Defining a Crisis and How to Help a Loved One Through It

Addiction and mental health recovery are not unchanging, narrow paths. Rather, the journey is filled with highs and lows, each of which can feel empowering or detrimental. Lending support to a loved one can make a huge difference in ensuring that their recovery is progressing despite these fluctuations. However, if these lower points in recovery feel exceptionally debilitating, it can indicate a crisis. Understanding what constitutes a crisis, how it differs from experiencing a low point, and how to help a loved one navigate this tumultuous time can be vital in developing an effective course of action.

What is a Crisis? 

Not all people will experience a crisis in the same way. For some, a crisis can be spurned from a major stressor, such as a sudden change in a relationship or being in a high-risk environment. Others may experience a crisis as the result of a buildup of stress resulting from not feeling heard, valued, being discriminated against, or as a result of not having access to a self-care outlet.

Regardless of how they occur, the effects of a crisis can feel overwhelming. A crisis is a short but debilitating change in one’s ability to process their own thoughts, emotions, or decisions rationally, leading to a number of dangerous behaviors and an abrupt change in thought patterns. Those experiencing a crisis can find it incredibly difficult to properly care for their own well-being, even leading to self-destructive behaviors due to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, confusion, or depression. Crises are much more than a low point in one’s recovery, demanding direct support to address their drastic inability to regularly function and focus on their recovery goals, 

While crises affect one’s mental health, they are also closely tied to an individual’s use of addictive substances. The overwhelming nature of a crisis can also cause an individual to compromise their sobriety in an effort to placate these intense feelings and seemingly halt the controlling crisis. This has the potential to create a dangerous cycle, as these substances can continue to destabilize one’s emotional state with their continued use. 

How to Help a Loved One Through a Crisis

Creating a plan early in recovery to prepare for a crisis is essential in supporting you or your loved one. While this can be a difficult time for all, knowing what to expect can help guide your loved one through a crisis and emerge safely. 

Stay Calm

Panicking can add to the already chaotic perspective of those suffering from a crisis. Remaining calm and keeping a soft tone of voice can set the necessary atmosphere needed to continue providing aid. Walking slowly, speaking softly, and minimizing unnecessary movements can ensure a loved one isn’t misinterpreting body language or intentions. 

Check Surroundings

Taking stock of one’s surroundings is also necessary to ensure that there isn’t anything that someone experiencing a crisis may harm themselves with. For some, this can be the removal of objects that may be used if an individual has a history of self-harm, while others may need to clear the space of alcohol or drugs in order to prevent access to these substances. If a crisis is occurring in a public space, guiding an individual to a safe and quiet location can prevent unnecessary stimuli that can exacerbate the situation. Invoking escape plans and transportation with other supports may also be necessary.

Model Grounding Strategies

It can be difficult for one experiencing a crisis to employ their own practiced coping strategies. As a support, modeling effective behavior can be incredibly beneficial. Staying in one’s line of sight and practicing breathing strategies oneself or guiding a loved one to name objects in the room can help ground an individual, allowing for more effective communication. 

Avoid Blame

Crises are inherently illogical, and it is important not to hold another’s behaviors or words against them. Facing criticisms or judgment can be incredibly difficult to process during a crisis, and it is important to remember that no person sets out to have a crisis. Even self-destructive behaviors may seem to make sense to a loved one in the moment, and holding these actions against someone can stifle the greater recovery process. 

Contact Professionals

Crises are complex and difficult to manage, creating intense emotional situations for all involved. While helping a loved one through a crisis is a noble effort, it is also important to acknowledge when a crisis is out of your scope of comfortability. Knowing when to contact a professional for additional support during this time is crucial, and having a loved one’s therapist or recovery facility saved in one’s phone can help facilitate communication to provide guidance and professional education during this time.

Knowing the different signs of a crisis and understanding how they can affect a loved one are essential practices in becoming an effective support. However, it may also be needed to find a recovery facility that is the right fit for your loved one’s sober journey. At Avalon Malibu, we understand the complex nature of a crisis and are prepared to help you and your loved one navigate these tumultuous times and maintain a sober and healthy outlook on your life. We offer an array of programs to help meet you where you are in your recovery, whether you are just beginning your sober journey and engaging in a detox program, moving through residential, partial hospitalization, or intensive outpatient programs, our facility provides individual and group therapy and a myriad of proven therapeutic approaches to help you regain control during a crisis and maintain this agency during these difficult times. For more information on how we can help you, call us today at (844) 857-5992.

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