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Triggers and Cravings

Understanding Your Triggers for Drinking

December 5, 2022
13 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
December 5, 2022
13 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
December 5, 2022
13 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
December 5, 2022
13 min read
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Reframe Content Team
December 5, 2022
13 min read

Uncomfortable situations or emotions can turn into triggers, such as a recent breakup in which the other person is laying all the blame on you, or that you’ve caused by being emotionally unavailable. Or you may have been passed over for a promotion you greatly deserved, kicking in self-esteem triggers rooted in childhood rejection.

Money strains, not having anyone to truly talk to and arising family trouble can all result in an urge to drink.

Alcohol can be a great way to relax and have fun with friends. But sometimes, people drink more than they intended to. If this happens, it’s important to be kind to yourself. It’s natural to feel unhappy when you look back on those moments, but remember there’s a lot to learn from your past experiences.

Treat yourself gently and take the time to learn from your triggers. With patience and understanding, you can move on from these experiences and make better choices in the future.

The best questions to ask yourself

If you're trying to cut back on drinking, it can be helpful to understand your triggers - the things that lead you to drink in the first place. To do that, experts recommend asking yourself these key questions after being triggered.

  • What was the external stimulus?
  • What were you doing and who were you with when you felt the urge to drink?
  • What were you feeling internally?
  • Were you bored, stressed, or lonely?
  • What did you gain from drinking?
  • What did you lose?

Answering these questions can help you to become more aware of your triggers and make better choices.

What causes triggers?

Triggers can cause a person to react emotionally in a variety of ways, often in a negative manner. For example, encountering an unpleasant smell may remind someone of a bad experience they’ve had and make them feel angry or frustrated. In the case of cutting back on drinking, triggers can either be internal, such as wanting to disassociate during times of stress, or external, such as seeing people partying or being exposed to certain environmental cues.

It is important for individuals seeking recovery from addiction to stay away from possible triggers as well as receive professional help in order to overcome cravings and reduce the chances of relapse. Being aware and prepared about potentially triggering stimuli helps those dealing with addiction take proactive steps towards recovery.

What do triggers look like?

Triggers can take various shapes and forms, causing individuals to react emotionally and sometimes in damaging ways. A smell can trigger a traumatic memory that makes a person fearful or mad. Moreover, drinking-related triggers are an even more unpredictable and destructive force; they may come from either internal or external sources, such as seeing people drinking or being surrounded by familiar drinking cues.

It is important that people trying to cut back on drinking recognize the power of triggers so they can be prepared when faced with them and resolve any cravings associated with them. Understanding triggers and learning how to cope with them can be extremely beneficial when cutting back on drinking.

How can I tell when a trigger is in place?

A trigger can manifest itself in many ways. It can affect individuals differently and therefore should be approached with personal care and understanding. Often, triggers can be a person, a smell, a place, or any other experience which serves as a vivid reminder of upsetting emotions that have been experienced in the past.

Triggers play a major role in addiction and recovery; they are stimuli that may lead a person who is in recovery to want to drink, perpetuating the vicious cycle. Approach triggers with strong compassion and understanding, as they should be addressed holistically rather than superficially.

Triggers are often identifiable by the way someone reacts in a certain situation. Triggers can vary from person to person, but generally appear when they arereminded of an experience or event. These emotions can lead to being aggressive, crying uncontrollably, or trying to numb their feelings.

Over time, if these triggers are not addressed and dealt with, one may struggle with forming healthy relationships as well as coping with everyday difficulties. It's possible for individuals to learn how to manage triggers early on and gain more satisfying experiences even during difficult periods in life.

External and internal triggers

Triggers can have a powerful effect on individuals and can be divided into external and internal triggers. External triggers often take the form of major life events such as heartbreak, job loss or grief, whereas internal triggers may include shame, guilt, anger, dissatisfaction, and a sense of loss of control.

There are numerous sensory triggers such as sights, smells or memories that can cause disruption in our lives. Furthermore, feeling unsafe, misunderstood or judged can also be classified as either external or internal triggers. Given the wide range of causes for a trigger, it is important to identify and recognize yours in order to learn how to understand and react to them successfully.

Healthy coping strategies

Triggers can be the source of much distress and make it difficult to cope; however, there are healthy strategies for managing them. Self-awareness is key when identifying and controlling triggers to ensure that you don't give triggers too much power.

Exercise, rest, therapy or counseling, meditation or mindfulness, spending time with positive people, drinking water or tea for relaxation/hydration, joining a supportive community on apps like Reframe, eating nutritious meals and using positive distractions can all give individuals the healthy tools they need to manage their triggers in an effective way. Reframing negative attitudes or perceptions is also an important strategy for managing triggers. By using these strategies and taking a proactive approach to controlling one's environment and reactions towards their triggers, those who are suffering can feel empowered by the positive changes they have made in managing their triggers.

Mindfulness is an effective strategy for finding calm in moments of distress. By centering on the present moment, it can help protect a person from slipping into old and sometimes damaging patterns. Over time, understanding crucial triggers that disrupt balance can make all the difference, allowing individuals to build healthy coping strategies rather than turning to compulsive behavior or harmful activities as an outlet.

With practice, mindfulness can enable us to recognize when our negative thought processes start to take over and enable us to stay aware of our feelings before they manifest in unhealthy ways.

Unhealthy coping mechanisms

Unhealthy coping mechanisms are a common way for individuals to deal with triggers that manifest as stress, anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, these coping methods can do as much harm as good if left untreated.

Misdirected anger, violence, and various forms of abuse are some examples of unhealthy management of triggers. These behaviors can cause a person to become disconnected from their own power and lead to more negative habits such as self-harm or abusing substances.

For those individuals struggling with triggers, developing more positive outlets like talking out feelings is essential.

Causes for triggers

Triggers usually stem from a person's past experiences, whether positive or negative. These triggers can create powerful stories and emotions for individuals, which lead to difficult feelings and behavior such as frustration, depression, and isolation; these symptoms may become even more severe as the number of triggers increases.

A commonly encountered trigger is family conflict - someone who grew up in an abusive environment may be extremely sensitive to loud voices or fighting between family members. In response, that individual could become anxious, defensive, or distance him/herself in order to avoid triggering situations.

Why emotions matter when dealing with triggers

Emotions are generally at the heart of triggers - anger and guilt often surge up during triggering moments and cause individuals to act out their frustrations through compulsions or other unhealthy coping mechanisms. The insidiousness of triggers lies in how they can be brought up without warning in unexpected situations; thus being mindful of past events as well as keeping up with personal mental health is key to dealing with triggers effectively.

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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