The Relationship between Substance Abuse and Boredom
Boredom is closely related to substance abuse in a number of different ways. It is a common reason for why people first experiment with alcohol or drugs. It can also be a good excuse to keep on returning to these substances. This can eventually meant that the individual develops a dependency. Fear that life away from alcohol or drugs will be boring can keep people trapped in their addiction. Even those who do find their way into recovery will be at high risk of relapse if they are regularly bored.
Boredom is something that almost every individual will have experienced from time to time. One way of describing it would be to say that it is a state of mind that people experience when they have nothing to do and they lack interest in their surroundings. Another definition describes boredom as being restless and weary because of a lack of interest in things.
There are said to be 3 types of boredom:
- When people are forced to be engaged in an activity that they do not want to be involved in
- When people are not allowed to do something that they want to do
- When people just find themselves unable to stay interested in the current activity or surroundings
The Dangers of Boredom
Occasional episodes of boredom are a part of life. If people suffer from this emotional state too often it may be associated with depression. It is suggested that those who suffer from chronic boredom are more likely to suffer from:
- Drug addiction
- Eating disorders
- Reduced productivity at work
- Anger and irritability
- Experience difficulties in social situations
- Gambling addiction
- Anxiety problems
- Comfort eating when bored can lead to obesity
- Poor performance at school
- Experience a lot of hostility towards other people
- Family problems
Boredom and Substance Abuse
In a UK survey it was found that 29% of teenagers had turned to alcohol as a means to relieve boredom. This emotion is also blamed for fueling much of the binge drinking culture that exists in western countries.
People feel that they have nothing better to do so they turn to alcohol or drugs for entertainment. If people do this regularly they risk developing a dependency on these substances. Addiction destroys mental and physical health and there are also many negative social consequences of this behavior. It is therefore crucial that people turn to options other than alcohol or drugs to relieve boredom.
Life in Recovery Can be Associated with Boredom
One of the reasons why people are reluctant to escape addiction is that they fear that life in recovery will be boring. They imagine a grey future where their life will be focused around not doing that one thing they really enjoy. While boredom may appear like a trivial thing to a lot of people, the fear of it can drive an addiction by stopping people from seeking help. The sad thing is that it is really the life of the addict that is boring and predictable.
Many of those who do escape addiction will claim that boredom is the least of their problems. In fact they will often complain that there is not enough hours in the day to do all the things they want to do. Freedom from addiction greatly increases the options that people have in life. They can become involved in new activities or revisit old hobbies that they gave up during their years of substance abuse. Of course life is what people make of it, and avoiding boredom does require a bit of effort.
Boredom and Relapse
Boredom is a relapse trigger that often gets used as an excuse to return to alcohol or drugs. If people do not feel like their life in recovery is meaningful and fun they begin to miss the bad old days. This is particularly likely to happen in the early weeks and months of sobriety when people are still trying to find their feet. Addictions use up a lot of time so once people enter recovery they find that they have a lot of spare time on their hands. If they do not find ways to fill this time then it can mean that they end up feeling bored a lot of the time.
How to Avoid Boredom
Avoiding boredom can help people avoid substance abuse and generally improve their mental health. Those who are recovering from an addiction will need to do all they can to avoid this negative emotion. Here are just a few ideas for how people can avoid boredom:
- It has been shown that having a hobby is important for mental health. This provides a focus of interest and it also often proves to be a good way to meet new people as well. The important thing about any hobby is that it involves something that people feel passionate about.
- Planning ahead to avoid boredom is a great approach. If people know that there are times when they have nothing to do they can plan to use this time productively.
- Breaking away from the routine is always a good way to combat boredom. Even just taking a different route to work can prove highly beneficial.
- If people have unpleasant tasks ahead of them there may be a high risk of boredom. Following these tasks up with more pleasant activities can keep people motivated and less likely to become bored.
- If people are feeling bored then a change of scenery can counteract this. Just going for a walk can be enough to dispel this emotion. The important thing is to not just sit with it.
- Never use alcohol or drugs as a means to deal with boredom. This can easily lead to addiction and all the mental and physical problems associated with that.
- Mindfulness meditation can be an effective technique for dealing with boredom. This involves observing emotions without becoming too caught up in them. By examining emotions in this way it is said to remove much of the sting from them.