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Understanding Triggers and Cravings

Updated: Mar 6


What Are Cravings?


Cravings are a key part of addiction awareness and recovery. They are intense feelings that make you want to use the substance again. They are driven by the desire to experience the same positive effects that you had before. However, cravings are more complex than they seem.


A craving is a combination of a mental and emotional urge, as well as a physical demand from your brain chemistry. Substances affect your brain by releasing chemicals that make you feel happy and rewarded. When you stop using those substances, your brain produces cravings to make you seek that reward again in the same unhealthy way.


How Long Do Cravings Last?


Cravings can be short-lived and disappear in a few moments, but sometimes they can last for hours or even days. Moreover, even if you have been abstinent from the substance for a long time, you may experience cravings again after many years of recovery. In fact, you may not have cravings for decades and then suddenly feel them very strongly.


Understanding and Managing Your Triggers



What are Triggers?


If you struggle with addiction, you probably know what triggers are. They are the things that make you crave the substance you are addicted to, whether it is food, alcohol, drugs, nicotine, gambling, or something else. Triggers can be external or internal. External triggers are the people, places, situations, or objects that remind you of your addiction. Internal triggers are the thoughts, feelings, or sensations that make you want to use.


Triggers can be very powerful and hard to resist. That is why it is important to have a strategy for dealing with them.

  • One strategy is to avoid your triggers as much as possible.

  • However, avoiding your triggers is not always possible or realistic. Sometimes, you will encounter them unexpectedly or unavoidably. In those cases, you need to have a plan for how to cope with your triggers without giving in to them.


Some coping strategies include:

- Distracting yourself with something else that is positive and healthy, such as listening to music, reading a book, or calling a friend.

- Reminding yourself of the reasons why you want to abstain from engaging in the addictive behavior and the benefits of staying abstinent.

- Using positive self-talk to encourage yourself and challenge any negative thoughts that might tempt you to use.

- Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga, to calm yourself down and reduce stress.

- Seeking support from someone who understands what you are going through, such as a therapist, a sponsor, a family member, or a friend.

- Rewarding yourself for resisting your triggers and celebrating your progress.


Triggers are inevitable when you are recovering from addiction. But they don't have to control you or make you relapse. By understanding your triggers and having a plan for how to cope with them, you can increase your chances of staying sober and achieving your recovery goals.


Trigger Foods


Food Addicts can recognize which foods have operated like substances and triggered them to lose control over their food consumption, quantities, choices, and timing of their eating episodes, if they have progressed in the disease.


Individually identified trigger foods are:

  1. foods that cause a person to lose control over their food consumption

  2. foods that cause a person to lose control over their eating behavior

  3. foods that cause a person to experience intense cravings, bingeing, or compulsive overeating.

  4. foods that cause a person to experience impaired control and spend a lot of time thinking about, engaging in and recovering from food consumption

  5. foods that cause a person to experience social impairment with lowered engagement in physical, mental and social aspects of a healthy quality of life

  6. foods that cause a person to engage in risky usage that lead to depression, increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease & some cancers

  7. foods that cause a person to experience persistent cravings and negative affects when attempting to regulate food consumption

Individually Identified Trigger foods are different for each person, depending on their personal history, physiology, and psychological factors.

Often people are triggered by fast foods, sweet foods, salty foods, junk foods, baked foods, and foods served at celebrations and readily consumable off the shelf.


Some common examples of trigger foods are

sugar,

flour,

chocolate,

cheese,

pizza,

chips,

ice cream, etc.


Food addicts need to abstain from their individually identified trigger foods because when they consume those foods, they act like drugs in their brains and bodies, activating the reward and pleasure centers and releasing serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins.



These neurotransmitters create a powerful cycle of addiction that is hard to break.


When food addicts consume their trigger foods, they feel a temporary high, followed by a crash, guilt, shame, and withdrawal symptoms. This leads them to seek more of the same food to relieve their discomfort and repeat the cycle.