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How Stress Can Lead To Relapse

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Stress is part of our everyday lives, and most people deal with it and get on with their day.  However, some individuals have trouble coping with daily challenges and seek some form of relief or escape.  In many cases, that form of relief comes from a pill or a bottle of alcohol.  This type of coping mechanism has led to thousands of addictions to those substances over the past few decades.  So, what is the connection between stress and relapse?  Here are some things you need to know.

When someone is in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, stress can quickly lead to a relapse.  A person who is trying to get their life back together after rehab is in a highly sensitive state of mind.  They become stressed easily and may not handle it as well as they should.  Although stress-related relapse is not uncommon, it can become a major setback for some individuals.

The Connection Between Stress and Relapse

Stress and RelapseRelapse triggers can come in many different forms such as people, places, or drug paraphernalia.  But, the triggers can also be abstract concepts such as stress.  Not only does stress contribute to drug use and lead to relapse, but it can also adversely affect a person’s health in many ways.

Stress is defined by the NIH as “the body’s response to physical, mental, or emotional pressure.”  Stress causes chemical changes in the body that can result in high blood pressure, increased blood sugar levels, and rapid heart rate.  Some people experience feelings of anger, anxiety, frustration, or depression due to stress.   As a result, they may seek comfort in the form of addictive substances.

Surprisingly, many people are highly stressed and don’t realize it.  This hidden stress can be more dangerous than the obvious stressors we can easily recognize.   With that in mind, let’s look at some of the signs and symptoms of stress a person may display.

Types of Stress and the Warning Signs or Symptoms

Would you know if you are stressed?  Some people don’t.  People can become accustomed to feeling the symptoms and don’t realize it’s not exactly normal.  But, this can become a life-altering situation if left untreated.

There are 4 common types of stress you should know to help determine if you are at risk:

  1. Time Stress – This is the most common type of stress.  A person worries that they don’t have enough time in their day to complete all the tasks expected of them.
  2. Anticipatory Stress –  Involves worrying about some future event and fear that something will go wrong.  This form of stress can be the result of a lack of confidence.
  3. Situational Stress – Comes from feeling not in control over the current situation.
  4. Encounter Stress –  Involves worrying about being around a certain group of people such as a family reunion or a meeting at work.  People often experience “contact overload” when they feel overwhelmed from interaction with too many people at once.

Also, there are some of the signs and symptoms of stress you need to know:

  • Constant fidgeting.
  • Can’t sit still, can’t focus.
  • Constantly tired.
  • Nerves on edge.
  • Headaches.
  • Depression, hopelessness.
  • Agitation, crankiness, burnout.
  • Sleeplessness.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Chest pain.
  • Sexual dysfunction.
  • Unusual cravings.
  • Vague aches and pains.

A person who is struggling with stress may cry for no apparent reason or display sudden or dramatic mood changes.  Some people make erratic decisions and feel that nothing is going right in their lives.  At this point, they may initiate, increase, or resume drug or alcohol use.

Who Is a High Risk for Stress and Relapse?

Many factors are involved in determining how a person will respond to stress.  The factors can include financial status, background, support from family or friends, and environment.  People who may have the most difficulty dealing with stress can include:

  • Those with underlying medical conditions.
  • Someone who lives alone.
  • Individuals who are caregivers.
  • Health care providers or first responders.
  • People with disabilities.
  • Homeless individuals.
  • Some minority or ethnic groups.
  • Individuals who are in recovery from addiction.

If you are in one of the above groups, you should seek healthy ways to manage your stress.  First of all, take care of yourself.  Exercise, get enough sleep and eat healthy meals.  You can also try taking up a new hobby, listening to music, reading a book, or learning to play a musical instrument.  Take time to connect with others and change your routine now and then.  Also, professional counseling may be an option to consider.  Do whatever you can to avoid resorting to drugs or alcohol to help you cope with stress.

Design for Change Offers Individual Recovery Solutions

The connection between stress and relapse is undeniable.  Although using addictive substances to relieve stress may seem like a good idea at the time, it can be the first step back to addiction for someone who is in recovery.

Did you use drugs or alcohol to cope with stress and need help overcoming the subsequent addiction?  If so, contact us at Design for Change in Lancaster, CA today.  We offer a unique, customized program that can adapt to your specific needs or preferences.  In our comforting environment, you can leave stress behind and learn more effective coping mechanisms to use when confronted with stress-related triggers.  Our programs focus on a holistic approach to treatment to heal the body, mind, and spirit for lasting recovery.


how stress can lead to relapse