Why Is Controlling My Emotions So Important in Rehab?

Why Is Controlling My Emotions So Important in Rehab?

Addiction produces neurobiological changes that impair neural transmissions, motivational hierarchies, cognitive function and emotional balance. Moreover, substance cravings and obsessive thoughts produce sudden and intense emotional swings that only subside (temporarily, that is) through substance use. When a person pursues recovery, withdrawal symptoms also include emotional components. Consider marijuana as an example. In 2000, the Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology journal identified anxiety, tension, irritability and mood changes as withdrawal symptoms associated with marijuana dependence. Other drugs and alcohol have similar symptoms, and emotional imbalance will continue for a period as the brain slowly restores healthy neurobiological function. During rehab, patients typically experience swings, but learning to control emotions can play an important role in producing positive recovery outcomes.

The Need to Control Emotions in Rehab

The 1995 Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that psychosocial stress makes rehab patients more likely to fail in their recovery attempt. Learning to manage emotions can help improve marijuana recovery outcomes in several potential ways, including the following:

  • Enables patients to absorb and utilize recovery therapies more effectively
  • Helps patients think more clearly and properly respond to calls for change
  • Reduces potential conflict with therapists, loved ones, other patients and self
  • Aids in maintaining more stable motivation and commitment levels
  • Provides a healthier mental state from which to cultivate positive emotions
  • Decreases the risk of quitting rehab in the heat of an emotional surge

Managing emotions is also important for reducing relapse risk. Addiction researchers commonly characterize relapse as a three-stage process. The first stage is a mental relapse in which the person starts to think about the substance again and allow negative thought patterns to reemerge, while the second stage is an emotional relapse in which shame, frustration, stress, anger and other unhealthy moods return. Interestingly, researchers often compare the symptoms of emotional relapse to those of post-acute withdrawal, i.e., the emotional swings experienced when breaking a physical dependence. The final stage is a complete relapse in which the individual starts abusing marijuana again. The point is that unstable emotions are a major risk factor for relapse, and while emotions are often volatile during rehab, patients should make every effort to improve their emotional health and restore balance.

Tools to Manage Emotions

The 2013 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS) reported that 48 percent of adult rehab patients were diagnosed with co-occurring mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, bipolar or mania. Mental health issues clearly play a role in emotional mood swings, and rehab centers typically provide integrated treatment to affect a comprehensive healing. Whether the issues primarily stem from disorders, withdrawal symptoms or neurobiological dysfunction, rehab patients can better manage their emotions with various tools and approaches, including the following:

  • Utilize therapies that address the underlying causes of emotional pain
  • Improve coping skills like anger and stress management and conflict resolution
  • Interrupt thought patterns that start to initiate feelings of anger, anxiety or stress
  • Speak with a treatment counselor when emotions start to swing in negative directions
  • Strive to see the big picture in every situation and avoid kneejerk reactions
  • Allow emotional surges to subside before responding to situations or comments
  • Cultivate healthy outlets that help purge negative emotions and intensity
  • Prioritize activities and goals that promote positive, stable and balanced emotions

Many tools are preventive or responsive in nature, but recovering addicts can also improve their emotional health through positive pursuits like exercise, cooking, yoga and artistic expression, among others.

Address Emotional Triggers

Another important way to control emotions is to identify emotional triggers. In many cases, a specific cue – e.g., a comment, encounter, place, person or situation – can trigger emotions like anger, anxiety, remorse and sadness. Still, not all cues are external. Addicts typically behaved badly and hurt loved ones, and memories of the harm can trigger remorse, depression, regret and self-loathing. To help control negative emotional triggers, recovering marijuana addicts should consider several steps, including the following:

  • When emotions start to flare, stop to analyze the situation and identify the cue
  • Adapt behavior to avoid or neutralize mood-swing cues and triggers
  • Develop strategies that allow for rapid responses to triggered emotions
  • Work with addiction therapists to facilitate self-forgiveness for past failings

For most rehab patients, emotional instability is expected in the early stages of recovery, but the goal is to pursue stability as a way to enhance recovery therapies, restore neural pathways, improve mental health and reduce relapse risk. Rehab centers understand the importance of controlling emotions, and they work with patients to improve their mood management.

Addiction Treatment Hotline

Our admissions coordinators can provide information and answer questions 24 hours a day on our toll-free helpline. We can discuss treatment methods, relapse responses and rehab options. If a potential patient has health insurance, we can also look up the policy’s rehab benefits. If you or a loved one needs help, please call now.