Overwhelming Emotions and Maladaptive Strategies
In these blogs, you’ve heard us speak often about things like triggers and coping skills. For those of you who don’t know, “triggers” are those events, places, objects that spark a serious emotional reaction. To folks in substance abuse recovery, that could be the sight of a syringe or driving past a particular liquor store. To those of us recovering from eating disorders, it might be conversations about calorie counting or Instagram “thinspiration.” By coping skills, we mean those activities that ameliorate the triggered response. Positive coping skills include exercise, journaling, and creative hobbies and negative ones are a slide back into addictive or disordered behavior. What these terms are referring to is emotional regulation and it’s a core concept of mental health, particularly in the recovery of both substance abuse and eating disorders.
Emotional Regulation and Personal Growth
Overwhelming emotional states are an inescapable part of human existence. Family and friends fall ill and die. Jobs disappear. The world shuts down during a pandemic. Part of growing as a human being is learning how to cope with the extreme emotions borne of these events. We do this through awareness and acceptance of emotions and by learning how to behave appropriately when life throws us a curveball. However, scientists believe that challenges in regulating emotions play a role in the development and maintenance of substance abuse and eating disorders. Somewhere along the line, we find an inclination toward maladaptive strategies. We drink to numb the pain of losing a loved one. We restrict our eating to gain a sense of control when faced with feelings of chaos. Without learning how to regulate our emotions – and more importantly, our response to those emotions – we will relapse without fail.
Cognitive and Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Some of the methods the professionals use to help teach emotional regulation are practices like cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT, teaches clients the relationship between thoughts and behaviors. It also teaches them how to use these relationships to their advantage. Dialectical behavior therapy is actually based on CBT. However, where CBT’s focus is on thoughts and behaviors, DBT deals more closely with the emotional aspect. It relies heavily on mindfulness techniques and patients learn to better manage their emotions and regulate negative behavior. CBT has proven to be particularly effective in treating depression and anxiety. DBT research shows excellent results in the treatment of borderline personality disorder, sexual trauma, and – you guessed it – substance abuse and eating disorders.
Build Your Foundation for Success
Ocean Recovery has been successfully treating substance abuse and eating disorders since 2002. Furthermore, we include a number of CBT modalities, including dialectical behavior therapy as part of our holistic approach to treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance abuse or eating disorder, please consider giving us a call today. Our admissions team is ready to help you start building your foundation for success.