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Stress Disorder

The stress of life can make recovery more difficult if there is no understanding of how to manage stress in safe and healthy ways. Free By the Sea, a drug and alcohol recovery center located in the State of Washington, assists individuals in developing the skills needed to manage and control stress.

If your goal is long-term sobriety, our dual diagnosis program can help you as it has helped many others achieve successful sobriety. We will teach you techniques to manage stress and help you meet your goals and reclaim your life.

What is Stress?

Stress is a feeling of tension that can be physical or mental and results from a frustrating situation. Witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event, such as a violent act or deadly accident, can lead to acute stress disorder (ASD). Fear and hopelessness are feelings that are often described by those who experience ASD. The feelings often begin to show themselves within a month of the traumatic event. ASD can sometimes lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

People who suffer from ASD can exhibit erratic behavior, have panic or anxiety attacks, experience depression, or develop substance abuse. Although it is not possible to completely eliminate stress, there are ways to manage it.

The stressful event itself isn’t harmful. The important thing is how the individual understands the stressor and copes with it. What’s important is the meaning that the event has for the individual.

Signs of Acute Stress Disorder

A person’s body reacts physically when a person feels threatened or perceives a dangerous situation. The response is often referred to as “fight-or-flight” mode that may manifest through

  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle tension
  • Profuse sweating
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Increased respiration or panting

The response is a result of the body releasing adrenaline into the system to prepare itself to run or fight, and it happens when a person is under acute stress. Acute stress disorder is when a person reacts this way when people who do not have ASD would ordinarily not perceive a threat or feel stress under the same circumstances. ASD typically happens after the experience of a traumatic event and the emotional aftermath.

Examples of Traumatic Events

Any of the following events may trigger ASD:

  • Rape
  • Violent injury
  • Natural disaster
  • Near-death experience
  • Abduction
  • Vehicular accident
  • War or combat
  • Witnessing a violent attack or death
  • Terrorist bombing

Stress and the Addiction Cycle

Stress is a major risk factor for addiction. Poor coping skills and stressful life events may heighten the risk of addiction by increasing impulsive responses and self-medication. All people experience some level of stress in their lives. Stress usually refers to adversity or hardship such as poverty or grief. Stress is simply the mental and emotional strain experienced during challenging situations. Adrenalin and other stress hormones are released in mild amounts in the body every day. 

Severe stress is when these hormones are at higher than normal levels. People with ASD typically have intense stress, and this can overwhelm the person and cause them to seek out ways to dull their senses and limit the stress. This can ultimately lead to substance abuse issues.

There is evidence of a connection between chronic stress and the incentive to use addictive substances. Research shows that negative experiences in childhood such as sexual and physical abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and family dysfunction are linked to an increased risk of addiction. People with unhappy marriages, dissatisfaction with their jobs, or harassment also have high rates of addiction.

Experiencing childhood neglect and abuse increases the risk of addiction through decreased self-control. Youth who are at risk for substance use are known to experience decreased emotional and self-control. The higher the number of stressors a person is subjected to, the higher the chances of addiction.

Addiction is Caused by Self-Medicating Stress

Self-medicating happens when a person uses drugs to cope with the tension linked to the stressors in his life or to relieve feelings of anxiety and depression caused by a traumatic event. Drug use functions as a way to manage emotions and calm psychological distress.

Since the 1970s, research has shown that some people using addictive substances don’t become addicted. Seemingly harmless behaviors that don’t involve consuming substances have begun to be recognized as addictive, like gambling, shopping, food, and sex. While the individual may get some relief from stress through the drug or behavior he’s addicted to, it’s only short-term relief. As a result, you’ll need more to cope with the stress, which ends up causing more stress.

Signs of Addiction

Drug addiction is the dependence on alcohol or chemicals found in prescription drugs or illegal substances. People with this dependency are unable to control their drug use or alcohol consumption, and they can’t stop taking the substance, even when they want to after seeing the harm it’s causing them. 

Casual drug or alcohol use can still lead to addiction if a person is no longer able to control their craving for the substance. Health deteriorates as a result of substance abuse, both physically and mentally. Workplace and personal relationships suffer and jobs are lost. Addiction symptoms include the following:

  • Inability to stop using drugs or alcohol
  • Neglect of personal appearance
  • Inability to cope without using drugs or alcohol
  • Difficulties at work or school
  • Constant feeling of need for drugs or alcohol
  • Change in personality
  • Severe mood swings
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies previously enjoyed
  • Excessive spending on drugs or alcohol and increased debt
  • Criminal behavior
  • Accidents and physical health problems

People who suffer from addiction spend their lives focused on the substance they use. They are concerned only with acquiring it, taking it, and handling the consequences. Becoming a substance abuser to dampen acute stress disorder only makes those symptoms worse in the end with the added stress of handling the addiction.

Dual Diagnosis and Treatment

The National Institute on Drug Abuse recognizes that people diagnosed with anxiety or mood disorders are more likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. For alcohol or drug addiction to be treated successfully, it is necessary to also treat acute stress disorder at the same time. 

This dual diagnosis means that the issues of both the mental disorder and the addiction must be treated, each in their own way, but simultaneously. If the ASD is not addressed, then the condition can become more severe, and there will be resistance to the treatment for substance abuse and a 

very high chance of relapse after the treatment.

Stress and Relapse

Stress is known to be an important factor in drug and alcohol relapse. It isn’t uncommon for people who have addiction issues to relapse at least once during recovery. Some even relapse several times. In fact, more than two-thirds of people will relapse after beginning treatment. Stress is actually the main cause of relapse. 

One way to get ready for this trigger is to assess the stress you’re experiencing. You know that you can’t eliminate everyone and everything that might cause you to stress from your life. However, you can avoid situations that cause severe stress. It might help to list all the people, places, and things that cause you extreme stress. Are you in an unhealthy relationship? Is there a financial situation that is stressing you out? 

Making changes in your lifestyle, priorities, and relationships will reduce the number of stressful situations in your life. When you go for treatment your counselor will help you learn positive stress management techniques such as:

  • Practicing relaxation training and mindfulness
  • How to manage your time more efficiently
  • Adding healthy eating and moderate exercise to your daily routine
  • Recognizing when you are in a stressful situation

Other triggers for relapse are:

  • People or places linked to the addictive behavior: People who took part in your addictive behavior, and even family members are possible triggers for relapse. Certain places that remind you of your addiction can also bring on a relapse.
  • Negative emotions: Alcohol, drugs, or addictive behavior used to give relief. You will need to learn to get comfortable with troublesome feelings and emotions.
  • The object of your addiction: Reminders of your addiction seem to be everywhere when you are first in recovery. 
  • Celebration: Even positive events like birthdays and holidays can be triggering. You feel happy, confident, and in control at the moment. You think one drink or one smoke can’t hurt you, but it can. People with addictions have lost the ability to know when to stop.

Get Help Managing your Stress at Free By the Sea

There is help for you or your loved one. There is no reason to fight this battle alone. Free by the Sea is a beautiful campus, located on the Long Beach Peninsula in Ocean Park, WA. Our community of dedicated professionals is committed to providing care to all individuals with dignity and respect. Client-centered care respectful of individual needs and concerns is the foundation of our approach. We adhere to evidence-based practices that are focused on successful outcomes for long term recovery. Contact us to obtain more information about our treatment plans designed to help you or your loved one effectively manage stress and successfully recover from addiction.

Addiction ruins lives and destroys relationships. The addicted person can lose everything if treatment isn’t sought to end the dangerous cycle of addiction. Contact Free by the Sea for more information on stopping addiction.

Free by the Sea in the State of Washington’s premier treatment facility where addicts and ASD sufferers can begin recovery in a peaceful environment. The staff at Free by the Sea fully understand the addiction process and the underlying stress you are under. We are trained to help you develop coping skills and handle the stress unique to you and your life. Contact us to obtain more information about our treatment plans designed to help you or your loved one effectively manage stress and successfully recover from addiction.

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