Urges are feelings we can’t always avoid. Instead of trying to eliminate urges, let’s understand when they occur in the urge cycle.

How the Urge Cycle Begins

The urge cycle is typically activated by a trigger, which is an external event or circumstance that can produce an emotional or physical reaction. Common triggers include:

  • Places

  • People

  • Feelings

  • Situations and events

  • Sensory elements, such as smells or music

When we come in contact with a trigger, our thoughts and emotions can become preoccupied with drug use. 

Before the Urge Takes Place

Once the urge cycle begins, both the brain and the body react to the newly introduced craving. The mind enters overdrive, initially weighing the pros and cons of giving in to the urge and, eventually, constructing a fantasy situation.

At this point in the urge cycle, the brain begins to anticipate dopamine. Without the release of the dopamine, the mind becomes distressed and responds physiologically, creating stress-like tension throughout the body.

When the Urge Occurs

Once the brain activates a stress response, the physical reaction to the urge begins. You might experience an increased heart rate, start sweating, and develop shortness of breath. It’s at this point, while your emotional and physical responses are at their highest, when an urge occurs in the urge cycle.

As powerful as the urge cycle can be, it’s not beyond your control. You may not be able to avoid triggers, but you can control how you respond to them. By learning how to intervene before the triggers take hold of your emotions, you can become stronger than your urge.