For many suffering substance use or behavioural disorders (addiction) people often think the word “trigger” means something makes them want to engage in their addiction. In reality, a trigger in psychology is a stimulus such as an experience, sound, or sight that starts negative emotions. When facing your addiction and on your recovery journey, you will undoubtedly be faced with emotional triggers along the way. Understanding your own personal triggers and how to react to them in a constructive manner will aid in your progress towards a healthier mindset.
What Is an (Emotional) Trigger?
When you are triggered you are essentially having an emotional reaction to something based off your previous history. Trauma (small things can cause trauma too) is one of the biggest bases of the ‘trigger’ mechanism. Triggers can range from people and places to scents, tastes and substances. If something serves as a reminder of a time that you would ideally rather forget and causes mental and emotional distress, pain, anger or frustration then it can be considered a trigger.
For most addicts, their coping mechanism for such triggers is substance or alcohol use. It is the dopamine hit they get from substance/alcohol consumption that ‘squashes’ the traumatic memory or negative emotion. The fact that substance/alcohol consumption gives a nearly instant reaction (feeling ‘good’) makes it all the more seductive as a coping mechanism. For example, while meditation may help deal with a small anxiety over a few hours, when a person knows they can get nearly instant ‘relief’ from that anxiety by having a few beers, addicts always want the latter, easier and more instant solution. The difficulty in recovery (abstinence) is that while the addict doesn’t want to return to the ‘simple solution’, its nature makes it very seductive.
When it comes to addiction and the recovery journey, emotional triggers are usually a type of internal or external stimulus that causes the addict to want to fall back into substance abuse. You can easily identify a trigger by the way someone reacts but figuring out how to deal with the emotions attached and develop a healthier mindset can be difficult. However, help is available, and at Hills & Ranges Private we have compiled some coping mechanisms to assist with emotional triggers.
Coping Mechanisms for Emotional Triggers
Identifying emotional triggers a very important first step is to become self-aware. At Hills & Ranges Private we employ a CBT/DBT based personality inventory system to do self-inspection to identify the triggers specific to each individual. You need to understand what your triggers are, how they manifest, their driving force and how you typically deal with them. You then need to work on changing your reaction.
Some recommendations for managing your emotional triggers include:
- Engaging in exercise you enjoy
- Seeing a therapist
- Using positive distractions e.g. hobbies that make you calm/feel productive
- Eating nutritional meals
- Meditating or focusing on mindfulness
- Spending time with people you love and who make you feel positive
- Drinking water or tea for relaxation/hydration
- Joining a support group
- Reframing negative attitudes or perceptions
Start Your Recovery with Hills & Ranges Private
It’s important to learn how to place your focus in the present moment and not dwell on past traumas that cause you to react in a harmful way. This is not an easy feat to accomplish, but you do not have to go through your addiction and recovery journey alone. Our staff at Hills & Ranges Private are with you every step of the way, from your detox and recovery process to re-entering society with the assistance of a sobriety companion.
If you are experiencing emotional triggers during or after your recovery process, we encourage you to reach out for help. Call our facility today to learn more.