Stress Is a Very Powerful Addiction Trigger

Stress Is a Very Powerful Addiction Trigger

stress diagramAnyone struggling with addiction knows stress is a very powerful trigger. Brain research now indicates, people exposed to stress are more likely to abuse alcohol or other drugs and are more likely to relapse in recovery. Those of us struggling with addiction understand the role stress plays in relapse, however we find it difficult to reduce stress levels and walk away. So why do we have trouble taking action under stress?

Research has now proven that stress reduces the volume of grey matter in the areas of the brain responsible for self-control. Just behind your forehead, sits the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for the reasoning behind each decision made. Stress diminishes grey matter and effects structural integrity in the prefrontal cortex. This destructive process effects our brains ability to measure pleasure and feel rewarded.

So, experiencing stress effects our choices, and when left unchecked will lead to a chain of bad decisions and emotional discomfort further reinforcing the cycle of addiction.

As we understand the cycle of addiction and see stress as a central trigger in the relapse process, we can recognize the need to engage in stress relieving activities and methods. While pushing through the relapse process, we may not feel like exercising, spending time with others, or engaging in our old hobbies as our brain struggles to process and measure reward as it once did. However, choosing to engage will trigger the release of endorphins and dopamine, two of the most essential stress inhibitors naturally produced by our bodies. Stress does not need to impact our decisions to the extent that it may be doing so now.

Changes can be made, and relief will come through those changes. The brains ability to react, adapt, and reconstruct itself continues to amaze scientist, and proves that addiction is never permanent, but merely an experience that does not define the finished product.

stack of smooth rocks

“Every experience in your life is being orchestrated to teach you something you need to know to move forward.” – Brian Tracy

Of course, there are many ways to relieve stress, but centralizing your focus on the mind, body, and social ties, is a great way to start.

3 ways to relieve stress and avoid relapse

1. Use your support system. Utilize friends, family, and support groups often.

2. Spend time outdoors and stay physically active. This will enable the natural production of dopamine and endorphins, which the brain and body desperately need during recovery.

3. Take time to clear you mind and focus on the positive areas of your life or positive experiences you have been through. Health psychology shows a clear link between mindfulness and lowered stress.

“Addiction is never permanent, but merely an experience that does not define the finished product.”