4 Causes of Chronic Relapse
There are hundreds of triggers and reasons for relapse, but most of them are easily identifiable. For example, some people are triggered by having extra money in their bank account or hanging out with friends who use. However, sometimes people continue to relapse over and over again, and they struggle to identify the reason. I’ve worked with many people who struggle with chronic relapse and have helped them identify the underlying reason. Here are just some of the reasons that I have identified as underlying causes for chronic relapse.
An Unhealthy Relationship
This is one of the harder causes to identify, especially when it comes to a romantic partner like a long-term significant other. The reason for this is that when someone has been in a romantic relationship for a long time, like a marriage, the dynamics of the marriage can be interpreted as normal by the person in recovery, especially if they have been in the relationship for many years. For example, “My partner has always treated me this way, so it must be normal, right?” Wrong. What I’ve noticed, is that unhealthy dynamics in a long term relationship, like emotional or verbal abuse, may have led the person to use substances to cope with low self esteem, guilt, or shame as a result of the relationship. However, they are so used to the relationship and how they are treated that they don’t identify it as a problem right away when they get sober . Obviously in this case I”m not talking about domestic violence or overt forms of abuse. I’m talking about more covert forms of abuse or mistreatment that are harder to identify. Some questions to ask yourself if you think you might be in an unhealthy relationship are:
Is my partner too controlling?
Does my partner talk down to me?
Does my partner hold me responsible for their feelings?
Do I experience fear or anxiety due to how my partner might react?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be in an unhealthy relationship. Sometimes the feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt, and shame, can trigger someone to continue to relapse over and over again. I would definitely suggest that you meet with a therapist to discuss your relationship and ways to set boundaries, or suggest to your partner couples counseling. What must be said is that if you being physically abused, you can call a domestic violence hot line. In Charlotte, that number is 980-771-4673 You always deserve to feel safe.
An Underlying Process Addiction
A process addiction has the same characteristics as a substance addiction, except that it is an addiction involving behavior instead of using a substance. Examples of process addictions include sex addiction, shopping addiction, love addiction, gaming addiction, etc. Any behavior that is being used as a way to cope with feelings or escape from uncomfortable feelings that starts to cause problems in your life could be a process addiction. Process addictions do not include using a substance or eating issues, these are separate disorders. Process addictions are common in recovery because it is easy to transfer substance addiction to an addictive behavior. However, what can happen is that if the process addiction is severe, it can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and severe mood swings that can trigger relapse. If you think you may have a process addiction, it’s important to get help from a licensed therapist.
An Untreated Co-occurring Disorder
Having an untreated co-occurring disorder like anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder is another common reason for chronic relapse. It’s normal to feel anxious and depressed in early sobriety, however if the anxiety or depression were caused by the addiction then you should see some relief by the time you are 60-90 days sober. If you are still noticing mental health symptoms that are interfering with daily functioning at 60-90 days sober, then there is a good chance you have a co-occurring disorder. Sometimes people assume that sobriety is supposed to feel this way and don’t seek help, however not seeking help for another mental health disorder can definitely trigger relapse. If you feel as though you may have a co-occurring disorder then you should definitely meet with a licensed therapist in order to identify what is going on and a plan of action. It’s really important to identify co-occurring disorders early on in the recovery process so that you can begin treatment as soon as possible in order to avoid relapse. If you are having any thoughts of hurting yourself or others, please call 911 immediately or go to your nearest hospital emergency room.
A History of Trauma
There are a number of studies that show that anyone with a history of trauma has a harder time staying sober compared to someone who has not experienced trauma. Studies also show that women struggle with chronic relapse at higher rates than men because most women who develop addiction have experienced a traumatic event before developing an addiction. Whether or not someone has a PTSD diagnosis, having experienced trauma can lead to increased anxiety, trouble sleeping, and feeling stressed and on edge. Having a diagnosis of PTSD can lead to even more severe symptoms that can interfere with daily functioning. Many people who have a trauma history continue to relapse because they have not resolved the past trauma, and it continues to trigger unpleasant emotional and physical symptoms. If you have experienced a traumatic event or situation, and you feel as though it could be impacting your ability to stay sober it is a good idea to see a licensed trauma therapist. Trauma therapists use many different types of therapy to treat trauma, such as CBT, CPT, SE (somatic experiencing), and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). All of these have been shown to be effective in treating symptoms of trauma and PTSD.
These are just a few of the reasons why someone may be struggling with chronic relapse. If you feel as though you are struggling with chronic relapse and there might be something underlying that is preventing you from staying sober, it is a good idea to see a licensed professional. It’s important to see a therapist who has the expertise to treat substance addiction as well as co-occurring disorders.
At Silver Lining Counseling, Kristin Dickie is a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist, a Licensed Professional Counselor, and is EMDR trained, and is specifically trained to treat addiction and co-occurring disorders. Kristin is currently accepting new patients and can be reached on her cell phone at 704-237-7037 or email at email@example.com
I look forward to connecting with you soon!