Identifying Risky Behaviors in a Loved One during Stressful Times

Do you have a loved one who recently experienced a stressful life event (SLE) such as the death of a family member, a divorce, or diagnosis of a chronic illness? Other noteworthy emotional stressors include interpersonal conflict, job loss, and loss of a child (i.e., through a custody battle).

Everyone responds to stress differently, but certain factors such as motivational structure and resilience are significant predictors of one’s tendency to abuse alcohol and drugs (Fedardi, Azad & Nemati, 2010). “In treatment, substance abusers with more adaptive motivation show less problem denial and more motivation for change than those with a more maladaptive pattern” (Cox & Klinger, 2002). During stressful times, when individuals have adaptive motivational structures, such as a network of friends and family members who care, they are less likely to turn to alcohol and substance abuse than those who have maladaptive motivational structures. In SAMHSA’s publication, Enhancing Motivation for Change in Substance Abuse Treatment, evidence suggests that those who turn to substance abuse are motivated by their inability to regulate their inner life. In such cases, they are likely to turn to self-destructive and impulsive behaviors to deal with stress.

“Those who turn to substance abuse are motivated by their inability to regulate their inner life” – SAMHSA”

Common High-Risk Behaviors

Has your loved one exhibited any of the following common high-risk, maladaptive behaviors?

• Increasing/excessive consumption of alcohol
• Reckless driving
• More frequent visits to casinos
• Impulsive purchases of big-ticket items that are clearly unwise purchases
• Unusual physical aggression
• Binge eating and/or drinking

Knowing your loved one’s personal characteristics would be helpful in identifying potential troublesome behaviors. If your parent, sibling, son or daughter has a history of depression, low self-esteem, low academic achievement or job performance, they are likely to be emotionally prone to alcohol and substance abuse; their self-image significantly affects their resilience, which would impact the following:

• Ability to execute a plan to get back up on one’s feet
• Feelings of one’s own competence and appearance
• Communication and problem-solving skills
• Ability to regulate one’s emotional and thought life

How to Strengthen Your Loved One’s Resilience Factors

Innate resilient characteristics are said to be protective factors against self-destructive behaviors, but resilience is also needed to gain and maintain a happy life by meeting daily goals after the stressful life event is over (Fedardi et al., 2010). Creating an environment conducive to personal, post-traumatic growth will enhance your loved one’s resilience since social support is the key ingredient in influencing healthy coping behaviors and attitudes when adapting to life’s stressors (Prati & Pietrantoni, 2009).

You can seek social support and advice from an experienced interventionist at New Method Wellness about your concerns. Trauma-informed care is available for anyone experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, substance use disorder and other challenges related to alcohol or drug abuse. Our 2:1 staff-to-client ratio ensures that your loved ones will receive excellent care and support that they need. Accredited by CARF International and the Joint Commission, New Method Wellness is committed to delivering the best in integrated care, blending holistic and clinical evidence-based practices to heal the body, mind and spirit.

Call 866.951.1824 and speak with our Outreach Coordinator today!

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US). Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services.Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2014. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57.) Chapter 3, Understanding the Impact of Trauma. Available from:
Cox WM & Klinger E. (2002). Motivational structure. Relationships with substance use and processes of change. Addict Behav. 2002 Nov-Dec;27(6):925-40. Retrieved from
Gabriele Prati & Luca Pietrantoni (2009) Optimism, Social Support, and Coping Strategies As Factors Contributing to Posttraumatic Growth: A Meta-Analysis, Journal of Loss and Trauma, 14:5, 364-388, DOI: 10.1080/15325020902724271
Javad Salehi Fadardi, Hajar Azad & Azadeh Nemati (2009) The relationship between resilience, motivational structure, and substance use. Ferdowsi Universiy of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran. Available from:

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