When someone is trying to kick an addictive habit, cravings are the biggest barrier to recovery. According to a recent study out of Penn State, those cravings can actually multiply and cause a relapse if an addict ignores stress, say behavioral scientists.
Fifty-five college students in active recovery from substance abuse participated in the study. The students used Palm Pilots to describe their daily cravings in a digital journal. They also recorded negative social experiences, such as hostility, insensitivity, and ridicule, along with the coping strategies they used. A statistical analysis of the data yielded surprising results. The addicts who dealt with stress by avoiding it had twice as many cravings in a stressful day, compared to those who worked through their problems. The study appeared in a recent issue of Addictive Behaviors.
Millions around the world suffer from addictions. The more cravings one experiences, the more likely one is to relapse. Because recovery from addiction is maintained “one day at a time,” it is important for scientists to study recovery from a daily perspective. By examining how cravings vary from day to day, researchers now know that those variations are predicted by stressful events. Depending on how much an addict avoids coping, the experience of stress and the level of cravings are strongly linked.
Stress and addiction is a damaging cycle. However, that cycle can be broken. By understanding how stress triggers cravings, addicts can work toward building a sustained recovery. Some effective ways of dealing with stress include:
- Playing a game
- Talking to friends
- Listening to music
- Writing in a journal
By choosing the right coping mechanisms, persons dealing with addictions are less likely to relapse. While it is a natural impulse to avoid stressful situations, it’s important to remember that stress is a part of everyone’s life. It seems the harder we try to run from stress, the more it catches up to us. Instead of bottling up our feelings, for example, we can confront our anxiety and seek help from others.