How Can Mental Health Trigger Drug and Alcohol Relapse?

mental health and relapse

How Can Mental Health Trigger Drug and Alcohol Relapse?

Addiction and alcoholism are chronic and progressive diseases. To successfully maintain long-term recovery from a substance use disorder, individuals must remain consistent and proactive. People who stop engaging in their recovery maintenance techniques when they graduate from an addiction treatment program are at a high risk of experiencing a relapse.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 40-60% of recovering addicts and alcoholics experience a relapse at some point in their lives.[1]

But what causes an addiction relapse?

Almost every single person who has suffered an addiction relapse will explain that their mental state was suffering, causing them to use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. Mental health is often the trigger that leads to drug and alcohol relapse.

Understanding The Relationship Between Mental Health, Addiction, and Recovery

Mental health and addiction are often associated with one another. First, addiction and substance use disorders are considered a form of psychiatric condition. Because of this, it is impossible to discuss addiction without simultaneously speaking about mental health.

However, the relationship between mental health, addiction, and recovery is a bit more complex than that. The large majority of people who suffer from addiction also struggle with a co-occurring mental health condition. This is referred to as “dual diagnosis.”[2]

Someone with a dual diagnosis could suffer from anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (or any other mental health condition) coupled with a substance use disorder. Oftentimes, individuals with co-occurring disorders begin abusing substances as a means of self-medication. However, some individuals develop mental health conditions as a result of prolonged substance abuse.

When an individual who meets the criteria for a dual diagnosis decides to take a shot at recovery, the treatment they receive must address their addiction and mental health condition simultaneously. Without receiving treatment for their mental health condition, it is highly likely for them to return to substance abuse as a means of self-medication.

Mental health, addiction, and recovery are intertwined. The relationship between these issues is complex, however, almost every individual who suffers from addiction also has mental health-related issues to address during recovery.

How Can Mental Health Trigger Drug and Alcohol Relapse?

Relapse is described as a process, rather than a singular action. To understand how mental health triggers a drug or alcohol relapse, individuals must understand the process of relapse itself.

Relapse can be broken down into three stages:

  • Emotional
  • Mental
  • Physical

The first stage of relapse is emotional. This is when an individual’s mental health begins affecting them negatively, leading to the mental stage of relapse.

The mental stage is characterized by an individual having thoughts of using drugs or alcohol to cope with their poor mental health and uncomfortable emotions. Lastly, the physical stage of relapse is when an individual takes action and uses drugs or alcohol after a period of abstinence.

With that being said, because the first stage of relapse is emotional, struggling with mental health is usually the trigger that initiates the process of relapse.

Signs Your Mental Health is Struggling in Recovery

Since mental health is one of the most common triggers for drug and alcohol relapse, it is important to be aware of the signs of poor mental health in addiction recovery.

Feeling Irritable or Depressed

While feeling irritated or down is normal from time to time, consistently suffering from irritability and depression signals a deeper issue.

If someone is lashing out or being bothered by seemingly minuscule issues, their mental health is most likely suffering. Additionally, losing interest in activities, having low energy, and always feeling down indicates that one’s mental health needs improvement.

Isolating from Friends and Loved Ones

Being social and staying connected to family and friends in recovery is extremely important. Receiving support, having fun, and being a part of a group allow individuals in recovery to remain accountable. Once someone begins to withdraw from social activities with their friends and loved ones, their mental health is most likely in trouble.

Feelings of Guilt

Individuals who suffer from frequent intrusive thoughts of guilt or “unworthiness” are definitely displaying signs of a mental health crisis.

For example, constant thinking, “I’m a failure” or “everything is my fault,” often leads to self-destructive behavior. And unfortunately, the go-to form of self-destruction for a recovering addict is substance abuse.

Poor Hygiene

People who are struggling with their mental health go into survival mode. This means that all of their energy is geared toward getting through the day. As a result, things like personal hygiene tend to go on the back burner.

Experiencing Cravings

Lastly, the number one sign that an individual’s mental health is struggling in recovery is experiencing drug or alcohol cravings. People who begin experiencing cravings after not having them for some time should always seek additional support to prevent themselves from experiencing a relapse.

Find a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center in Delray Beach Today

If you or a loved one suffer from addiction and co-occurring mental health issues, a dual diagnosis treatment program in Delray Beach can help. Co-occurring disorders must be treated at the same time as addiction, otherwise, you or your loved one will experience a relapse triggered by untreated mental health symptoms.

Florida Recovery Group offers a comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment program that combines mental health treatment and evidence-based addiction recovery techniques. Contact us today to get started.


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