The Hippocratic Post Media

With drinking habits changed for thousands of people under lockdown, there are warnings of more excessive alcohol consumption when pubs reopen on July 4

Regular sustained alcohol consumption at home could now be joined by ‘binge drinking’

A Priory expert says habits entrenched during the height of the pandemic, and its aftermath, mean it “is a time when alcohol can take over”

For men and women, psychological distress and challenges from stress and economic uncertainty have correlated with increases in their drinking – but alcohol is a depressant, says psychotherapist Pamela Roberts

‘Blaming’ rather than helping a partner whose alcohol consumption raises concerns is a ‘highway to nowhere.’

As shops reopen, there will be a huge sigh of relief from hard-pressed retailers, frustrated consumers, and a government anxious to kick-start the economy.

Retail spending on credit and debit cards bounced 79 per cent in New Zealand in May, compared to April, as shoppers stocked up on food, furniture, clothing, and electrical appliances after the re-opening of non-essential stores. In Australia there were reports of ‘Christmas crowds’ as shops reopened, although this was linked with concerns about lack of social distancing.

But will shopping habits in the UK have changed? For those concerned about the easing of lockdown, and an unstable economy, there may be less of an inclination to spend, let alone spend freely.

Compulsive Buying Disorder – or shopping addiction – is a damaging behaviour and remains the occasional rather than the norm.

But increasing focus is being put on the inability to control spending impulses, partly due to new research in the journal Comprehensive Psychiatry suggesting it should be taken more seriously. Pamela Roberts, Addiction Therapy Manager at Priory’s Woking Hospital, says that sometimes, when people develop an ability to forego another addiction – say, alcoholism – other addictive behaviours come to the fore, such as shopping.

Life in lockdown is having a significant impact on our health.

Pamela Roberts, addiction therapy manager at Priory’s Woking Hospital, concurs that for those already struggling with alcoholism, the coronavirus outbreak and ensuing lockdown has been incredibly challenging.

“Addiction is an illness, which is often but wrongly portrayed as a choice and this can make life very difficult for those who are struggling with alcohol addiction. This is a difficult and testing time for everyone, and planning for the situation you’re in is going to be the best way of keeping yourselves safe – dig out recovery plans and relapse prevention guides.

Millions of people are having to discard their Christmas plans and think again. The prospect of being alone can suit some, especially if their work schedule has been relentless, but for others it will feel completely at odds with what the season means to them. We asked two Priory mental health experts what advice they would give to anyone finding themselves alone over Christmas. Here’s what they say:

Priory consultant psychiatrist Dr Paul McLaren, of Priory’s Hayes Grove Hospital in Kent, says: “Planning is key. If you had plans to spend Christmas with family or friends, plan ahead for remote contact. Best to timetable rather than say ‘I’ll call you on Christmas Day’. We all know that remote communication is technically easy, but it’s the organisational and emotional barriers that can get in the way. If you know of others in your circle who may also be spending Christmas solo, reach out and ask if they would like to spend time with you remotely.

“Organise your day in advance so as to have a good idea as to what you will do when. It’s still a holiday so you don’t have to pin things down to the minute, but it will help your mood if you have a schedule with a time to get up, meal times, and don’t forget to schedule in some active relaxation or aerobic exercise. Plan to pamper yourself. If there are treats which work for you, then get them organised. Be wary of alcohol though. Alcohol lubricates social events but if you are on your own, and missing contact, then it could bring you down.”

Priory experts share advice on handling job loss, insecurity and career change

  • Unemployment is directly linked to poor mental health
  • 25% of UK adults associate job loss with ‘trauma’
  • Priory experts discuss the impact of loss, job insecurity and ‘forced’ career changes on stress levels

The strain of the COVID-19 pandemic is especially strongly felt by those who have experienced unemployment and job insecurity over the past 18 months.

Some industries are struggling to fill places, with job vacancies reaching almost 1.2m in September (which is, in turn, causing stress for staff, and putting unprecedented pressure on managers). Other sectors have struggled to survive, fuelling huge anxiety amongst their workforce; while unemployment fell to 4.5% in the three months to August, it is still higher than pre-Covid levels.

Overall, there’s little doubt that the impact of the global pandemic on employers and employees will be felt for a considerable time, with the effects on people’s mental health yet to be fully seen or understood.

Research by the Mental Health Foundation found that 70% of UK adults felt that job loss has a profoundly negative effect on mental health; 45% associate unemployment with a strong sense of ‘loss’ while 25% associate it with ‘trauma’.

Job uncertainty, insecurity and ‘forced’ career changes can also have a significant impact on stress and anxiety.

Priory psychotherapist Pamela Roberts says: “There’s feelings of loss, stress, and anxiety and these trigger various hormones such as cortisol, which is elevated when we experience heightened anxiety or stress. Then there’s the ‘flight or fight’ mechanism which can make us feel agitated, overwhelmed, fearful, and confused. There might be self-doubt.” Stress can also fuel addictions, she says.