April is Stress Awareness Month, designated in 1992 to educate the public about the effects of stress on one’s mental and physical health as well as remedies for daily stress. Because addiction often has roots in one’s mental health, understanding and learning to identify stress and stress triggers is important to achieving and maintaining sobriety.
How Stress Affects the Body
Stress is the body’s natural response to external stimulants your brain interprets as a threat or demand for action. The body’s sympathetic nervous system causes the adrenal glands to release catecholamines, including adrenaline and noradrenaline. These hormones are responsible for the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response, increasing one’s blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing.
Believed to be a byproduct of evolution, sometimes this heightened reaction to stress can go haywire. Panic disorders, PTSD and other stress disorders can be disruptive to one’s life, interfering with one’s ability to function on a day to day basis. Symptoms of stress disorders include:
- Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain
- Teeth grinding
- Stuttering or stammering
- Neck ache and back pain
- Light headedness
- Stomach pain and nausea
- Excess anxiety, worry, guilt, nervousness
- Increased anger, frustration, hostility
- Mood swings
- Suicidal thoughts
- Nervous habits: toe tapping, fidgeting, nail biting, etc.
- Problems in communication
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Increased smoking, alcohol or drug use
- Excessive gambling or impulse buying
For some people, stress and stressful situations can cause the onset of a panic attack.
Panic attacks symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Sudden attacks of life threatening panic
- Chest pain
- Rapid pulse or heart palpitations
- Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
- Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed
Struggles with stress and stress disorders can lead one to seek relief in the form of drug or alcohol use. However, as with other mental health disorders, stress disorders can increase one’s risk of developing a substance use disorder.
Stress and Addiction
Because of the extreme affect stress can have on our minds and bodies, many suffering the effects of stress and stress-related disorders seek relief through illicit substances. Self-medication through the use of drugs and alcohol may temporarily provide stress relief, but the risks involved can be serious. Mental and emotional dependence on substance use to cope with life can lead to the development of alcoholism or drug addiction.
As substance abuse progresses, physical dependence sets in, further complicating drug and alcohol use disorders. People living with addiction shift from using as a means of coping to using to avoid the pain and discomfort of withdrawal. The combined emotional and physical aspects of substance abuse disorders make it difficult to overcome addiction on your own.
Managing Stress in Recovery
Recovery with the assistance of an addiction treatment facility provides the support and guidance necessary for maintaining long-term recovery. By seeking treatment through Harbor Village, you will receive individualized, client-centered care specifically tailored to meet your needs. Our team of behavioral health specialists and case management support works to understand the roots of your struggles with drugs and alcohol.
For people with stress-related mental health disorders, we utilize evidence-based treatment methods proven effective in addressing co-occurring disorders. With a focus on identifying triggers, our programs include the development of positive coping mechanisms for stress, anxiety, and other triggering emotions. Alumni support also means you’re never alone– we’re here to help you even after completion of your treatment program.
For more information about how we can help, contact us today!