Addiction and Sadness Connection: Emotions and Addictive Behaviors

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Positive emotions are beneficial for people in recovery; whereas, negative emotions derail one's program and can lead to relapse. At PACE, we fully subscribe to the power of positivity and its impact on lasting addiction recovery. While we understand that life can be difficult, and challenges can elicit negative feelings, each of us has the power to alter our perspective and move forward productively.

At the core of addictive behaviors are several negative sentiments such as guilt, shame, self-loathing, disgust, anger, sadness, and fear. Some addiction specialists argue that the latter state of being is the crux of addiction. Those who hope to break free from addiction must work tirelessly not to let negative emotions run their lives.

It's hard to see the sunny side of life when you are in the grips of despair, but no matter how dark your reality appears, there is always hope. Life doesn't have to be the way it is always, and we humans have an enormous capacity for change both internally and externally. Right now, millions of people around the globe are leading healthy and positive lives in recovery, which means that you can too.

The road to a more positive life is not without potholes, and everyone stumbles from time to time. Still, it's not the falling that matters; it's the getting back up and trudging forward and never losing sight of your goals.

Even people with years of sobriety have less than ideal days. A myriad of factors can jeopardize one's serenity, such as a death in the family or loss of employment, for example. Bad days are normal, but wallowing in misfortune is not, nor is it healthy—especially for people in recovery.

On this blog, we like to discuss the power of positivity on a regular basis; we believe it's helpful for those in early recovery. The first year of sobriety is a rollercoaster ride of emotions – some good and some bad – and it's vital not to let the latter take over. It's easier said than done, but with a support network by your side, you can overcome any obstacle and the accompanying negative emotions.

Sadness In Early Recovery

Learning how to cope with negative emotions is something that many people discover in treatment. It's vital to have such skills because negative emotions will crop up without warning and must be addressed immediately. One of the more common emotions that people in early recovery contend with is sadness.

You can be sad for a number of reasons. Men and women in early recovery are often consumed by regret. When the fog of drugs and alcohol clears, many have a propensity to look back on their using tenure with sadness. Some will even mourn the loss of the drugs and alcohol, even though they understand that such substances were detrimental.

If you find yourself in a funk and are feeling down, then it's vital to take action and talk to someone you trust immediately. Such emotions can spread through the mind like wildfire, and the smoke created will cloud your vision for the future.

Always remember that the past is behind you and that you only have the power to change what you do today. Dwelling on the past and breathing air into negative feelings can lead you down a destructive path. It turns out that sadness is an emotion that researchers associate with addictive behaviors.

Sadness and Addictive Substance Use

A new study that mainly focuses on the use of cigarettes could also shed light on all addictive behaviors. Researchers from Harvard University sought to determine which role emotions play in addictive behavior. The findings – appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – indicate that sadness plays a significant part in triggering addictive behaviors.

The researchers examined four studies which all reinforce the finding that sadness leads to cravings more than any other negative emotion, according to the Harvard Kennedy School. The team believes that their results could help in designing more effective prevention campaigns.

The conventional wisdom in the field was that any type of negative feelings, whether it's anger, disgust, stress, sadness, fear, or shame, would make individuals more likely to use an addictive drug," said lead researcher Charles A. Dorison, a Harvard Kennedy School doctoral candidate. "Our work suggests that the reality is much more nuanced than the idea of 'feel bad, smoke more.' Specifically, we find that sadness appears to be an especially potent trigger of addictive substance use."

Gender-Specific Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Adult males are invited to reach out to PACE Recovery Center to learn more about our evidence-based therapies for the treatment of addiction and mental illness. We offer specialized clinical treatment tracks to address all components of addiction and mental health. If you are struggling with alcohol, drugs, or a mental health disorder, our team of highly trained professionals can help you achieve lasting recovery.

Addiction Recovery: Coping With Anxiety

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A significant facet of addiction recovery is learning how to cope with feelings and emotions in healthy ways. In treatment, men and women learn techniques for managing unwanted feelings that can lead to cravings. Those who adopt practices like breathing exercises when they are feeling anxious are better able to manage their sensations.

While some people in recovery take prescription medications to mitigate their symptoms of anxiety, it can have a ripple effect for many individuals. Men and women in addiction recovery who have a co-occurring anxiety disorder are advised to avoid sedatives and tranquilizers. The most common prescription sedatives are benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Valium.

There is a good reason for steering clear of benzodiazepines or "benzos" while you are in recovery. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and carry a significant risk of overdose if misused. If you are in recovery and also struggle with anxiety, then your doctor has probably recommended that you try alternatives to medicine.

Exercise and meditation have been found to reduce people's stress and anxiety. Perhaps you have already incorporated such routines into your day to day life? If not, please consider taking a walk to clear your mind or engaging in mindfulness exercises when you are feeling anxious.

If the suggestions above don't produce the desired effect, then you can discuss non-habit-forming medications with your doctor. Many antidepressants are prescribed by physicians off-label, as they have been found to reduce symptoms of anxiety.

If you presented with an anxiety disorder in treatment, then it's likely the center's physicians prescribed you a non-addictive SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) such as Lexapro or Celexa. SSRIs have proven effective in treating generalized anxiety disorders (GAD), panic disorders, and social anxiety disorders.

Anxiety Disorders, Benzodiazepines, and Addiction Recovery

While it's possible for people in recovery to take addictive medications as prescribed and avoid relapse, doing so is hardly worth the risk. Benzos are particularly hazardous for individuals in addiction recovery for alcohol use disorder. Many alcoholics are unaware that both benzodiazepines and alcohol are central nervous system depressants. What's more, they each activate GABA in the brain, which results in reduced anxiety.

People recovering from an alcohol use disorder who start taking benzos to treat their anxiety unknowingly activate the same neurotransmitters as alcohol. Many recovering alcoholics have relapsed on alcohol after receiving a benzodiazepine prescription. Aside from the risk of relapse, people in recovery who take benzos can develop a substance use disorder.

Drugs like Klonopin and Ativan are meant to be taken for short durations and in small doses. Continued use leads to tolerance and the need to take more of the drug to produce the desired calming effect. Before one knows it, they become dependent on their anti-anxiety medication.

Anxiety, agitation, and insomnia are common amongst men and women in early recovery. Unless one has a diagnosed disorder, such feelings will occur less frequently and may completely subside over time. Turning to benzodiazepines while in addiction recovery, prescribed or otherwise, to cope with temporary sensations can severely derail your program.

Long-term sedative use can become addictive. Substantial misuse can cause an overdose, especially when mixed with another mind-altering substance. What's more, those who attempt to stop taking benzodiazepines require medically supervised detox. The symptoms of benzo withdrawal can include life-threatening seizures.

If you are struggling with anxiety or sleep problems, then you will benefit significantly from looking for alternatives to sedatives. Learning to cope with uncomfortable feelings in healthy ways is possible, and doing so will not only strengthen your recovery, it will make you feel more positive.

A Hidden Facet of the American Addiction Epidemic

We would be remiss if we failed to share that we have a problem with prescription sedatives in America. New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that doctors are prescribing benzos at elevated rates, CNN reports. The CDC found that about 65.9 million office-based doctor visits resulted in a prescription for a benzodiazepine between 2014 and 2016.

Studies have shown that this type of central nervous system depressant is involved in overdose deaths quite frequently. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that about 30 percent of what is labeled an opioid overdose is an opioid-benzodiazepine overdose.

This is a really undercovered story," said Keith Humphreys, a psychologist and Esther Ting Memorial Professor at Stanford University. "I think of it as the hidden element of our overdose epidemic that does need attention."

Gender-Specific Substance Use Disorder Treatment

If you are an adult male who is struggling with benzodiazepines and a co-occurring anxiety disorder, then please contact PACE Recovery Center. Our dedicated team of professionals can help you adopt a program of addiction recovery. We rely on evidence-based therapies to ensure you are equipped to lead a positive life in long-term recovery.

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