How to Deal with Emotional Issues in Recovery

You might expect a number of physical withdrawal symptoms when in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction, but you should be aware that emotional issues are also a common problem. The type of emotional problems you experience will usually depend on the kind of substance to which you were addicted as well as the length of time you were struggling with your illness.

In the early stages of recovery, it is normal to feel quite fuzzy and to have very few emotions. However, as you progress, your mind will begin to clear and it is at this stage that you may experience a host of emotions such as paranoia, low self-esteem, mood swings, anger or depression. You may even suffer from panic attacks. The good news is that you can learn to deal with these emotions and move on from them.

Low Self-Esteem

Recovering addicts commonly feel inadequate and suffer low self-esteem issues. They have unbelievably high expectations of themselves, and can be guilty of underestimating themselves while overestimating everyone else.

To deal with low self-esteem, you need to learn to accept and love yourself as you are. It is important to remember that your addiction was an illness and not something that affected you because you are a ‘bad’ person. Just like everyone else, you have your strengths and your weaknesses, and you need to focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses. Stick with your recovery and surround yourself with positive people.

Mood Swings

Mood swings are very common in addiction recovery, and you may feel great one minute and awful the next. It is normal to suffer from mood swings but if you find they are severe, then you may need to see your GP. Continue to work through your recovery programme and use meditation techniques to help you deal with the ups and downs and they will pass with time.


Many individuals in recovery have unrealistic expectations of what sober life is going to be like. They may then experience feelings of anger when things are not turning out quite as they expected. The problem with anger is that it can often lead to relapse if you are not careful. It is important that you do not act on your feelings of anger as this can scupper your recovery. If you are experiencing these feelings, you should talk to someone such as a friend, family member, counsellor or your sponsor. You can also call us here at Addiction Helper if you need someone to talk to.


Depression tends to affect those in recovery from alcohol and certain drugs. Depression is another emotion that often occurs as a result of unrealistic expectations of recovery. Periods of depression are normal in recovery but if you find that most of your days are filled with thoughts of sadness and you are unable to get pleasure from anything, you may need to see a doctor. It is important, however, that you tell any medical professional you see that you are in recovery from addiction as many anti-depressants can be addictive and would be harmful to your sobriety.

Panic Attacks

Some recovering addicts will suffer panic attacks, particularly in the early days of recovery. These intense feelings of fear and worry can result from your brain trying to deal with the fact that you are no longer using chemical substances. You can help prevent panic attacks by avoiding substances such as caffeine and by using meditation techniques. It is also a good idea to learn what triggers your panic attacks and try to avoid them. If you continue to have panic attacks, speak to your counsellor as there are non-drug treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy that have proven to be effective in their treatment.

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