Types of Relapse in Recovery

man leaning on hand at wall

For someone in recovery, relapse is a common fear. While relapse is the main concern by many people, relapses occur due to triggers. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, relapse triggers are events or circumstances that can lead to uncomfortable feelings such as anxiety, panic, or despair. Relapse triggers can include people, places, or things. The following is a brief description of the types of triggers one may experience:

  • Environmental triggers: This often includes social events or circumstances that were once associated with using the drug, such as driving by a place where the person used to engage in addictive behaviors.
  • Re-exposure triggers: This typically occurs when a person is near those using – such as a person with alcoholism being in a bar, for example.
  • Stress triggers: Emotions such as anger, anxiety, fear, and sadness can become a trigger.

These types of triggers all lead to more general bases of relapse. A study conducted by a Toronto researcher in 2015 titled “Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery” published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine states the following as stages of relapse:

  • Emotional relapse: When this occurs, a person’s emotions trigger them to relapse, even if the person was not intending on it. Bottling up emotions, isolating oneself, not going to recovery meetings, attending recovery meetings but not participating, focusing on other people and their problems, and poor eating and sleeping habits can all trigger a relapse.
  • Mental relapse: This involves heavy activity in the brain, typically when a person is “at war” with one’s thoughts. Craving the use of drugs or alcohol, thinking about people, places, or things that relate to past use, minimizing or glamorizing thoughts of past use, bargaining, lying, thinking of schemes to better control use, searching for relapse opportunities, and planning a relapse are all triggers to relapse.
  • Physical relapse: The actual relapse itself.

These are the main forms of relapse, and all triggers stem from one of these bases. If a person in recovery does not directly confront a trigger, whether it be independently, with a support group, or an addiction leader, they will likely fall into further rumination, leading to relapse. Although relapse is considered a normal part of recovery, many people feel like they have “failed” or may continue to blame themselves for presuming addictive behaviors.




If you have an addiction, speak with a health care professional today. Our licensed, professional experts at Avalon Malibu are ready to help you begin your journey to recovery. No matter how long your addiction, recovery and treatment is still possible. We believe in working with you to personalize your journey to recovery and walk with you every step of the way. Take control over your life today. Call us at 855-392-9791.

We will work with most out of network PPO policies

Call 888-835-8075 to verify your insurance benefits today!
Blue Cross Blue Shield
Health Net
Blue Of California