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Tips for Recognizing Your Triggers

If you have seasonal allergies and head out on a spring day when the pollen is flying, you’re setting yourself up for a day filled with congestion, sneezing, and watery eyes. If, however, you understand that high-pollen days are surefire triggers, you can make alternative plans or take preventive steps to avoid the misery altogether. 

This same concept holds true when it comes to addiction, which is why identifying your triggers is paramount to your recovery.

At Northshore Family Practice, our team of highly experienced addiction experts understands the role that triggers play and how they can undo all of your hard recovery work in an instant. It’s for this reason that a large part of our recovery support focuses on trigger identification and management.

With that in mind, here are some tips for recognizing your triggers.

What constitutes a trigger?

Our example above about seasonal allergies and their triggers is cut and dried, as the allergens in question are fairly universal. Unfortunately, the same is not true of addiction. Every person who walks through our doors with a substance use disorder has come to the problem in their own way and has their own individual triggers.

To give you an idea of the broad range of potential triggers, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) labels triggers as “events or circumstances that can lead to uncomfortable feelings such as anxiety, panic, anger, or despair.”

SAMHSA goes on to divide triggers into three categories:

Whatever the trigger, the end result is that the stimuli can create a neurochemical response in your brain that leads to a craving.

Identifying your triggers

One of the more important steps in your recovery is to identify those persons, events, circumstances, or emotions that flip that switch in your brain and lead to powerful cravings.

While some triggers may be obvious — a bar, an old partying friend, a fight — some are more subtle, and they’re not always negative. Think about going to an event where everyone is celebrating and raising a glass in toast.

The best way to combat these triggers is to keep an ongoing list during early recovery where you record your cravings and what triggered them. In very little time, you will see patterns emerge that will give you a better idea of the exact mechanisms that are causing your addiction to rear its ugly head.

With this list, we can sit down with you to devise ways to better manage your triggers. As an example, if you find that your strongest cravings come on when you’re angry or stressed, we can work with you on anger management and relaxation techniques.

Some triggers are easier to avoid than others, and we understand this. Not going to a party where you know there will be drugs or alcohol is relatively simple. Dealing with unresolved relationship issues with your family may require more work.

The good news is that by recognizing and managing your triggers, you not only gain the upper hand on your addiction, you can greatly improve your overall mental well-being at the same time.

If you’d like help exploring your triggers, please contact our office in Bothell, Washington, to set up an appointment. Just call us or click the online booking tool here on the website.

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