AUSTIN (KXAN) — The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on the millions of Americans suffering from anxiety. One telehealth service for substance abuse treatment has created free online COVID-19 anxiety support meetings.

“People are afraid and people are isolated at home,” said Peter Loeb, the co-founder of Lionrock Recovery. “It’s that combination of fear and that isolation that has increased anxiety.”

Lionrock has been offering online substance abuse counseling via secure video conference for more than a decade. Loeb says the need for anxiety support meetings grew out of requests from people looking for help while isolated at home, and the sessions are led by professional psychologists although it is not psychology it is a support group,” Loeb says.

The meetings offer education and cooping skills plus an opportunity for people to share how they are feeling with other people in the same boat, Loeb says.

Loeb says the response has been positive with dozens of people taking part in the online support meetings everyday. Lionrock Recovery counselors cap the number of virtual attendees to 50 per session. “A lot of time that conversation is of particular comfort to people isolated at home in order to battle the pandemic,” he said.

Loeb says substance abuse can have a connection to anxiety and says if untreated, people with the disorder may turn to unhealthy methods to cope.

“Abuse of drugs and alcohol can be one that people use. This is a way to reduce that anxiety level and keep people in a good place,” Loeb says.

According to Loeb, its demand for substance abuse help rose 40% in the month of March.