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Addiction and Emotional Vulnerability

The biological and psychological impact of drugs and alcohol on an individual can result in significant emotional vulnerability. A life of addiction is stressful with dysregulated thoughts, emotions, and relationships. Heightened emotional vulnerability is the result. High emotional vulnerability involves increased sensitivity and reactivity to your environment and relationships. An individual’s ability to manage day to day stressors increasingly diminishes.

Big reactions come with only a little provocation. Thinking gets cloudy.  Relationships are filled with turmoil.  An individual gets stuck in their emotion and is set up with a high sensitivity for the next emotional event.  The cycle keeps going and growing.

Problems arise when emotions take control. A person struggles to regulate their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. An individual gets stuck and can’t change how they feel. Attention span decreases and irritability increases. A person struggles to focus and basic tasks grow more difficult. The ultimate threat is the increase in emotionally driven impulsivity. Long term negative consequences can be the result of acting right away when intense emotions are felt.

Attending to emotional vulnerability is imperative when treating an addiction to drugs and alcohol. The ability to effectively manage emotions and navigate relationships is fundamental in relapse prevention. High emotional vulnerability is great risk for the newly sober in the path of recovery.  Evidenced based practices such as Cognitive Behavioral and Dialectical Behavioral Therapies provide education, skills, tools, and interventions. 

Grounding oneself in mindful thinking supports effective management of difficult emotions. Addictions impact on a person’s emotions should be repaired and rebuilt for success and long- term recovery.

Matt VanDusen
AToN Center 888-535-1516