Can Body Language Predict Relapse?

Written by on February 14, 2013

body language and relapse

Did You Know Feelings Can Affect Your Body Language?

Your body language may be able to predict if you will relapse on alcohol, according to a study by researchers from the University of British Columbia. The leading variable? Shame.The study interviewed newly sober alcoholics twice. At the first interview, they were asked about when they drank and felt bad about it, while being recorded. Four months later, they were asked if they had relapsed. Alcoholics who had shown signs of shame in their body language in the first interview (slumped shoulders or narrowed chests) were more likely to have relapsed.

If you are in Alcoholics Anonymous or have been to a residential treatment center for alcohol addiction, then you know firsthand how much shame can play a part in your disease. Feeling shame relates to what society tells you what is right and wrong, but it also shows in your body language. Someone feeling shame may offer little to no eye contact when speaking, have slumped shoulders or posture, speak negatively about themselves or have self-defeating behaviors.

The problem is that shame tells the alcoholic that they are a bad person, rather than that their past actions are the result of shameful feelings.  The study results suggested that shame might do more harm than good because it can motivate hiding, escape and general avoidance of the problem.

The researchers said that “one reason that certain sobriety programs may be effective is because they encourage people to see their behaviors as something they should feel guilty, but not necessarily shameful, about.” A quick tip to remember is that shame is externally generated and guilt is internally generated. We are more in control of our internal feelings that are generated by ourselves. The 12 steps are a beautiful process where you will learn to resolve feelings of guilt and shame to help you stay sober.

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