Mental health and overall well-being directly impact emotional and physical health. How you feel about yourself and the people around you will affect how you react to treatment, including individual therapy, peer support, and self-help meetings. You need to maintain positive mental health to avoid falling back into old, maladaptive behaviors and thought patterns.
What Is Mental Relapse?
Mental relapse usually comes after emotional relapse. It involves increased feelings of:
- Isolation and loneliness
- Anger or frustration
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.” Making sure to care for your mental health is beneficial to recovery. However, unhealthy mental processes can lead to relapse and severe side effects.
Mental and emotional relapses usually happen gradually over a period of time. Pervasive feelings of hopelessness can trigger cravings and vivid flashbacks or intrusive thoughts. If you do not combat those negative thoughts with positive self-talk and utilize your coping skills, you risk falling back into a cycle of substance misuse. You need to be on the lookout for warning signs and protect yourself from the harm of relapse.
Warning Signs of Mental Relapse
The warning signs of mental relapse often coincide with those of emotional relapse. Once you start to feel hopeless, isolated, and overwhelmed, it becomes easy to fall back into old thought patterns and unhealthy coping mechanisms. You may have started to backslide into a mental relapse if you notice the following:
- You begin to think obsessively about misusing substances.
- You believe that misusing substances would get rid of the negative thoughts or feelings.
- You begin to question your motivations for remaining sober.
- You feel tired of fighting cravings and intrusive thoughts.
- You experience more persistent intrusive thoughts related to substance misuse.
Experiencing warning signs such as these may be an indication that you are not keeping up with your mental, emotional, and physical self-care. Slipping back into unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors might seem comforting at first because it is familiar. However, if you do not get your thinking back on track, you risk triggering a physical relapse. You can take steps to limit the possibility of encountering triggers.
Common Triggers to Avoid
You will react differently to triggers if you are under increased stress. Self-care is one way you can safely lower your stress levels. According to the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, “The transition between emotional and mental relapse is not arbitrary, but the natural consequence of prolonged, poor self-care.” Avoiding stress is an excellent way to lower the risk of being triggered.
Some of the most common types of triggers include:
- Increased pressure at work or school
- Relationship issues or conflict
- Seeing, hearing, feeling, or smelling something that reminds you of past substance misuse
- Being around people or places that remind you of distressing or traumatic memories
- Chronic or acute stress
- A lack of proper self-care
- Physical illness, injury, or sickness
- Experiencing a traumatic event
Your personal experiences influence what triggers affect you the most, and you alone know what specific situations could potentially cause adverse reactions. During treatment at facilities like Vanity Wellness Center, you benefit from working with a clinical team that will help you develop an emergency plan for relapse prevention. During a mental relapse, it might be more challenging to use those tools. However, you need to work through discomfort and anxiety to be able to use coping techniques to keep yourself on track.
Maintaining Mental Health During Recovery
You will spend most of your time in therapy learning how to identify, process, and stabilize your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Maintaining your mental health during recovery can be a challenge, and everyone goes through dark periods where they feel like they cannot keep going. You can get through those moments by relying on your safety plan, support system, and coping skills.
Maintain positive mental health by doing the following:
- Regularly check in with your therapist, mentor, or other members of your support system
- Practice daily self-care
- Take care of your body by making sure you get nutritional meals, plenty of sleep, and regular exercise
- Manage stress and use healthy coping skills
The Importance of Self-Care
Self-care is critical to establishing and maintaining mental health. It’s important to find what works best for you, but some common forms of self-care include:
- Taking time away from others to meditate or practice mindfulness techniques
- Spending time with loved ones
- Taking part in activities you enjoy
- Doing things for your physical health, like taking a bubble bath or exercising
- Becoming part of a social group
- Attending therapy and self-help groups to maintain emotional health
- Spending time with your pet
A mental relapse can happen to anyone in recovery. However, it does not have to be followed by a physical relapse. Once you recognize what is happening, you can take steps to correct your thinking patterns to avoid falling back into the maladaptive cycle of addiction. Coping skills, like self-care, are a critical part of abstinence because they motivate you to continue combatting the triggers, cravings, and intrusive thoughts. You can heal from the effects of substance use disorder as well as co-occurring conditions. The treatment programs at Vanity Wellness Center will provide you with the necessary tools to keep yourself moving forward in recovery. We offer a variety of programs and therapies designed to give you the tools you need to stay on track even during difficult moments. To learn more or speak with an intake specialist, call us today at (866) 587-1737.