What Causes Relapse? Why Do People Relapse on Alcohol?



There are a number of things that can push somebody towards drinking, even when they know it’s doing them a lot of harm.

We could go in-depth into various studies, and psychology, and behavioral science, to really dig into what causes people to relapse on a scholarly level, but we’re going to be keeping things a little more accessible today, but we will still be including links to studies and additional resources if you want to approach this from that angle.

This is more for people who drink and want to gain some insights that might speak to them a bit, and it’s also especially for the family members and loved ones of alcoholics who want to understand.

A Few Things To Remember When a Loved One Relapses

  • They aren’t doing it to hurt you.
  • They are probably more upset relapsing than you are.
  • They probably don’t want this.
  • They need help but you might not be able to give them what they need.

An alcoholic who relapses, especially when they have a big support system around them, might feel a huge burden of shame and like they’re setting everyone down. These awful feelings can make things even harder on the alcoholic, because that goes on top of the disappointment they’re already feeling in themselves for relapsing.

It’s possible for people that are trying to help their alcoholic friends and loved ones to inadvertently become a bit emotionally manipulative as a response which can mess with an alcoholic person’s head. In fact, there are a lot of things that loved ones can do, under the goal of trying to help, that actually make things a bit worse.


See these related posts:

What Are The Three Stages of Relapse?

How To Overcome Peer Pressure to Drink

Can Meditation Help You Stop Drinking?


To be absolutely clear: This does not mean that you shouldn’t do what you can to help a loved one who is struggling with alcoholism or any other forms of addiction, it just means that you need to do things in a responsible way. Usually, that means to encourage them to get help from a professional, or giving them the resources they need to take the next steps towards recovery, letting them know you’ll be there for them through the process, and so on.

3 Common Causes of Relapse: Why Do People Relapse on Alcohol?

Here are some of the things that can cause someone to relapse.

If you’re an alcoholic who wants to recover, you need to know what triggers you to drinking and the causes of a relapse if you haven’t drank in a while.

The same goes for family members and loved ones of addicts – knowing the causes can help you to better support them.

  • Stress: This is a big one. Ever notice “stress” is one of the main causes of so many different problems with the mind and body? The problem is, when you learn to use alcohol to manage stress, you’re setting yourself up for a lot more stress down the road.
  • Certain people or places: Being around certain people or places can cause somebody to relapse. For example, if they used to drink around a certain group of friends, being around those people can make it a lot more likely to relapse.
  • Good times: Sometimes, times of joy and celebration can also cause somebody to relapse. Getting caught up in the excitement, or using celebration as an excuse, have been the endings of many sobriety streaks.

There are a lot of other things that can trigger a relapse, of course.

And understanding what cause you to feel like drinking and relapsing means that you can get a head start ahead of the temptations next time they’re creeping up. By understanding what causes a relapse and getting ahead of it, you can take the necessary steps to fight off the urge to drink, or reach out to someone close to you for support until the difficult time passes.

Why do people relapse on alcohol? A lot of different reasons. Figure out what yours are, or the ones for people close to you. It’s an important step towards stopping alcohol for good.