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What is Relapse?

Relapse is no longer a jargon of the psychological world. We all have used it when addressing someone’s “failure” to give up on something or when they get back to square one. And for those who don’t know what relapse is but might have witnessed it closely, will understand that why is it important understand why someone recoils back to a state of addiction or depression, after winning over it for a long period of time.

• What is Relapse?

– To state it simply, relapse is the reappearance of a certain condition that was previously healed or returning to a substance use, whose addiction was cured.

– It is common and occurs commonly when an individual is on their way to healing or giving up on some kind of addictive substance use.

– According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40% to 60% individuals relapse within the first year of their treatment.

– A relapse is not an individual’s failure, because recovery requires changes in lifestyle ,strong coping mechanisms and an undeterred will to recuperate.

– For someone who wants to control and not quit their behaviour will relapse due to the return of an  uncontrolled behaviour.

– For example,if someone had controlled their habit of smoking,will start chain smoking again due to their relapse.

– The risk of relapse is the highest in the first 90 days of recovery, as the person is susceptible to stress during such periods and will not be motivated to earn the reward of a healthy life and will be tempted to fall back in the vicious cycle of addiction.

– The common misconception about relapse is that it is just limited to substance use,but in fact relapse can be seen in patients experiencing depression and anxiety as well.

• Common triggers to Relapse:

1. Discomforts caused due to substance or psychological state withdrawl.

2. Feelings like anger, frustration,hunger etc.

3. Engaging with friends or partners that are currently into substance use or indulge you too in it.

4. Feeling lonely.

5. Revisiting places that remind you of your addictions.

6. Breakups

7. Over confidence over ones ability to control themselves in situations of being surrounded by substance users.

Relapse :An indicative of Failure?

– Relapse is not failure!

– Relapse is a part of the procedure of healing and getting over a prolonged addiction or state of mind.

– Many people will feel that they have failed if they relapse and would eventually quit on putting efforts thinking that giving up on their addiction is an impossible task for them.

– Some programs too take a toll on the patients who relapse.

– Individuals need to accept that relapse is a normal part of this journey and may occur multiple times,and the ones who make peace with this fact are more likely to overcome their addiction.

How to prevent Relapse?

Research shows that seeking help and support from therapists and peers can prevent or minimise relapse. Particularly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help reduce the negative triggers and inhibitions regarding overcoming their addictions.

Experts recognise relapse a stage wise process and identifying these stages can help one better handle their recoil.

1. Emotional Relapse : During this phase the individual might not be thinking of switching back to their addictive lifestyle, but their lack of self control , not paying attention to their lifestyle and health and not attending their therapy sessions might lead them to spiral back. This is when utmost care should be given to the individual and they themselves too should take care that they are not isolated ,have a proper sleep and stay in the company of people who help then overcome their fears and motivate them towards a better life.

2. Mental Relapse : This phase is marked by the person’s desire to change and their simultaneously their thoughts about their past where they were addicted to substance use and how it made them feel. Hanging out with friends who were a part of their drug use circle or lying to ourselves that their “high” feeling was their gateway to happiness are sign boards with “Relapse lies ahead!” Emotional support and therapy can help you cope up with this phase.

3. Physical Relapse : This is the last stage where a person finally relapses and continues with their past behaviours and addictions. It becomes difficult to stop this process.

How to take relapse positively?

-Accepting that relapse is a part of this process is they key towards taking relapse positively and winning over your addiction.

– But that doesn’t take away from that fact that relapse shouldn’t be taken seriously,but good recovery programs will plan ahead of the process regarding relapse prevention.

– Such plans will help you anticipate the behaviours,thoughts and factors that lead to relapse and you will be able to combat it way before you reach the final stage.

– Recovery should be on top of your mind,and most importantly you should think through that what triggered the relapse.

– Relapse can be triggered by both positive and negative events.

– If someone was used to substance use to relieve their stress,then whenever they are stressed they will think of those times when they used to unload themselves using the addictive.

– if people around you are celebrating with hard drinks then even that might trigger your relapse. So it is necessary to think through what triggered your relapse in the first place.


So it is important that one moves ahead with commitment and willingness to handle these triggers and lead their way to a healthier life.

What do you think?

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Written by Payal Hora

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Karen Fernándes

Well written. I liked the examples

Riya Rajkotiya

Very informative article

Riya Rajkotiya

Great peice of work

Ayeman Qamri

Great!!! very well written

Jigyasa vashistha

awesome work done 🙂 useful article

Nidhi Dahiya

Amazing work. Keep writing!