Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes
Executive Director,

Continuing Education (CE) credits for addiction and mental health counselors, social workers and marriage and family therapists can be earned for this presentation at

– Define vulnerabilities
– Identify some of the most common vulnerabilities
– Their effects
– Ways to prevent them

– Note: Each of the vulnerabilities has its own presentation. This section is designed to give you an overview and get you thinking about possible small changes that might have a big impact.
Why I Care/How It Impacts Recovery
– Vulnerabilities are situations or things that
– Make it more difficult to deal with life on life-s terms leading to depression, anxiety or -stress-
– Make it easier for you to over-react or get stuck
– Depression occurs if you feel helpless or hopeless
– Anxiety occurs if you feel powerless or out of control
– Addictive behaviors increase when you feel a need to escape because of stress, anxiety, depression or pain
Individual Vulnerabilities: Physical
– Pain
– Effects
– Sleep problems
– Difficulty concentrating
– Irritable mood
– Medications are depressants and can worsen all of the above
– Interventions
– Talk with your doctor
– Explore nonpharmacological interventions
Individual Vulnerabilities: Physical
– Poor nutrition
– Your body needs the building blocks to
– Recover from injury
– Keep you from getting sick
– Make happy chemicals
– Interventions
– Water-. 60 ounces per day
– Have three colors on your plate at each meal (condiments don-t count)
– Try to eat smaller meals every few hours
Individual Vulnerabilities: Physical
– Lack of sufficient, quality sleep
– Drug/alcohol induced sleep is rarely good quality
– Lack of Sleep Effects
– Fogginess
– Difficulty concentrating
– Irritability
– Over eating
– Interventions
– Develop a sleep routine
– Cut back on caffeine 6-12 hours before bed.
Individual Vulnerabilities: Physical
– Illness
– Effects
– Sleep disruption
– Exhaustion
– Foggy head/difficulty concentrating
– Irritability
– Interventions
– Compassion
– Good nutrition

Individual Vulnerabilities: Physical
– Brain changes
– Brain changes can be
– Hereditary
– From an accident
– As a result of addictive behaviors
– Effects
– Changes in the structure of the brain have all kinds of effects including memory, concentration, and mood.
– Intervention
– Eat a good diet to give the body the necessary building blocks
– Get adequate quality rest
– Medication

Individual Vunerabilities: Emotional
– Anger
– Anxiety
– Depression
– Grief
– Guilt
– Jealousy
– Resentment
– Inability to self-soothe

Individual Vunerabilities: Emotional
– When you are feeling negative emotions
– Effects
– It causes the brain to keep the fight-or-flight reaction going (which takes energy)
– It lacks or prevents the happy, calming neurotransmitters from being excreted
– Interventions
– Develop coping skills to deal with them
– Insert positive/rewarding experiences
– Get plenty of rest
– Eat a healthy diet
– Exercise

Individual Vulnerabilities: Mental/Cognitive
– Global, internal, stable attributional style
– Effects
– When everything is always it adds extra stress
– When anything that happens reflects on you as a person, it adds extra stress
– Interventions
– Focus on things being specific and alterable
– Identify what is good about you as a person
– Explore the difference between what makes you a good person vs your skills
Individual Vulnerabilities: Mental/Cognitive
– Extremely external or internal locus of control
– Both situations add stress
– Effects
– External locus of control means you feel you have no control over anything
– Internal locus of control means you feel like you should be able to control everything.
– Interventions
– Identify what things you can control and use your energy for them
– Figure out how you are going to cope with things you cannot control
Individual Vulnerabilities: Mental/Cognitive
– Low Self-esteem
– Self esteem is how you feel about who you are compared with who you think you should be
– Effects
– Low self-esteem can cause people to feel helpless or not deserving of love or success
– Interventions
– Explore what characteristics you think you should have but do not
– Decide if they are important.
– Decide what to do about it.

Individual Vulnerabilities: Mental/Cognitive
– Negative perceptions/cognitive style
– Effects
– Seeing the world as negative, depressing, out of control or scary makes life more stressful
– If you see everything as negative (not rewarding) you will not want to do anything
– Interventions
– Look for the silver lining: When you start to think about something as negative, find the positive
– Look for exceptions
Individual Vulnerabilities: Mental/Cognitive
– Poor organization/time management
– Poor time management effects
– It can lead to being over committed
– It cause people to feel rushed/harried
– It can cause people to forget to do things leading to conflict
– Interventions
– Make a list of must-dos at the beginning of every week
– Stop saying yes right away
– Identify and address time sucks

Individual Vulnerabilities: Social
– Poor communication skills
– Effects
– Impedes you from stating your needs
– May cause misunderstandings
– Can hurt your relationships
– Interventions
– Learn about effective verbal and nonverbal communication
– Don-t assume you understand what the other person is talking about

Individual Vulnerabilities: Social
– Weak emotional boundaries
– Effects
– You may have difficulty feeling happy unless those around you are happy
– You may take everyone else-s bad mood personally
– Interventions
– Examine why it is not safe to feel how you feel
– Start paying attention to your wants, needs and feelings

Individual Vulnerabilities: Social
– Need for external validation
– Effects
– Not feeling okay unless you are constantly surrounded by people who tell you you are okay
– Interventions
– Identify why you are okay
– Look at why you need other people to validate you and work on that.
Apply It
– Identify 3 ways you could have used this information in the past week.
– What vulnerabilities did you have in the last week-
– What impact did it have on you-
– If you would have had this new information, what could you have done differently-
– How would that have changed the outcome-
– How can you start integrating this knowledge into your routine
– Addressing vulnerabilities frees up energy so you can deal with other -stuff- that comes your way
– Eliminating vulnerabilities can help you feel less stressed, exhausted and overwhelmed all the time
– Persistent vulnerabilities are the first relapse warning sign (HALT)
– Being mindful of when you are vulnerable and taking positive steps to address it are crucial to recovery success.

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