The Three Stages of Relapse

Woman sitting with her head in her hand

Understanding Relapse

It is a common misconception that relapse is a situational occurrence and only happens when someone begins using their substance of choice again. However, relapse begins far before that. There are three stages of relapse and warning signs for each to look for. Being aware of these stages and what the symptoms are may help prevent relapse in the future.

Here is a detailed description of each stage:

Stage 1: Emotional Relapse

Emotional relapse is the first phase of the three stages of relapse. During this phase, the person may not actively think of using drugs or alcohol, but their emotional state may be setting them up for that to happen in the future.

Some of the warning signs to look for in this phase include:

  • Bottling up emotions.
  • Not managing anxiety, anger, or depression with healthy coping skills.
  • Focusing on other people instead of yourself.
  • Isolating yourself from friends and family.

If you feel like yourself or a loved one may be in this phase, we recommend checking in with your emotions and self-reflecting on your needs to improve your self-awareness.

What could you be doing differently to ensure the needs of you or your loved one are being met to keep them in a healthy place emotionally?

The best thing to do is ask!

Be compassionate, transparent, and vulnerable with yourself and others while having these conversations. Implement healthy coping techniques during this phase to help prevent future relapse.

Stage 2: Mental Relapse

Mental relapse is the second phase of relapse. Once an individual enters this phase, they are at an increased risk for also entering physical relapse. Mental relapse has also been described as a war in one’s mind and may feel like an angel is on one shoulder while a devil is on the other.

During this phase, you may experience:

  • Cravings or urges to use drugs or alcohol again.
  • Spending time with old friends who also use drugs or alcohol.
  • Fantasizing or planning physical use.

If you catch yourself of a loved one in this phase, some prevention tactics include:

  • Relaxation techniques.
  • Wait 30 minutes for the urge to pass.
  • Talk to someone you trust from a support group.

Stage 3: Physical Relapse

When a person does not acknowledge if they are in the first two phases of relapse, they are at an increased risk of physical relapse – using their substance of choice.

If you find yourself in physical relapse, it is important to get yourself the necessary help as soon as possible to stop the cycle of addiction.

Get The Help You Need

At Decision Point Center, we recognize that relapse prevention is one of the most important components of the recovery journey. That is why we dedicate ourselves to educating you and your family members about relapse and work with you to create a relapse plan together. If you are in need of treatment, call (844) 292-5010 today.

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