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How Professional Stress Fuels Addiction

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Addiction can affect anyone at any age. Whether exposed to drugs or alcohol from a young age during formative years or introduced to new stresses while navigating professional life, addictive substances can impact anybody. Daily stress levels can directly affect your client’s use of these substances. Professionals in any field may be exposed to constant stress that results in an unhealthy engagement with drugs or alcohol. 

The Stresses of the Professional World

The unique stresses of any professional atmosphere are instrumental in understanding how addiction can develop. Each job will have its pressures, hardships, and responsibilities. Not all jobs will promote these stresses the same way, and even similar jobs within a given professional field can have very different environments. 

Military personnel, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and other first responders are at the forefront of stressful occupations that impact one’s propensity for substance use. Constant exposure to traumatic events, high expectations, and public scrutiny are considerations for those in these fields that cause excessive stress. Each job has unique trials, and professional stress is not confined to one particular job title. Every occupation will have its pressures, and all are important in order to learn to process them in a healthy way. 

Long hours can cause a person to burn through their mental or physical stamina and quickly reach a fatigued state. These extended hours compromise one’s ability to engage in sufficient self-care or sleep, thus preventing a person from being able to recuperate properly. For some, this means that they may be working more hours each day than expected, while others may find themselves called in on days off with regularity. 

Unrealistic expectations can also be a significant source of stress. By having goals placed upon themselves that are unnecessarily complicated, difficult, or impossible, individuals constantly measure themselves against an unfair metric. In the workplace, having unrealistic expectations can frame one’s time on the job as some failure when in reality, the problem lies with how success is measured. Coupled with professions that evaluate an individual based on more numerical metrics—such as the number of sales rather than how much one contributed to the company in general—an individual can feel devalued. 

Social environments and peers also impact stress levels in your client’s workplace. From coworkers and competitive atmospheres to office cultures that normalize hitting the bar after work or using illicit drugs, environmental factors are challenging to leave behind. They can continue to manifest as stresses at home. 

The Effects of Work Stress at Home

A stressful professional atmosphere is incredibly difficult to leave at the door, and many of these stresses may come home with a person and affect their home life. Intense negative feelings are prevalent, and one may feel themselves having difficulty sleeping or managing emotional responses. The desire to put aside these negative feelings can be intense, and the quickest way may seem to be to use addictive substances to forcefully alter one’s mood. This creates a dangerous precedent that can develop an unhealthy relationship with addictive substances, leading to substance use disorder or addiction if unaddressed. 

The Role of Addictive Substances

With the myriad of stresses affecting a person daily, it is customary to want a way to quickly process these feelings of pressure, anxiety, or frustration. Addictive substances may seem like a fast-acting solution to help an individual decompress after a stressful day. Coworkers may have instilled a degree of normalcy in the use of addictive substances as a coping mechanism.

While addictive substances may purport to be a positive, freeing feeling, it creates a dangerous pretext by viewing alcohol or drugs as a solution—a reliable way to mask the stress. Thus an individual may begin to lean on its use. This positive relationship is a fallacy. It does nothing to address the underlying issues that make a person’s work-life stressful and cause even more difficulties separating professional and home life. 

By masking stresses rather than processing them, an individual relies on addictive substances while avoiding other coping strategies, such as putting up professional barriers or developing alternative social outlets. This combination leaves your client isolated in their coping strategies, creating a reliance on drugs or alcohol that can quickly grow into addiction. 

Overcoming Professional Stress

Addiction is a powerful disease, but it can be overcome. Dedicated detox and recovery programs are crucial for finding a healthy, sober work-life balance. Recovery is not just about learning to say no to drugs or alcohol but is instrumental in identifying and addressing the sources of stress that may cause an individual to seek false release in addictive substances in the first place. Working with professionals to simultaneously handle one’s professional stresses and use of addictive substances informs the most effective plan for a healthy, sober life ahead. 

The professional world and addiction are intimately linked, and pervasive professional stress can influence one’s use of dangerous, addictive substances. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we understand your job’s unique relationship with your mental health and addiction. We are prepared to develop a recovery plan individual to you that addresses your needs in recovery and your professional stresses. From detox and residential programs to intensive outpatient care, we can meet you where you are on your journey. Coupled with proven therapeutic techniques and backed by a tight-knit, small, and supportive atmosphere of peers and professionals, we have a place for you to develop your own best practices safely amongst like-minded people. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, or to speak to a caring, trained staff member about your unique needs and goals, call us today at (714) 492-1119.

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