules means being cut off from what’s familiar every day. The time now spent at home may cover a majority of the hours of any given day.

Even going in public to shop for essentials may not reduce the intense feelings of social isolation. Maintaining a six-foot separation from other people, wearing a mask (mandatory or otherwise), and the plastic shields in place at many businesses can increase the feelings of trauma in survivors. Also, the loss of access to your favorite businesses which may be shutdown indefinitely can profoundly affect your sense of well-being.

Response to overwhelming social isolation:

The loss of social time for a trauma survivor in some cases may mean seeking comfort in alcohol or drug use while alone, knowing your behavior is not being witnessed or judged by anyone. Similar to the response to abandonment mentioned above, the choice to seek treatment to protect your health and well-being is an essential first step. If you’re seeing an increase in use of substances (legal or otherwise) in response to your social isolation, it’s a clear sign that your choice to “manage” the social isolation is creating more harm.

Hannah’s House is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 866-952-5532.

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