Addiction to any substance often starts with one common denominator: stress. So many Americans are experiencing stress levels that are higher than they have ever experienced. When stress gets too high to cope with, many people turn to substances to try and take their mental or emotional troubles away.

Stress comes in a few different forms. Worry, anxiety, frustration, hopelessness, and depression are all forms of stress. When these kinds of feelings become an everyday norm, most people will self-medicate to get the relief they need from their troubles.

Stress as a Relapse Trigger

Stress can act as a trigger for relapse for many people going through the recovery process. The act of quitting alcohol or drugs is a giant step. In fact, it’s the most important one. However, it’s just the first step in the long walk to recovery.

It may be a discouraging thought, but most people will probably relapse during their recovery period at some time or another. Usually, this happens a number of times before complete abstinence. It takes an understanding of how stress can trigger a relapse in order to avoid it.

Hazardous Symptoms of Stress

What most people in recovery don’t understand is that their brains have been forever altered because of their addiction, making their reactions to stress more pronounced. This can be the case for years or even for a lifetime after achieving sobriety.

The brain’s chemistry and its reaction to stimuli will change on many factors, including the length and severity of the addiction. The brain has learned to expect relief in the form of whatever substance has been used. If it doesn’t get this relief, it translates into nervousness and anxiety.

The confusion and nervousness that men and women in recovery feel can be very similar to how they felt when they were detoxing from drugs or alcohol. Many in recovery might be fine one minute, but then might find themselves confused and anxious the next. They are experiencing the complicated process of the brain trying to find equilibrium again. This is not an easy feeling, so those in recovery need to surround themselves with people who love them and want to see them recover.

It’s even more important to have the professional support of knowledgeable doctors and psychiatrists who understand this process. Qualified professionals can help their patients learn how and why stress can act as a trigger for relapse, then help patients in recovery to learn new ways to cope with stress. These skills are vital to making continued progress towards recovery.

References:

Go Moji | 5 Signs You’re Too Stressed

WebMD | Maintaining Hope and Health During Drug Abuse Recovery

Harvard Health Publishing | How Addiction Hijacks the Brain

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