It can be difficult enough to manage your own emotions, let alone another person’s emotions when you are both healing from substance use disorders (SUD). In outpatient addiction treatment you will interact with peers, staff, and therapists throughout your time, as you will also continue to interact with people outside of treatment. Painful or intense emotions can lead a person to seek substance use again. Learning to manage your own emotions is a crucial step in the recovery process.
Mental Health in Addiction Treatment
“Psychoactive substances produce their effects by modifying chemical signaling in the brain, affecting feelings, perceptions, thought processes, and behavior” (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration Services). This means drugs and alcohol can take over the brain’s executive functioning and alters the way you process and feel emotions.
It is a chemical imbalance that occurs in the brain, causing such effects as lapses in judgment and decision-making. Emotions such as pleasure or stress can feel extreme or dulled down.
Due to the imbalanced chemicals occurring in the brain, mental health disorders often coincide with SUD. Depression and anxiety are common symptoms of addiction. When you are in treatment, many people will be dealing with mental health, as well as addiction. This can cause emotions to be all over the spectrum as you and others are healing. It is completely normal that you may be learning emotional regulation.
Emotional Intelligence Can Be Learned in Outpatient Addiction Treatment
The ability to understand and manage your own and others’ emotions is called emotional intelligence. No one is born with emotional intelligence. Just as someone had to teach you to talk and walk, you had to have been taught to feel and read emotions.
For a variety of reasons, if a person is not raised appropriately or their development is impeded by traumatic events, then they may have missed out on learning important life skills. However, through different psychotherapies, such as dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) you can process your memories, experiences, and emotions that may have led you to use substances in the first place. With these therapies, you are able to look at distorted thoughts or feelings and learn to change negative behaviors and emotions.
Tips for Managing Your Own Emotions in Outpatient Addiction Treatment
Inside and outside of outpatient addiction treatment, you will interact with many people. You will have to manage your emotions when others are rude, disrespectful, or negligent. Sometimes you even have to manage your emotions when people are being overly friendly. If you are just beginning outpatient treatment, or you are continuing to struggle to manage your emotions, here are six tips to start you on your emotional regulation journey.
#1. Don’t Repress Your Emotions
When you push your emotions down and away, that is called repressing them. Repressing your emotions does not help, as emotions will find a way to come out and express themselves, either with uncontrollable behavior or with intense, overwhelming feelings. In the end, when you repress your emotions, the opposite will happen: you will experience extreme emotions. Identifying and processing your emotions makes it so you can move on from them.
#2. Find the Source of Your Emotions
Approximately two-thirds of your time in outpatient addiction treatment is spent in group settings. People can add to emotions, but sometimes they are not always the cause. Think about when you have been hangry – hungry and angry. Most times, people will have an attitude when it has been too long since they have eaten. However, it takes a while for most people to recognize that.
The same often happens when you are healing, especially around others. Emotions can be misplaced or misunderstood. Finding the source of your emotions is beneficial before acting on them or processing them.
#3 Learn When to Express Your Emotions
Each person in treatment needs to be able to express themselves and be heard. However, learning when to express your emotions can help your own peace of mind. The phrase, “pick your battles” is another way to look at it.
For example, in treatment, someone else may express how they do not want a relationship with their family. Family may be a huge value to you, but is it worth it to speak up and try to convince this person family is important? No. Another example is if someone says something antagonistic against you. Is that person worth your time? Is their comment worth your energy? That is for you to decide what is worth expressing your emotions over.
#4 Process Your Own Emotions Before Trying to Understand Others
Group therapy is part of outpatient addiction treatment. In group therapy, you listen to others tell stories about themselves, their addiction, and their healing journey. Sometimes you can provide feedback. Whatever the case, processing your own emotions is important before trying to understand others’ emotions or intentions.
#5. Take Space
Sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself is to take space. People and their emotions can be overwhelming. When you are just starting out and learning your coping skills and learning to use your voice in group settings, it can be helpful to just take space and come back to the person or the problem when you have had time to process it.
#6 Utilize Your Therapist
This is one of the more important tips. Your therapist is there for you. You can use them as you need to process emotions. Therapists can help you learn emotional intelligence.
It may feel uncomfortable at first, but opening up to a person takes practice. Once you learn they are not going to turn what you say against you, but try to help you understand and process, you can use your therapist or therapists as a source of support for difficult emotions or people with difficult emotions.
Does it feel like your emotions are all over the place and you cannot manage them? With a substance use disorder (SUD), emotional upheaval is normal due to the chemical changes substances cause in the brain. At Lighthouse Recovery Texas, we offer different levels of care to help you heal all aspects of yourself, including uncontrollable feelings. Through different therapy modalities, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) you can learn to identify false and inaccurate thoughts, as well as learn emotion regulation. Our Lighthouse Staff is here to help you on your healing journey. Contact us today at (214) 396-0259 to learn more about the therapies we offer.