Body Language May Predict Relapse in Recovering Alcoholics

Posted on 2/08/2013 by meg

Vancouver researchers claim that body language, as simple as slumped shoulders and narrowing of the chest, may offer more insight into possible relapse than words.

The study’s co-author, Professor Jessica Tracy, and Daniel Randles of the University of British Columbia have found that recovering alcoholics are more likely to relapse if they show physical signs of shame.

Scientists interviewed forty-six participants from Alcoholics Anonymous. The participants were asked to describe the last time they had drank alcohol where the experience made them feel bad about drinking, whether it be prior to sobriety or during a relapse.

Researchers noticed that their words did not match their body language and concluded that perhaps this was due to repressed feelings of failure or hesitation to discuss feelings of shame.

In particular, the study revealed that those participants who had slumped their shoulders and narrowed their chest during the first interview were more likely to admit that they had relapsed.
“People around the world communicate shame with these body actions, the researchers note. Even those who are born blind and couldn’t have learned this by watching others tend to slump their shoulders and narrow their chests in response to failure, suggesting that this universal gesture is innate.”
Moreover, the study showed that those participants that displayed more obvious signs of shame in their body language during the initial meeting were more likely to consume larger amounts of alcohol during the relapse.
“When people feel shame, they feel that they are a bad person – that there is something stable and global at their core that is wrong with them. As a result, feeling shame means there’s no good solution to the problem, it’s part of who you are” explains Tracy.
The study reveals the importance of the role of shame in recovery. It appears that shaming addicts could essentially push them back into old habits. Although more research may still be required, it couldn’t hurt that family members, counselors, and doctors etc. become more aware of the addicts’ body language and avoid inadvertently shaming the person when trying to help them toward recovery.

Body language can help predict relapse in newly sober drinkers


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