DiscoverCounselor Toolbox PodcastReducing Vulnerabilities and Relapse Triggers
Reducing Vulnerabilities and Relapse Triggers

Reducing Vulnerabilities and Relapse Triggers

Update: 2020-04-221



Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes


• Define vulnerabilities

• Identify some of the most common vulnerabilities

• Their effects

• Ways to prevent them

– Note: Each of the vulnerabilities has its own presentation. This section is designed to give you an overview and get you thinking about possible small changes that might have a big impact.

Why I Care

– Vulnerabilities are situations or things that

– Make it more difficult to deal with life on life’s terms leading to depression, anxiety or “stress”

– Make it easier for you to over-react or get stuck

– Depression occurs if you feel helpless or hopeless

– Anxiety occurs if you feel powerless or out of control

– Addictive behaviors increase when you feel a need to escape because of stress, anxiety, depression or pain

Individual Vulnerabilities: Physical

– Pain

– Effects

– Sleep problems

– Difficulty concentrating

– Irritable mood

– Medications are depressants and can worsen all of the above

– Interventions

– Talk with your doctor

– Explore nonpharmacological interventions

Individual Vulnerabilities: Physical

– Poor nutrition

– Your body needs the building blocks to

– Recover from injury

– Keep you from getting sick

– Make happy chemicals

– Interventions

– Water…. 60 ounces per day

– Have three colors on your plate at each meal (condiments don’t count)

– Try to eat smaller meals every few hours

Individual Vulnerabilities: Physical

– Lack of sufficient, quality sleep

– Drug/alcohol induced sleep is rarely good quality

– Lack of Sleep Effects

– Fogginess

– Difficulty concentrating

– Irritability

– Overeating

– Interventions

– Develop a sleep routine

– Cut back on caffeine and other stimulants 6-12 hours before bed

Individual Vulnerabilities: Physical

– Illness

– Effects

– Sleep disruption

– Exhaustion

– Foggy head/difficulty concentrating

– Irritability

– Interventions

– Compassion

– Good nutrition

Individual Vulnerabilities: Physical

– Brain changes

– Brain changes can be

– Hereditary

– From an accident

– As a result of addictive behaviors

– Effects

– Changes in the structure of the brain have all kinds of effects including memory, concentration, and mood.

– Intervention

– Eat a good diet to give the body the necessary building blocks

– Get adequate quality rest

– Medication

Individual Vunerabilities: Emotional

– Anger

– Anxiety

– Depression

– Grief

– Guilt

– Jealousy

– Resentment

– Inability to self-soothe

Individual Vunerabilities: Emotional

– When you are feeling negative emotions

– Effects

– It causes the brain to keep the fight-or-flight reaction going (which takes energy)

– It lacks or prevents the happy, calming neurotransmitters from being excreted

– Interventions

– Develop coping skills to deal with them

– Insert positive/rewarding experiences

– Get plenty of rest

– Eat a healthy diet

– Exercise

Individual Vulnerabilities: Mental/Cognitive

– Global, internal, stable attributional style

– Effects

– When everything is always it adds extra stress

– When anything that happens reflects on you as a person, it adds extra stress

– Interventions

– Focus on things being specific and alterable

– Identify what is good about you as a person

– Explore the difference between what makes you a good person vs your skills

Individual Vulnerabilities: Mental/Cognitive

– Extremely external or internal locus of control

– Both situations add stress

– Effects

– External locus of control means you feel you have no control over anything

– Internal locus of control means you feel like you should be able to control everything.

– Interventions

– Identify what things you can control and use your energy for them

– Figure out how you are going to cope with things you cannot control

Individual Vulnerabilities: Mental/Cognitive

– Low Self-esteem

– Self esteem is how you feel about who you are compared with who you think you should be

– Effects

– Low self-esteem can cause people to feel helpless or not deserving of love or success

– Interventions

– Explore what characteristics you think you should have but do not

– Decide if they are important.

– Decide what to do about it.

Individual Vulnerabilities: Mental/Cognitive

– Negative perceptions/cognitive style

– Effects

– Seeing the world as negative, depressing, out of control or scary makes life more stressful

– If you see everything as negative (not rewarding) you will not want to do anything

– Interventions

– Look for the silver lining: When you start to think about something as negative, find the positive

– Look for exceptions

Individual Vulnerabilities: Mental/Cognitive

– Poor organization/time management

– Poor time management effects

– It can lead to being over committed

– It cause people to feel rushed/harried

– It can cause people to forget to do things leading to conflict

– Interventions

– Make a list of must-dos at the beginning of every week

– Stop saying yes right away

– Identify and address time sucks

Individual Vulnerabilities: Social

– Poor communication skills

– Effects

– Impedes you from stating your needs

– May cause misunderstandings

– Can hurt your relationships

– Interventions

– Learn about effective verbal and nonverbal communication

– Don’t assume you understand what the other person is talking about

Individual Vulnerabilities: Social

– Weak emotional boundaries

– Effects

– You may have difficulty feeling happy unless those around you are happy

– You may take everyone else’s bad mood personally

– Interventions

– Examine why it is not safe to feel how you feel

– Start paying attention to your wants, needs and feelings

Individual Vulnerabilities: Social

– Need for external validation

– Effects

– Not feeling okay unless you are constantly surrounded by people who tell you you are okay

– Interventions

– Identify why you are okay

– Look at why you need other people to validate you and work on that.


– Addressing vulnerabilities frees up energy so you can deal with other “stuff” that comes your way

– Eliminating vulnerabilities can help you feel less stressed, exhausted and overwhelmed all the time

– Persistent vulnerabilities are the first relapse warning sign (HALT)

– Being mindful of when you are vulnerable and taking positive steps to address it are crucial to recovery success.









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Reducing Vulnerabilities and Relapse Triggers

Reducing Vulnerabilities and Relapse Triggers

Charles Snipes