Stress And Relapse: How They’re Connected And What You Can Do

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A person’s quality of life may improve in many ways during rehab. However, they must still face the challenges of everyday life once they return home. The widespread and unavoidable nature of stress makes it all the more important for people to develop effective strategies for dealing with it. This is because stress, in all its inevitability, plays a significant role in both active drug addiction and relapse. Recognizing the interconnectedness of stress and relapse can help those in recovery find more efficient ways to overcome their issues.

Stress and Relapse

Almost every type of addiction may, to a certain extent, be caused by the urge to avoid stress of some sort. In fact, a person’s propensity to seek solace in drinking, drugs, or other destructive behaviors increases in direct proportion to the intensity of the stress they endure. The National Institute of Drug Abuse found that stress was the most significant risk factor for recurrence among former addicts. They found that both physiological and psychological changes occur in a stressed individual. As a result, hormones are released, veins constrict, and more blood is pumped to the major muscle groups. Although beneficial in extreme “fight or flight” scenarios, these reactions may take a heavy toll on the body if they are constantly activated. This is one of the most common stress-related reasons for relapse.

Someone with two pill baggies.
Many people who struggle with anxiety also use substances to alter their mood, furthering the connection between stress and relapse.

Additionally, stress can also cause addiction – and here we do not speak about the notorious illegal substances such as cocaine or heroin. In an attempt to self-soothe, improve the quality of sleep, or run away from the constant anxiety, people turn to over-the-counter and legal drugs that are potentially extremely addictive and frequently lead to abuse. Over time, they can alter normal brain function, leading to depression and other mental health disorders. This is why it is not uncommon for people to become addicted to Benzodiazepines and require Florida Xanax detox or another type of rehab treatment.

The detrimental effects of stress on former addicts

The stress-response system is not the same in people who suffer from substance abuse and those who don’t, and this hyper-sensitivity to stress has been backed by research. During the withdrawal period, the body and mind’s sensitivity to stress is much greater than it is for non-addicts. Simply put, the nerve system of a former addict will endure harsher effects of stress – which, in turn, makes these individuals susceptible to relapsing during stressful times. 

Understanding and Managing Stress

Many people in recovery find stress management is the only thing keeping them from resuming old habits. In fact, if you ask anyone who has successfully overcome substance abuse, you will most likely hear that stress management techniques are essential. Given that it is impossible to eliminate one’s anxieties, unresolved traumas, and everyday sources of stress, the best thing to do is to learn how to manage them. Stress is a fact of life, but you don’t have to let it control it. There are many simple things you can do to manage your stress levels. Some of the most effective methods are:

  • Getting regular exercise. Exercising is an excellent method of stress control. It boosts mood, enhances well-being, and refreshes and reinvigorates.
  • Deep breathing exercises.  By allowing you to relax and think more clearly in times of crisis, deep breathing exercises can greatly improve your ability to deal with stressful situations. Try exhaling slowly and drawing your diaphragm in as you do so. Hold your breath for a few seconds before slowly breathing out again. Repeat this process several times until you feel more relaxed.
  • Getting some much-needed rest. Taking time for oneself is essential. Plan carefully so that you can spend enough time on “me” activities. Do whatever it is that calms you down the most, whether it relaxing on a beach or reading a book.
  • Thinking Positively.  An optimistic outlook is a potent stress reliever. Try to keep in mind that things aren’t always as bad as they seem. Concentrate on looking for the bright side in every situation you find yourself in. This can help you to see challenges as opportunities for growth rather than sources of stress.
A person in recovery running prevent stress and relapse.
Running is one of the most healthy and stress-relieving activities you can do.

How Can Relapse Be Avoided?

1. Avoiding Triggers

To avoid falling back into old habits, one must become aware of the precise situations that put them at risk. Understanding your own unique combination of physiological, contextual, and psychological cues, including personal sources of stress, is essential for breaking free from addiction. Many individuals find it helpful to see a therapist or counselor in order to figure out what sets off their problems and how to deal with them constructively.

2. Increasing Treatment

The sooner you take action, the better the chance of preventing a relapse. This is why the best course of action for someone concerned about experiencing a relapse is to take proactive measures toward addressing their fears by consulting with their doctor or a Lantana Florida treatment center. Additionally, increasing the number of therapy sessions or using medication-assisted treatment (MAT) are two possible ways to achieve this goal.

3. Create a Support System

Reaching out for assistance, despite feelings of guilt or embarrassment, is essential in reducing the likelihood of a relapse. Although loved ones can offer encouragement, a support group is a more private setting in which to learn how others have faced and overcome similar difficulties. Research has shown that attending support groups is particularly effective in strengthening one’s resolve to remain drug-free over the long term.

What Should a Person Do if They Relapse?

Look for Help

A return to substance abuse needs immediate intervention. Talk to someone you trust. It can be a sponsor, therapist, or family member. These are the people who will offer you guidance and protection. An important thing to note is that acting quickly can make recovery more efficient. It can also, in the case of alcoholism, make alcohol withdrawal syndrome treatments easier to bare. It’s never too late to start again!

Recovering individuals seated in a circle during an AA meeting.
A strong support system is crucial for recovering from a relapse.

Learn From Your Mistakes

Some people who have relapsed may feel like they have to begin their healing process all over again. While this is true in some ways, it does not mean that people who relapse are back at square one. Relapses are never futile as long as you learn from them. Even if someone relapses after completing therapy, they are still significantly better off than they were before treatment. A relapse is a chance to reflect on what went wrong and how you might improve in the future to avoid similar problems. Recognizing rehabilitation for what it is, a lifelong process of learning and development, is critical.

Reassess and Continue Treatment

Re-enrolling in a treatment program after having completed one in the past is not something to be ashamed of. A fresh recovery plan that incorporates counseling, relapse-prevention programs, and medication, among other possible interventions, may be helpful. 


To close the discussion about stress and relapse, we should mention that everyone experiences various stress levels at different points in their lives. Nonetheless, what one person considers insignificant can be a source of great stress for another. The key is to learn how to effectively manage stressful situations without returning to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. There is no universally applicable set of methods. Finding the approaches that work best for you or a loved one may require some trial and error. Therefore, if you have a difficult time overcoming your addiction, it is a good idea to seek help from a Lantana medical detox professional who can help you identify the underlying causes of your addiction and develop a customized treatment plan that addresses your specific needs.