Reasons Why Boredom May Trigger a Relapse

bored man about to relapse

Addiction is a chronic disease, and relapses can occur for several reasons in chronic illnesses. One such reason is boredom. You can integrate this proactively into your relapse prevention plan by understanding how and why boredom may trigger a relapse. You can identify strategies and rely on them when you experience boredom and are potentially at risk of relapsing.

What is a Relapse?

In addiction, relapse refers to the return to substance use or engaging in addictive behaviors after a period of abstinence or successful recovery. Relapse can occur due to various factors, including stress, triggers, environmental cues, or underlying emotional issues. Although relapse is a setback for recovery, it does not signify failure. Instead, relapse is an opportunity to learn about triggers, reassess strategies, and reinforce coping mechanisms.

Even though relapse can occur at different times in a person’s life, it’s often the result of unexpected and unmanaged triggers.

Common Relapse Triggers

Relapse triggers vary depending on the person and their situation, but there are often common factors that trigger relapses. These include:

  • Stressful situations, such as issues in relationships or financial difficulties.
  • Negative emotions, which, along with boredom, can include loneliness, sadness, and anger. Someone might seek to relieve negative emotions with substance use.
  • Social pressure includes peer pressure or even being in specific social environments.
  • Being overconfident after a period of improvement.
  • A lack of a support system or structure makes it hard to deal with challenges.
  • Environmental triggers, such as specific reminders when visiting a particular location, trigger substance cravings.
  • Having unrealistic expectations from others or oneself.
  • A lack of healthy coping mechanisms.

Does Boredom Trigger Relapse?

Despite what most people might think, boredom is a major relapse trigger in substance abuse for several reasons. Not participating in engaging, stimulating, or constructive activities can make you more vulnerable to thoughts and cravings related to substance use.

Other reasons boredom can trigger relapse include:

  • Emotional Distress: Boredom often coexists with feelings of restlessness or dissatisfaction. When individuals experience this sense of monotony, it can amplify pre-existing emotional distress or triggers linked to substance use. The absence of engaging activities might exacerbate feelings of anxiety, depression, or loneliness, prompting a desire to alleviate these emotions through substances.
  • Routine Disruption: Boredom can disrupt a structured routine, leaving gaps previously filled with productive or fulfilling activities. When there’s a lack of stimulating tasks, individuals might revert to familiar habits associated with substance use. This disruption in routine can weaken the barriers established during recovery, making it easier to slip back into old patterns.
  • Seeking Excitement or Escape: Boredom often drives individuals to seek excitement or change. When faced with monotony, some may turn to substances to break the dullness and experience a temporary change in their emotional state. Using substances might provide a sense of thrill or escape from the listlessness, offering a quick solution to the lack of stimulation.
  • Social Influences: Boredom can intensify the longing for social interaction or belonging. In such instances, individuals may be inclined to reconnect with social circles where substance use is prevalent. The desire for engagement and a feeling of inclusion might override the awareness of the risks associated with those environments, leading to relapse due to social pressures or a sense of missing out.

Understanding these triggers can help you develop personalized coping strategies, foster a supportive environment, and find fulfilling activities to counteract the negative consequences associated with boredom.

How To Prevent a Boredom-Triggered Relapse

The most important thing to remember when it comes to preventing a relapse during times of boredom is that you have strategies to fill your time constructively.

These strategies could include:

Have a Daily Routine

You’ll be filling your days with purposeful activities. In your daily routine, ensure you take time for work, hobbies, socializing, exercise, and relaxation.

Explore New Hobbies

It can take some time and trial and error to find healthy hobbies that genuinely interest you, but once you identify them, they’re a great way to remain engaged and combat boredom.


Physical activity is good for your body and your mind, mood, and sense of mental well-being. You can fill your time, keep yourself active, and feel productive when you regularly exercise.

Set Goals

Make sure you’re regularly setting short- and long-term goals for yourself, creating motivation and a sense of purpose. The goals can be related to anything, whether it’s hobbies, your career, your education, or your personal development.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness techniques and meditation can keep you grounded in the present, and they can be ways to manage stress positively.

Cultivate a Support System

Your support system of family and friends can help encourage you if you’re feeling vulnerable, and spending time with people you enjoy is a great way to avoid boredom.

Learn Something New

Whether you read a book, teach yourself a new language, take an online course, or go to a local class, expanding your knowledge and abilities is distracting and fulfilling at the same time.

Help Others

You can become involved in your community, stay socially engaged, and create a sense of purpose by volunteering or giving back.

Developing a Relapse Prevention Plan

Developing a relapse prevention plan can help you anticipate, identify, and manage situations that could lead to a return to problematic behaviors. As you build your plan, be sure to:

  • Identify triggers, which can include feelings of boredom. You want to specifically pinpoint those situations, stressors, and emotions that you believe most trigger your cravings.
  • Acknowledge early warning signs or indicators that could suggest you’re vulnerable to relapse. Think about changes in your mood, thought patterns, or behaviors.
  • Develop coping strategies to address triggers and early warning signs, like activities that promote your emotional well-being or healthy alternatives to unhealthy behaviors.
  • List your support systems, including individuals and networks you can turn to when dealing with challenging times.
  • Establish structured daily routines with activities that promote your well-being physically and mentally. When you have a routine, it reduces your idle time and gives you a sense of purpose.
  • Develop positive affirmations that reaffirm your commitment to recovery and remind you of your goals and motivations.
  • Emphasize the importance of a healthy lifestyle, including nutrition, sleep, exercise, and stress management strategies.
  • Create a step-by-step relapse response plan.
  • Encourage yourself to continue to reflect, learn from experiences, and understand factors contributing to your past relapses to help you adjust your prevention plan.
  • Emphasize the importance of avoiding high-risk situations and have strategies to prevent them or minimize exposure.

Once your relapse prevention plan is complete, review it regularly to see if it needs to be adjusted.

Relapse Is Not The End. Let Us Help.

Recognizing the activities and strategies that work best for you is essential. You may need some time to experiment and find the approaches to help you stay on track during idle moments, so be patient with yourself.

Whether you’re in active addiction, you’re concerned about relapsing, or you’ve already experienced a relapse, we encourage you to reach out to Midwest Recovery Centers. Contact us today to learn about our unique 45-day mental health and addiction treatment programs and take the next step.

Staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Click or Call Today! 844-990-1578

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