NEW YORK - The rate of Americans, struggling to cope with an underlying mental health issue and then masking the issue with drugs, alcohol, pills, overeating and other kinds of obsessive behaviors has reached a staggering 77 percent according to a new national study, put out by Myriad Genetics.
While excessive and obsessive behaviors are nothing new, according to the study, the pandemic has exacerbated both the underlying health issues and the toxic behavior used to treat it.
"I work in an inpatient unit. We detox patients off of all substances of abuse, alcohol, benzos, opioids. And yeah, the numbers don't surprise me at all," said Dawn Johnson, a psychiatric mental health nurse with the Indiana Center for Recovery.
"When people started to isolate, then that started to escalate. Perhaps the awareness of we're really not okay, and we really do have a problem in our society, and it really is an issue, and we really have ignored it, and we really don't have the resources that we need," Johnson said.
Here in New York, Dr. Harris Stratyner, a licensed psychologist and Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology at Mount Sinai, sees marijuana as the problem.
"Self-medicating behavior is very, very common. And now we're seeing a lot of them, particularly in Manhattan, using marijuana," said Dr. Stratyner.
For some, masking the issue is a deliberate choice. For others, they began by smoking or drinking without realizing they had a substance issue or a mental health issue. Both presented when they attempted to detox.
"I am a scientist, and I’m going to tell you that when people get nervous, they get anxious, they turn, particularly with alcohol. And as a result of turning to alcohol, they really are ingesting the depressant alcohol. This alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. So it's kind of ironic you might feel depressed or despondent, low level of depression. And as a result, you're drinking, and you're adding to your depression," said Dr. Stratyner.