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Addiction Triggers and Stress

the stress of addiction

stress management in addiction recovery

Stress is a normal human physiological reaction. And it’s human to look for ways to cope with that stress. Most people react to stress without thinking, just trying to get through it.

We stress over the everyday situations life throws our way, from traffic to spilling coffee on our work clothes while breaking in traffic. However, when life brings us traumatic situations or personal loss, it’s common to take up a bad habit. Chronic stress can be overwhelming and turn us toward addiction.

Although bad habits seem to help in the beginning, they set us up for greater loss.

Why Some Stress Is Good

Stress has been around since the dawn of humans. The hormones elevated by stressful situations give us the survival instinct of fight-or-flight.

Unless we want to be fighting and fleeing all the time, we have to learn to manage our stress.

Some stress is a healthy thing because it pushes us to an optimal level of alertness, mental performance and behavior. But when stress becomes a constant experience, our health and well-being becomes negatively impacted.

In fact, much research has found chronic stress elevates steroids and hormones, which suppresses the production of new neurons in the brain.

There are more than 50 common signs and symptoms of stress and its effects, according to the American Institute of Stress.

Stressed Out

Stress and Recovery: Addiction’s Grip

When tragedies – or ongoing difficult situations – grip us, we naturally feel that the more pain we’re in, the more relief we need, wherever we can find it. It’s been proven that those under high levels of stress are much more likely to drink, smoke, use drugs and cope in destructive ways – especially adolescents.

It is so common to drink after work, it’s almost rude or weird to decline the office or party invitations. And although most Americans have been touched by the fallout of addiction, anxiety can creep up slowly, and before we know it, grip us in the throes of addiction.

Mood Disorders, Anxiety and Depression

No one can judge another’s life, and no one can diminish another person’s trials. We can’t truly understand what anxiety means to our friend because we don’t live in their body or experience what they have. What’s a big deal to you is a big deal.

What we do understand is that addiction is a progressive and insidious disease. Left unchecked it will destroy lives.

Too much stress can cause not only anxiety, but also puts people at risk of physical problems like obesity and heart disease. It is often the cause of depression and mood disorders. Depression is a deadly mental health concern because, among other things, it can lead to suicide.

A Family Problem

Substance abuse is not a contained island. Alcohol use disorder and substance abuse disorder are diseases that affect the whole family.

How to Start Using Coping Skills

There are better alternatives that don’t involve drugs or alcohol. It is important to find your own personal ways to reduce stress that resonate.

Let’s explore some coping skills for substance abuse and coping skills for addiction that reduce stress in healthy ways:

Some studies indicate that exercise is just as powerful as an antidepressant. Moving the body and increasing your level of physical exercise releases serotonin, dopamine, and other chemicals drugs and alcohol stimulate. The more intense and frequent exercise you do, the happier brain you develop.

Recovery from addiction involves healing. The brain needs time to reset. This process works faster with exercise.

Sleep and Mind Control

The benefits of good sleep are amazing. Sleeping restores higher levels of those happy hormones that effect thought, mood and energy. When sleep is disrupted or not long enough, the body and mind suffer.

Like sleep, calming your mind helps to balance your brain chemicals.

It’s easy to worry and obsess over the problems of life. Spending time clearing the mind, meditating and redirecting negative thoughts helps to focus on the good things in life.

Clearing one’s mind also provides a moment to halt impulsive behavior and choose something else instead of the next fix.

Getting an experienced counselor on your side can validate your feelings and unburden you from stress.

Therapy doesn’t just have to be talking to a professional counselor though. Here are some other ways people enjoy therapy before, during and after addiction:

  • Group therapy
  • Talking to friends and family
  • Art or music therapy
  • Equine therapy and emotional support pets

How the Chemistry Between Stress and Addiction Affects Recovery

The connection between stress and addiction is inextricably linked. Ironically, those who fall into addiction end up dealing with more stress than they started with. The negative consequences of addict behavior create new problems. Loss of job, friends, finances and more can cause chronic stress.

Drug use often starts out as a way to unwind, but causes changes in the brain that make people even more sensitive to stress. It becomes a cycle users unwittingly feed.

Those who are – or have been – addicted are more vulnerable to everyday stressors. Once the brain has been drained of feel-good chemicals, it requires more positive experiences to build dopamine levels back up to normal. This means addicts in recovery are easily upset by minor things and impulsively look for a quick fix. Their old habit of looking for a substance to feel better quickly kicks in.


adolescent stress

Why Adolescents Are Stressed Out and What To Do About It

Stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions are common in adolescents.

The teenage obsession with social media and the comparing and perfection-seeking behavior that comes with it, coupled with less connecting to in-person friends all contributes to adolescent stress.

Surveys of adolescents receiving substance abuse treatment reveal that most adolescents in treatment report some exposure to trauma. Additionally, adolescents who have tried marijuana or alcohol at a young age are more likely to develop a drug or alcohol problem later.

It is now known that exposure to high levels of stress in youth increases the odds of turning to drugs and alcohol to cope.

Here are some helpful tips for adolescents to stay healthy and manage stress:

  • Increase quality friendships
  • Exercise while listening to favorite music
  • Listen to podcasts, audiobooks and watch inspirational videos
  • Keep a journal

Stress, trauma, abuse, genetics and exposure to drugs or alcohol at a young age are powerful influences in a young person’s life. These influences are a big factor in whether they will develop a mental illness and/or a drug or alcohol dependence.

Dual Diagnosis | Co-occurring Disorder

Dual diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorder, is a term used for a condition affecting an individual who is suffering from both an addiction and a stress disorder (or other mental health disorder). Drug and alcohol dependence changes cognition, emotion and behavior. These changes often create compulsions and mood or anxiety disorders.

In fact, those suffering from addiction are twice as likely to develop a mental health disorder. The same is true of individuals dealing with a mood disorder; they are twice as likely to develop an addiction. For dual diagnosis, it really doesn’t matter whether the mental health issue or the substance abuse disorder came first, as long as the individual gets the help they need.

Mental illness is a treatable condition. So is addiction. The key is to catch the problem early and to take the right steps to get better. If your loved one suffers, enrolling them in a treatment program is the best chance for success.

How to Fight Addiction Cravings

Don’t blame yourself when you have cravings or triggers. Cravings are a normal part of recovery. Actually, they are a good sign; it means your brain is resetting. It takes time for your brain to restore the proper chemical balance, so be patient with yourself.


Life’s toughest moments require resilience.



Handling Stressful Situations

You don’t have to solve everything alone, and you don’t have to handle your whole life today. Just for today, don’t use. Use coping tools instead.

Here are some tips on how to handle stressful situations in recovery, attain mental healing, and how to fight addiction cravings:

  • Keep a gratitude journal and review the list often
  • Try meditation or yoga
  • Get out of your head by redirecting thoughts
  • Practice affirmations
  • Reconnect with nature
  • Create small daily goals and praise yourself when you accomplish one, even if that goal is as simple as making your bed
  • Learn how to love yourself and practice self-care
Facing Triggers

People in recovery ask, “How do I deal with triggers and keep dealing with stress in sobriety?”. One thing we know is true: Stay away from people, events and places that are triggers. If your habit was to meet your friend, who happens to be your dealer, on Saturday nights, seeing that person may not be a good plan. If you are a recovering compulsive gambler, going to a casino for a meal or a concert may not be the best idea. In the same way, a recovering alcoholic should avoid social events involving alcohol.

Belief systems and attitudes about one’s self and the world impact a person’s ability to change. Believing for better things to come is healing. So, deal with those triggers from a different frame of mind, expecting good things to happen. The one thing we can always control is our attitude.

Stress Management in Addiction Recovery

As we have seen, stress and addiction form such a strong link.

Stress is a powerful risk factor in developing a drug or alcohol problem. Higher levels of stress, negative experiences and traumatic events are directly associated with higher levels of drug use, especially in adolescents. Therefore, stress management is a valuable part of an addiction treatment plan.

Not all individuals who have negative life experiences turn to drugs and alcohol. And people who have turned to substances can get better. Recovery is here for those who want it.

If you need a rope to pull you out of the abyss of addiction, we are here to outstretch a hand. To escape the cycle of stress and drug and alcohol abuse, take advantage of the information, answers, services and resources on our site. Our timely articles can aid in finding hope for you – or your loved one – when dealing with an addiction problem.

Not sure which treatment program is right for you or your loved one? Is your loved one refusing to go to treatment? Emerge And See is here to offer solutions.
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