COLORADO SPRINGS — Even as parts of Colorado begin to reopen, many people continue to work from home and still feel isolated. Health experts fear some of us may be turning to food, alcohol, or even drugs to manage those emotions, but there are ways we can rebound from the challenges to protect ourselves and our families from addiction.
According to the National Institute On Mental Health, binge eating is the most common eating disorder in the U.S. Cut-off from normal routines and support systems, people are turning to food, drugs, and alcohol to manage their stress. This can be a difficult battle, but mental health experts say the first step is telling someone you trust.
Sara Correll is a licensed counselor in Colorado Springs who spoke up about what she's seeing.
"I have seen an explosion in inquiries for my own practice. I've seen an explosion in new clients. We've seen a huge rise in depression, suicide attempts, overdoses. This is serious," Correll said.
Dr. Krista Bridgmon, a professor of psychology at CSU Pueblo, also spoke to News5 about what she's noticed.
"We're seeing tolerance levels increase and again the why. Why are we engaging in drinking more or using drugs? Often times it's to dissociate. It's sometimes hard to think your thoughts and feel your feelings and during a pandemic our thoughts and feelings are not always healthy right now," Bridgmon said.
Both mental health professionals see there's a problem across the country and in southern Colorado. People are binge eating and self medicating with drugs and alcohol as they try to manage the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and isolation.
"We're going to see a spike in anxiety disorders, substance abuse disorders. Right now during the pandemic our heroes are first responders, doctors, nurses, truck drivers, grocery store workers, teachers. When this pandemic gets to another phase mental health workers are going to be the front-line heroes," Bridgmon said.
Experts say binge eating symptoms include:
- Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time
- Eating even when you're full or not hungry
- Eating fast during binge episodes
- Eating until you're uncomfortably full
- Eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment and feeling distressed, ashamed, or guilty about your eating
"They have food readily available that makes them feel good and they have alcohol readily available that makes them feel good and they are going to continue to use those," Bridgmon said.
Tanya Dean owns a dog grooming business in Florida. She had to close her business because of COVID-19. It sent her down a dark path after being six years sober from drugs and alcohol, but reconnecting with family led her out.
"It was actually my mom. She just literally said you need help and that's when I finally surrendered," Dean said.
Addiction experts say tackling addiction starts with telling someone you trust.
"We have this fear. We build up this fear. What will people say? What will people think if they know that I can't sleep at night because I'm worried? What would people think if they know I'm a little worried about my drinking lately? So when we bring it to light, it reduces our anxiety right away," Correll said.
The experts say even if we aren't the ones struggling, we can play an important role in helping friends and loved ones to escape bad habits.
"There's nothing stopping us from shooting them a text saying I noticed that you're a little different today on Facebook, or on social media. Is everything okay? I think that's the one thing is to stay connected," Correll said.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help right away:
Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Colorado Crisis Services Hotline:
Text: "TALK" to 38255
Mental health experts say there are hundreds of smartphone apps that can help you meditate and control your anxiety.
Here are some helpful resources to find smartphone apps that might work for you:
Information provided by Mental Health Expert Sara Correll:
Phone: (719) 496-4928
Address: 224 E. Willamette Ste #5, 80903
Psychology Today profile: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/sara-correll-colorado-springs-co/488271
Some apps that can help with anxiety: Headspace, Calm, Relax Melodies, Recolor, and Worry Knot
Some apps that can support recovery: Sober Grid, Recovery Record (eating disorders focused), Sober Tool, and rTribe