Alcoholism is one of the most dangerous mental health disorders that exist. There are plenty of reasons recovering from alcoholism may be difficult for someone. However, perhaps the most difficult circumstance to deal with even after recovery is the triggers of alcoholism. It is imperative for those whose triggers lead to alcohol abuse to learn to identify and prevent these triggers.
What Is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a broad term for any drinking of alcohol that results in mental or physical health problems. It is an addictive behavior and can cause serious complications in individuals’ lives. Alcoholism increases the risk of various cancers, liver damage, heart disease, stroke, and depression. It can also affect family and work relationships. In addition, alcoholism is associated with an increased risk of accidents, injuries, violence, and suicide.
Alcoholism is a progressive condition that often starts out as social drinking but then progresses to more frequent and higher levels of consumption. Some warning signs of alcoholism are:
- Drinking more than intended
- Drinking at inappropriate times
- Becoming angry or irritable when not drinking
- Needing more alcohol to feel the same effects
Other potential warning signs may include the following:
- Problems at work or school
- Relationship issues
- Legal problems due to drinking
- Physical health problems such as high blood pressure and liver disease
- Blacking out or experiencing memory loss after drinking
- Changes in sleep patterns
Why Is Alcohol Addictive?
Alcohol is a highly addictive substance, and its effects on the brain are well documented. When consumed in excess, alcohol can interfere with normal neural pathways and cause changes in how the brain responds to pleasure and reward. This can lead to compulsive drinking patterns, where people feel compelled to drink despite negative consequences. There is also evidence that long-term, heavy alcohol use can cause permanent changes in the brain, making it even more difficult to break an addiction and stay sober.
Alcohol has a sedative effect on the body, which reduces inhibitions and makes people feel relaxed and less anxious. As a result, people may become dependent on alcohol as a “crutch” to cope with anxiety or depression. In addition, drinking can provide a temporary escape from stressful environments, making it difficult for people to stop drinking even when the situation is not conducive to doing so.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Alcohol?
The long-term effects of alcoholism on the body can be severe and devastating. Excessive alcohol use over an extended period of time can cause physical damage to vital organs, including the liver, heart, brain, and pancreas. It also increases a person’s risk for certain types of cancer, such as mouth and throat cancer. Additionally, it can have a negative impact on the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off infections.
Alcoholism by the Numbers
Alcohol use disorder, commonly referred to as alcoholism, is a growing problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), an estimated 88,000 people die every year due to alcohol-related causes. This makes it the third leading preventable cause of death in America behind tobacco use and poor diets.
In addition to the devastating effects on individuals, alcohol misuse costs society an estimated $249 billion annually in lost productivity, health care expenses, and motor vehicle crashes. Approximately 15 million adults aged 18 or older in the US have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Of those people with AUDs, only 6.7 percent received treatment in the past year.
What Are Triggers?
Triggers are external events or reactions that can cause an individual to experience psychological distress. Triggers can be anything from a certain smell, sight, sound, place, or even something someone says. It is important to recognize your own triggers in order to manage any symptoms of anxiety or depression that may arise as a result.
Substance abuse triggers vary from person to person, but some of the most common triggers are:
- Negative emotions such as depression and anxiety
- Peer pressure
- Availability of substances
- Physical or sexual trauma
- Financial worries
- Family history of substance use disorders
- Certain mental health conditions
Other potential triggers include:
- Social isolation or loneliness
- Boredom or lack of meaningful activities
- Physical pain or discomfort
It is important to identify your personal triggers so that you can be better prepared to deal with them in a healthier way than by using substances.
How Do Triggers Develop?
Triggers, or the cues that can bring on a craving, are often unique to each person and can develop over time. Factors such as stress, certain locations, people, smells, and activities can all be potential triggers for substance use. People may also experience cravings when exposed to reminders of their previous use of drugs or alcohol, or when feeling bored, lonely, or anxious. Over time, the brain can become conditioned to associate these triggers with drug or alcohol use and cravings may become more frequent and intense.
It is possible to take steps to reduce the power of triggers and prevent relapse. Some strategies include avoiding high-risk situations or environments where drugs or alcohol might be present and learning to cope with stress and other strong emotions through healthier activities.
Talking to supportive friends or family members can also be helpful in understanding and managing triggers. Finally, developing a plan for how to respond when cravings do arise is important so that the person can remain focused on recovery goals rather than giving in to the urge.
Are Triggers Only for PTSD?
No, triggers are not only for PTSD. Triggers can also be experienced by people who have experienced other traumatic events, such as physical or sexual abuse, natural disasters, combat experiences, sudden unexpected loss, or life-threatening situations. Sometimes these triggers can lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but they can also lead to other mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Triggers can be anything that reminds a person of the traumatic event they experienced and can range from smells, sounds, images, words, or any kind of sensory experience.
What Are the Most Common Triggers of Drinking?
Alcoholism is a serious disorder characterized by compulsive drinking, a preoccupation with alcohol, and difficulty controlling when or how much is consumed. There are many triggers for alcoholism that can lead to excessive drinking, including genetics, social environment, stress, mental health issues, and physical health problems.
Genetics plays an important role in the development of alcoholism. People who have family members with alcohol abuse issues, or a history of addiction in their families, are more likely to become alcoholics themselves.
The social environment can also be a risk factor for developing alcoholism. People who spend time around heavy drinkers, such as going out to bars or drinking with friends frequently, are more likely to become alcohol dependent.
Stress can be a major factor in alcoholism as well. People who are dealing with stressful situations, such as the death of a loved one or financial problems, may turn to alcohol as an escape from their troubles.
Environmental Triggers Are Difficult to Avoid
Avoiding environmental triggers of alcoholism can be challenging, especially if the person is surrounded by family and friends who drink alcohol or are in an environment where drinking is socially acceptable. Some environmental triggers that may lead to drinking include the following:
- Being around other people who are drinking
- Visiting bars and pubs
- Attending social events with alcohol present
- Being home alone or feeling lonely
- High-stress situations
- Experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety
How Can I Avoid the Triggers of Alcoholism?
The first step to avoiding triggers of alcoholism is to be conscious of your own thoughts and feelings. Pay attention to what triggers you, such as stress or feeling lonely. When you become aware of a trigger, take action to remove yourself from the situation or do something else to distract yourself – such as going for a walk, reading a book, or listening to music.
It is also important to practice self-care and healthy habits that can help to avoid triggers of alcohol addiction. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and engaging in enjoyable activities can help to reduce stress levels and prevent relapse.
Talking to someone else about your feelings or seeking professional help is an important part of managing triggers of alcohol use disorder. Talking to a trusted friend or family member, or visiting a therapist, can help to explore underlying addictive issues. Some other strategies may include cognitive behavioral therapy.
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
By using various techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT can help people to gain insight into their behaviors, thoughts, and feelings so they can better understand the root of their issues and make positive changes in their lives. The goal of CBT is to help people learn coping skills for managing difficult situations and changing unhealthy behaviors, thoughts, and feelings in order to lead a more fulfilling life. CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are all connected and can influence one another.
Free by the Sea Can Help With a Relapse Prevention Plan For Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a disease that is difficult to overcome, but not with the right help. At Free by the Sea, our intention is to treat each patient individually to give them the best shot at recovery success. If you or a loved one would like to find out more, you can contact us here.
Dr. Richard Crabbe joined our team in 2019 as our psychiatrist and medical director. He attended the University of Ghana Medical School where he became a Medical Doctor in 1977. From 1978 through 1984, he was a medical officer in the Ghana Navy and provided a variety of services from general medicine to surgeries. He received his Certificate in General Psychology from the American Board of Psychology and Neurology in 2002.