Those Battling Addiction Are More At Risk In Election Season

October 27th, 2016 | By Brian Sullivan | Posted in Blog

Those Battling Addiction Are More At Risk In Election Season

The Presidential race is a significant source of stress.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (October 27, 2016) – In less than two weeks, the United States will choose its next President and the home stretch couldn’t be more contentious. All anyone has to do is open up social media to see tempers flaring and worse – severed relationships. While political discourse can be healthy and educational, it can sometimes result in anger and frustration. This is especially harmful to someone in recovery, as it is important for their health to keep their support system intact.

There are many things that set this election apart from any other in the history of the country. Even the primaries were heated. As a result, we have the first candidate who boasts that they are not a career politician, and we also have the first female candidate. Feelings on both sides couldn’t be stronger. Here are some things we all should remember.

As human beings, every one of us is unique. We all have different preferences. Foods, colors, television shows, home decor. It is not only natural that we would have a preference for leadership, but it is also patriotic, and our right as Americans. Being different from those around you is not only acceptable, it’s human.

“Sometimes as individuals, we all have different opinions and values,” says Turning Point Therapist Esra Ahmed. “We are all passionate about different issues that we are aligned with. Different issues stand out for different people. We operate from our own world view as a natural response. Elections sometimes excite fears for potential risks, and this can be a tremendous source of stress.”

Ahmed says the reason why this is more harmful to those in recovery is that many are still learning to use coping skills. Addiction isolates and someone who suffers from addiction uses a substance to cope.

“Someone newly in recovery is still learning to separate themselves from certain situations and not take things personally,” says Ahmed. “When those coping skills are underdeveloped, it can spiral them into a mindset ripe for relapse. Blood pressure rises internally. ‘Why can’t they see what I’m talking about!’ and things become emotional and upsetting.”

This election is more intense than those in the past because there’s a lot of perpetuated fear, according to Ahmed.

“Typically, campaigns get voters that way, but now it’s elevated,” says Ahmed. “Lots of polarizing. The behaviors are different. More character issues brought up and put into play. Lots of mudslinging.”

The American Psychological Association says across party lines, registered Democrats (55% and Republicans (59%) state the election is a very or somewhat significant source of stress. Election stress reportedly affects 52% of Americans overall. Adults who use social media are actually more likely than adults who do not say the election is a very or somewhat significant source of stress (54% vs. 45%, respectively).

When a friend reveals their support for a candidate, it can sometimes be shocking. You may have no idea how a close friend or relative feels about certain issues. “This person doesn’t think I should have this right?” or “They excuse this type of behavior?” The important thing to remember is that chances are that person was your relative or friend before this election. Here are some things you can do to make sure they are after.

  1. Show respect. I know, it can be hard. Especially if you feel a candidate doesn’t show respect for you. Especially when social issues are brought into play. Try to understand where that person is coming from and why they have the concerns they do. No one ever said, “I grew as a person when I was insulted.”
  2. Set boundaries. If you feel a conversation escalating, cut it off. And respect another person who asks you to do the same. You may have one friend that you should never discuss politics with and it’s just an understanding.
  3. Fellowship. Hang around some people you know are like-minded if you need an outlet. Discourse and affirmation can be extremely healthy.
  4. Listen. Listening to another perspective doesn’t mean that you agree. Try to promote growth in yourself by staying open. It doesn’t make you right or wrong, and it doesn’t diminish what you feel or think.
  5. Diversify your environment. This may seem contradictory to #3, but it’s not. When you need an outlet to express your feelings, it’s necessary to be around people who support you. But if you really want to challenge yourself to be more well-rounded and knowledgeable, spend some time with people who are different than you. Learn. Grow. Everyone has something to bring to the table. Addiction Campuses treats people from all religions, sexualities, political affiliations and sexes. It’s inspiring to see them learn and grow from being around different cultures. If you have a question, ask it. It’s very rare that someone gets upset with a person trying to learn more about them.

We would love to say it will all be over in two weeks, but the stress from this election will likely last for months to come. A great number of people will not be content with our next President, whoever they may be. The next President of the United States will have a long, hard road convincing many people that America made the right choice. That’s why it’s up to us to manage and maintain our recovery and mental health. The serenity prayer is a healthy way to start:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

If this election has given you stress or anxiety, our call center is standing by 24/7 at 1.888.614.2251 and there is free confidential chat here on our website.