What Is Emotional Relapse?

posted in Relapse

Recovery is not an easy milestone to reach by any stretch. Sobriety requires diligence and focus. Determination is a hallmark of people in recovery because every day they face new challenges. Whether it is extra stress or getting more work than you can possibly handle at your job, emotional relapse is triggered by something from the present or past that takes over your mind. It makes it hard to deal with reality in front of you. Before it leads to relapse, learn some of the signs, and find a way to deal with emotional relapse in a positive, healthy way.

Defining Emotional Relapse

Emotional relapse is a trigger that can lead to destructive behavior. People generally have not started thinking about drug use or turning to substances to cope at this point. Relapse is not yet at the front of their minds. During an emotional relapse, negative thoughts start to put distance between you and the healthy behaviors you have been working hard to develop. Recognizing signs of emotional relapse is important. Without knowing the signs, it can lead to difficulties down the road, including a higher likelihood of relapse.

Warning Signs

The danger signs begin when a person is setting their minds to focus on emotional disconnection from recovery and the work they are doing. Once a person decides they are not investing time and energy into recovery but putting it into thinking about using substances, they are headed down a difficult road. Looking at the signs can provide a road map to see whether some of these things are happening and seek help before things get out of hand.

Depression or Low Mood

Persistent low mood can lead to depression over time. Sometimes depression is already co-occurring with substance use, detox, withdrawal, and dealing with medications in recovery. After a period of time, it can be hard to know which way is up. Feeling a loss of motivation to keep going, to get up every day and face recovery can be difficult. If a sense of hopelessness or despair is settling in, taking over a low mood to swing into something deeper, be on the lookout. Family and friends can watch for signs such as self-isolating, staying away from hobbies, laughing and smiling less, or persistently talking about negative thoughts and feelings.


Worry, fear, and feelings of uncertainty around sobriety are common. They help people process the experience of recovery and discover what they really feel deep down. The overarching worries and feelings should not persist day after day. If they do, it may be time to deal with them inside a counselor’s office, with a sober companion, or psychiatrist who can look over medications. It can be difficult to cope with stressors when anxiety is present. Don’t let this take over recovery. Seek help for anxious feelings before they turn into panic attacks and make it harder to navigate recovery.

Mood Swings and Anger

If you have a hard time controlling difficult emotions and feelings, and they swing from one to the other, it may be a sign of emotional relapse on the horizon. Angry feelings and bad temper can be an underlying cause of emotional relapse. Feeling angry is not an emotion that is foreign to people in recovery. It is easy to lose your temper but if it becomes a way of life, it may be time to seek help for difficult emotions.

Behavioral Signs of Relapse

When people are moving towards relapse, they not only think or speak differently, they also act differently. They might break a set routine, isolate themselves, have trouble sleeping, or refuse to receive any help. They also distance themselves from loved ones, don’t participate in hobbies, and refuse to try things that might help like meditation or mindfulness. Lack of decent sleep is one sign that can continue to be a trigger for emotional and behavioral relapse. If a person cannot sleep for a long period of time, it may begin to feel difficult to deal with life overall.

Dealing with Emotional Triggers

Emotional triggers are dangerous. They can limit people’s ability to deal with life in recovery effectively. During recovery, the person should stay clear of situations or places that trigger old thoughts and feelings. It may be hard if they live near where substance abuse happened. It is not a failure or sign of a failure to feel these things. Having negative emotions is healthy. Some key things can help turn emotional triggers on their head and make them positive.


Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Family and loved ones should notice and offer to take care of people as well if they are struggling. One of the first things to take a hit from emotional relapse is self-care. Stay on top of emotional and physical well-being. Activities like exercise and getting enough sleep goes a long way.

Use Support

Lean on people who care and are there for you. Look to family and friends to provide safety nets when things are rough. Work hard to build a support system and lean into it because they are not afraid to jump in when you are struggling. That’s what friends are for.

Recognize the Need for Help

If relapse feels inevitable or it may be on the horizon, recognize this, and seek help. It may be time to find support for relapse prevention. Don’t let it continue to go on without acknowledging it may be time to seek help.

Forge is a place to come and recover your life from addiction. We help you reimagine what is possible and create the life you’ve been dreaming of.

Call us today: 1-888-224-7312