Addiction Studies

Understanding Addiction

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July 2021

Understanding Relapse: Stages, Triggers, And How Counseling Can Lead To Recovery

There are times when people who quit their addiction suddenly go back to their harmful habits. This period is called a relapse. But what exactly happens during a relapse? Let’s take a look at its different stages and triggers and how counseling can help people bounce back from a relapse period.


What Is A Relapse?

A relapse is a common occurrence in many people who are recovering from any form of addiction. A relapse can be described as the sudden worsening of a condition that had previously improved. During this time, a person may slip back to their former behavior or habits.   For example, a person who stopped drinking for several months may suddenly experience relapse and start drinking again at an alarming rate.

Relapsing naturally happens during the recovery process. Many people who are trying to overcome addiction may experience several relapses before they finally succeed in quitting. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), around 40 to 60 people with drug addiction experience relapse. When a person experiences relapse, their physician must be notified right away to avoid potential harm to themselves or others.  

What Are The Stages Of Relapse?

Many people fail to realize that there’s a process when it comes to relapse. Relapse is not a sudden moment; instead, it goes through different stages over time. It’s essential to know its various stages to understand better how to prevent relapse from happening.

The following are the stages of relapse:

  • Emotional Relapse: 

In this stage, the person is not yet involved in his addiction. However, they begin to experience some of the emotions they used to feel while suffering from addiction. 

Poor self-care might be one of the leading causes of emotional relapse. A recovering person must know how to maintain themselves physically and psychologically. This involves a healthy diet, good sleeping habits, proper hygiene, and practicing self-kindness.

  • Mental Relapse

During this period, individuals who have been troubled by emotional relapse for so long might start to feel uncomfortable and restless. This stage feels like a mental battle for any recovering person. A part of themselves wants to alleviate their restlessness with their addiction, while the other part doesn’t want to relapse. 

The confusion in their minds leads to increased irritability and looking for ways and opportunities to relapse. They may start to bargain about their addiction and romanticize the life they were living before. During this time, resisting relapse gets more complicated. 

  • Physical Relapse

This is the penultimate stage of relapse, and it involves returning to the previous unhealthy habits and addiction. This stage may last for a day, weeks, or even months. Physical relapse continues when the individual has lots of opportunities to go back to their old habits.

When a person experiences a relapse, it’s an indication that they need to return for treatment or counseling sessions. They might also be asked to join meetings that will help them to reach recovery.


What Are Its Common Triggers?

Various kinds of triggers may set off a relapse for a recovering person. Remember that each person has different sets of triggers that they have to take into account. Knowing your triggers is essential in recovering from your addiction and maintaining a better lifestyle.

Each person may act differently when presented with a trigger. To those with solid coping skills and a supportive group of friends and family, facing their triggers might be manageable. 

Here are some of the common triggers:

  • Stress: This may be the leading trigger of relapse. When a recovering person is stressed and overwhelmed, their chances of relapsing are high. This is true most especially if their primary coping mechanism to stress is their addiction. 
  • Specific people or places: For some, a particular place or a person may make a strong response that may lead to a relapse. People might invite you to drink, or an area may remind you of memories of your past lifestyle.
  • Strong or challenging emotions: People tend to hide away from harmful and challenging emotions. More often than not, this leads to confusion and internal turmoil that would lead to a relapse.
  • Being in contact with the object of your addiction: Seeing or sensing objects of your addiction can be a strong trigger. For example, a drinking or smoking addiction can be triggered by seeing liquor bottles or smelling a whiff of smoke. 

How To Respond To Relapse?

When a relapse happens, the focus must be on bringing back the individual to recover. This is the time when the presence of supportive family and friends is most important. Beyond that, there’s always the support that therapists can give through counseling sessions.

There is a kind of intervention called Relapse Prevention Therapy that aims to prevent relapses through therapy. With this therapy, the individual can anticipate future circumstances that may lead them to relapse.

The individual is also taught different coping skills that will be helpful when they have the urge to go back to their addiction. They will be able to manage their emotions when confronted by high-risk situations.

More so, RPT and other counseling methods help individuals to see their relapse from a different perspective. Instead of interpreting their relapse as a sign of failure, they can see it as an opportunity to grow and learn.

With the right support from family, friends, and professionals alike, individuals can triumph over their relapse and continue their recovery. 


Relapsing might seem to be a step backward, but it’s a natural part of the healing process. Experiencing relapse must not be seen as a sign of weakness or failure. More so, a relapse does not stop a person’s progress towards recovery. 

For those undergoing recovery from addiction, a solid support system is a must. These people must also understand the frustrations that relapses can bring about to the recovering person. It’s during these difficult times that more support and love must be given. 

Why Counseling Is Beneficial In Treating Your Gambling Addiction


It’s never easy to quit a gambling addiction. When you try to break the habit, you find yourself doing it again without realizing it. It’s even more challenging to quit your addiction if it stems from deep-rooted problems.

You may find yourself asking what else you can do to put the brakes on that cycle. Perhaps you can try talking to a support group. You could actively stay away from the things that tempt you. Whatever you decide to do, know that counseling will be able to help you in your journey.

The Root Of The Problem

Before anything else, you need to understand what your problem is. You won’t be able to remedy it if you don’t know what’s going on. When you discuss your gambling addiction with your counselor, they can help you identify its roots. They can also point out its other possible consequences.

Compulsive gambling stems from other mental health conditions. It may come from anxiety or depression, or even substance abuse. It is also associated with psychological disorders. Some examples include bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

You may be thinking that it would not matter if you don’t have these conditions. However, these are usually underlying causes of gambling addictions. It may be possible that you have a mental health condition, but you’re not aware of it. Your counselor can give you direction on this.

Counseling will help you assess whether your gambling problem arose from uncontrollable circumstances. Things such as family conflicts or financial instability can trigger compulsive gambling. Your counselor will talk things through with you should this be the case.

This stage might not be easy, but remember that your counselor is guiding you through it. They will help you unravel problems and pinpoint causes. When things get tough, remember your end goal. 


An Insight To Your Feelings

During your time with your counselor, they will keep asking you how you’re feeling. After all, counseling is all about making you feel better. Understanding your emotions will give you an insight into why you act the way you do. By peeling these layers off, you may be able to recognize why you’re addicted to gambling.

At some point, you may feel like your counselor is testing you. You may get the impression that they’re looking for a specific answer from you. However, you must know that the only thing they want from you is honesty. These questions about your emotions are there to guide you to matters that you need to address. Sometimes, your counselor may also ask you this when they feel like there are emotions you’re trying to avoid.

Recognizing your feelings can also help you feel more in control. Unknowingly, we sometimes tend to let it dictate our actions. Being in tune with your emotions may help you fight your urge to go back to gambling. Be in control of how you feel, and don’t let it be the other way around. This is why you should be honest with your counselor when they ask you this. 

This stage is essential, but know that your well-being is your counselor’s top priority. Tell them if you feel uncomfortable, frustrated, or angry with their line of questioning. After all, your counselor is there to help you feel better and accommodate your needs.


Moving Forward With Direction

One of the goals of counseling is to help you build a path going forward. This involves lifestyle changes, breaking and making habits, and setting goals. As always, your counselor will help you decide on these things. They’ll be there to guide you and to make sure you know you’re not alone.

Your counselor will help you know what to do to turn things around and which path to recovery you should take. They may suggest you join a support group and avoid gambling entirely. They may also recommend you do other activities whenever you get the urge to go back to your old habits. Learning to sew and exercising are possible suggestions of your counselor.

Counselors can also help with repairing relationships that gambling addiction may have harmed. It won’t always be easy, but reconnecting with the people you love is an essential step to healing. You may tell your counselor about such relationships, and they will suggest remedies for you to cross those bridges.

To Wrap Up

Healing from a gambling addiction won’t be a one-day miracle. It will take conscious changes and a massive effort from you. While it may seem daunting, try to remind yourself that this is all for your sake.

Along with other lifestyle and habit changes, talking to a counselor will also help you in your journey. They will help you unpack motivations and reveal layers of emotions. Counselors will make you understand yourself more. This process will help you move forward from your gambling addiction in a healthy way.

Talking to your counselor also helps you get to the root of your problem. Don’t hesitate to tell them about your situation, when it started, and even how it came to be. Discussing these things is the first step to self-awareness.

This understanding will also prove beneficial in processing your feelings on gambling. It won’t just help you get a grasp on your emotions. More than that, you’ll be able to control it instead of letting it influence your actions.

Above all things, your counselor wants you to feel better. They’ll help you do so by guiding you in creating a path for your future. They may suggest some changes in your lifestyle and habits and recommend you to attend a support group. Counselors will be there to discuss how to repair and strengthen your relationships too.

Your journey forward may not be an easy one at all. When times get tough, remember that this is for your well-being. Always keep your goal front and center, so you do not lose motivation. With your effort, motivation, and help from your counselor, you’ll get there.