During addiction treatment, it is normal to feel stressed out. After all, the process of recovering from a drug or alcohol use disorder is very difficult. It is also important to recognize that for many people with addictions, drugs and alcohol served a valuable purpose: they helped alleviate stress. In many cases, people turned to drugs or alcohol when they were younger because they lacked healthy coping skills for managing stress. While drugs and alcohol do temporarily alleviate feelings of stress, in the long run, they tend to make stress more intense. The result can be a vicious cycle, with stress levels and addiction severity both increasing with each passing year.
During the process of recovering from addiction, it is crucial to develop better tools for handling stress. Developing these tools can not only make the recovery process far more pleasant, but it can also reduce the likelihood of relapse in the long term. Fortunately, NuView Treatment Center puts an emphasis on healthy coping tools and stress management so that clients can face the challenges of early sobriety (and life) without feeling ill-prepared.
Dangerous Effects of Stress
Research confirms that stress, especially chronic stress, is one of the most significant driving forces behind relapse. While it is not possible to completely eliminate stress from one’s life, it is crucial to develop healthy coping tools for handling stress when it does occur. Chronic stress not only drives people to use drugs and alcohol, however. It also causes a wide range of emotional, behavioral, and even physical problems.
Stress generally impairs the mind’s ability to function. Individuals who are highly stressed out experience many unwanted or unpredictable emotions. As a result, people who have comorbid mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, may experience more intense symptoms. Chronic stress can also lead to the development of new mental health disorders in previously healthy people. Some of the most common emotional effects of stress include:
- Lack of focus
- Irritability and anger
Due to the lack of emotional regulation, stress has a notable effect on behavior as well. Individuals experiencing stress are likely to turn to behaviors that soothe their emotional discomfort. Those who lack healthy coping skills may turn to unhealthy, dangerous, or antisocial behaviors in an attempt to get relief. Some behavior signs and consequences of stress include:
- Altered eating habits. Stress can cause people to eat compulsively as a way to relax, which can lead to dramatic weight gain. Others find themselves without an appetite at all, which can lead to dangerous levels of weight loss.
- Altered sleep habits. Insomnia is a common result of stress. Sadly, people who suffer from insomnia sleep less — which increases the stress hormone cortisol even more. As a result, they may find themselves lacking energy and focus during the day.
- Interpersonal problems. Stress can cause people to react with anger and irritation during normal social interactions. As a result, stress often leads to chronic conflicts. When stress increases anxiety, it may also cause people to avoid people entirely and isolate themselves from loved ones.
- Drug or alcohol abuse. As previously noted, individuals who abuse drugs and alcohol may do so more frequently or more intensely in times of stress. Drugs and alcohol can be temporarily relaxing — even euphoric. These qualities make them some of the most popular forms of self-medication.
Stress and Physical Health
People who are dealing with substance use disorders may dismiss stress as simply part of their lifestyle. Even people in recovery sometimes think of stress as harmless — or as “all in their head.” But stress doesn’t just affect emotions and behavior. In fact, stress can be a driving force behind diseases and physical health problems. Stress can lead to a wide range of physiological effects, including:
- High blood pressure, increased heart rate, and even heart attacks
- Body aches and stiffness
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Headaches and migraines
- Weight gain
- Reproductive issues
- Lowered libido
At NuView Treatment Center, we utilize a wide range of tools for helping clients manage their stress. Our physicians and masters-level therapists work with clients on an individual basis to address their unique needs. Stress management is a crucial component of our individualized treatment plans. Every person’s stress management needs differ, depending on their situation and background. For some people, medications may be necessary on a short or long-term basis. For others, talk therapy can help them address chronic stress most effectively. All of our clients spend time developing stress management techniques that they can incorporate into their everyday lives.
At NuView Treatment Center, our physicians can prescribe medications when necessary. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help reduce the stress that clients experience during withdrawal. MAT plans mitigate cravings and withdrawal symptoms, which can make it far easier for clients to relax.
Individuals with comorbid mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression, can also sometimes benefit from medications. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can both alleviate stress for those with diagnosed mental health conditions. Ensuring that these conditions are properly treated reduces the likelihood of self-medication and relapse.
Therapy for Stress
Our program emphasizes a wide range of therapeutic approaches, which we carry out in both group and one-on-one settings. Evidence-based therapeutic modalities for stress management include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Exposure therapy
- Dialectical behavioral therapy
- Acceptance and Commitment therapy
Stress Management Techniques
During addiction recovery, clients learn how to develop healthier lifestyles that are both substance-free and stress-free. Caseworkers and clinicians aim to provide clients with lifestyle interventions that enable them to manage their stress levels healthily. Experiencing the full benefits of these techniques generally takes time, but people who practice them regularly will become more relaxed with each passing day. Recommended stress reduction techniques and strategies include:
- Eating healthy
- Getting exercise
- Deep breathing
- Talking to a friend
Ultimately, however, it is important to keep in mind that the best way of reducing stress is quitting drugs and alcohol. Not only do the direct effects of substance abuse lead to stress, but the behaviors that people engage in while intoxicated make life more complicated and difficult. Recovering from a substance use disorder automatically makes life more manageable.
Addiction Treatment and Stress Management at NuView Treatment Center
NuView Treatment Center is an outpatient rehab located in Los Angeles’ Westside. Our treatment facility exists to help people who are suffering from drug and alcohol addictions as well as co-occurring mental health conditions. Our modern facility employs on-site psychiatrists, physicians, and masters-level clinicians who offer a broad array of evidence-based treatment modalities, therapeutic approaches, and lifestyle interventions. We aim to help clients not only quit drugs and alcohol, but lead joyful, peaceful, and fulfilling new lives in sobriety.
Our philosophy is that a compassionate whole-person approach to treatment is critical. Our clinicians reject a one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment. Instead, our staff members design individualized treatment plans for each of our clients. That way, we can ensure that anyone who walks through our doors gets their underlying needs addressed. No matter what your background is or how severe your addiction is, you deserve compassionate treatment that applies to your unique situation.
Our levels of care include:
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs)
- Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs)
- Outpatient programs (OPs)
- Aftercare planning
If you or a loved one is suffering from substance addiction and chronic stress, help is available. Reach out to NuView Treatment Center today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.