​Relapse is defined as a “lapse or return to an old habit or pattern of behavior.” In terms of addiction, relapse occurs when someone who has been in recovery starts using drugs or alcohol again.

Relapse is often thought of as a single event, but it’s actually a process that happens in stages. Understanding the signs of a relapse can help you or your loved one identify when they are at risk and take steps to prevent a full-blown relapse from occurring.

Emotional Relapse

The first stage of relapse is termed “emotional relapse.” This is when someone begins to mentally disconnect from their sobriety program. They may start to feel like they don’t belong or that they are not good enough. They may start to feel resentful toward people in their support system.

This can lead to them feeling isolated and lonely, which can, in turn, lead to negative coping mechanisms such as using drugs or alcohol. If an emotional relapse is left unchecked, it can lead to a mental relapse.

Mental Relapse

The second stage of relapse is called “mental relapse.” This is when someone begins to play with the idea of using it again. They may start rationalizing their use, telling themselves they can handle it or deserve it. They may also start secretly planning their return to use, stocking up on supplies, or hiding them.

They may daydream about using drugs or alcohol, talk about their past use with friends, and make plans to obtain and use substances. If a mental relapse is left unchecked, it can lead to a physical relapse.

Physical Relapse 

The third and final stage of relapse is called “physical relapse.” This is when someone actually picks up the drug or drink after abstaining for a period of time. It’s important to note that physical relapse can happen even after just one emotional or mental slip.

Sign of a Relapse 

Once a physical relapse has occurred, discovering this and getting help is important. Understanding the signs someone has gone back into their addiction to drugs or alcohol can be imperative. If caught early, lives can quickly resume, and irreparable damage can be avoided.

Here are some common signs of relapse:

1. They’re Isolating Themselves Again

One of the most common warning signs of an impending relapse is isolation. If your child starts pulling away from friends and family and spending more time alone, it may be a sign that they’re struggling. If you notice this happening, try encouraging them to open up about what’s happening and stay involved in activities they enjoy.

2. They’re Acting Out in Other Ways

If your child starts engaging in risky behaviors like drinking or using drugs, it definitely causes concern. But sometimes people struggling with addiction will act out in other ways as well. This can include everything from reckless driving to getting into fights. If you notice your child acting out, talk to them about it and see if there’s anything going on that you can help with.

3. They’re Not Taking Care of Themselves

When people struggle, they often let their appearance and personal hygiene suffer. If you notice your child isn’t taking care of themselves as they used to, it may be a sign that something is wrong. Try gently talking to them about it and see if there’s anything you can do to help them take care of themselves better.

4. They’re Expressing Negative Emotions More Often

If your child seems irritable, angry, or sad all the time, it may be a sign that they’re struggling emotionally. This can be tough because negative emotions are perfectly normal—when they start becoming overwhelming, you need to worry. If you’re concerned about your child’s emotional well-being, talk to them about what’s going on and see if there’s anything you can do to help.

Avoiding or Helping a Relapse

If you think someone you love may be struggling with addiction, it’s important to be supportive and understanding. Addressing the issue early on, during the emotional phase of relapse, can help prevent further progression.

However, if someone slips up and starts using again, don’t hesitate to seek help. Many resources are available to get them back on track and prevent future relapses.

Written by Hima Gandham

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