What Can Resentment Do to Your Mind, Body & Sobriety?

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The process of recovery is somewhat different for everyone because not every addict develops and experiences addiction in exactly the same way. It’s the many details and differences from one individual to the next—such as one’s substance of choice, geographic area, one’s demographic, socioeconomic background, whether one has been exposed to substance abuse and addiction previously—that make the recovery process different. When an individual enters a treatment program, he or she personalizes the rehabilitative curriculum by choosing specific treatments that address one’s recovery needs, which optimizes the efficacy of the program and one’s potential for achieving success in recovery.

There are certain aspects of achieving long-term sobriety that aren’t overtly addressed by many addiction treatments. In fact, there are other important recovery tools such as the twelve-step method of recovery that can address the recovery needs that aren’t often addressed in other forms of treatment, which specifically includes the need to heal in a spiritual and emotional sense as part of the rehabilitative process. Unfortunately, many of the clinical treatments offered by recovery programs tend to overlook the emotional and spiritual needs of individuals in recovery. In short, feelings of guilt and resentment can greatly affect one’s recovery and push individuals into a relapse. However, in order to understand what each form of treatment can offer in terms of emotional and spiritual recovery, it’s essential to know how feelings of resentment directly affect or even prohibit success in recovery. The following will explain the negative effects that holding onto resentment can have on a recovering addict’s mind, body, and sobriety.

What Resentment Does to the Body & Mind

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Though a relatively straightforward feeling, there are a number of misconceptions about resentment, especially what it actually is. Many confused resentments for envy or even used the two terms interchangeably, but resentment is a bit more specific. By definition, resentment is the feeling an individual gets when feeling that he or she is being treated unfairly or unjustly, which can entail not getting due respect, being unappreciated or undervalued, not receiving help or an apology, being overlooked when praise or a reward is earned or due, and so on. In these instances, resentment keeps individuals locked in a state of feeling devalued, but can often spawn fantasies of vengeance and retribution.

While feelings of anger can throw people into action, resentment isn’t usually an actionable emotion, but rather is a more mild emotion that continually evokes feelings of inferiority and is a recurring reminder of a time when an individual was devalued. In terms of physiological effects of resentment, it can sometimes spur a very small surge of adrenalin and cortisol, which can increase an individual’s energy as well as feelings of confidence for a short period of time. This is likely to happen particularly in instances in which an individual is devalued for reasons that he or she knows aren’t true or valid, which provides a small confidence boost as this suggests the other party’s feeling threatened.

However, this means that resentment will rarely subside on its own as it doesn’t cause a large enough spike in adrenaline to make the emotion actionable, which would allow an individual to work through and past the experience. The surge of adrenaline and energy that accompanies anger is followed by emotional exhaustion, signifying that the emotion has run its course. Resentment, on the other hand, accrues slowly with each subsequent experience during which an individual feels devalued being linked to previous ones, which results in an individual essentially wearing a heavy chain of resentment. Moreover, without the exhaustion that accompanies the purging of anger and other intense emotions, resentment becomes an incredibly easy feeling to hold onto for very, very long periods of time. As another unfortunate consequence of the relatively low intensity of resentment, retaining so much resentment makes individuals seek out more reasons to be resentful and causes, in essence, a “snowball effect”.

One of the real dangers that come with holding onto resentments is the way that it can influence behaviors that result from other emotions. For instance, if an individual acts out in anger, built-up resentment could potentially serve as fuel to the flame, causing the individual to act out in more extreme behaviors that result in more dire or severe consequences. In short, resentment—in which people often idealize about vengeance—can amplify the negative effects of other emotions, making it easy for individuals to make hasty, impulsive choices that constitute very significant mistakes.

Why Holding Onto Resentment Will Put One’s Sobriety at Risk


It’s not easy to let go of resentment, which is to essentially forgive. Many feel as though letting go of resentment by forgiving someone is tantamount to excusing what should be considered inexcusable behavior. However, forgiving in order to progress beyond feelings of resentment is more about the individual who is forgiving rather than the one in need of forgiveness. Moreover, over the course of active addiction, it’s common for individuals to accumulate much resentment that they take with them into the recovery process. Though it won’t happen overnight, those in recovery must work toward letting go of their resentments since it can influence their behavior and decisions, which puts one’s recovery and sobriety at risk.

In active addiction, individuals often treat their feelings of anger, sadness, and resentment with substance abuse and intoxication, but that is no longer an option once the recovery journey has begun. Individuals who hold onto their resentment will be continuously tempted to relapse because substance abuse was how they coped with those feelings while in active addiction, which is a very difficult habit to break. In fact, many studies have found that aggressive or negative feels such as anger and resentment and strongly correlated with addicts’ substance abuse behaviors, further illustrating the danger that resentment poses to one’s sobriety.

Find Your Way to a Better Life with the Palm Beach Institute Today

Not only is resentment an unhealthy and burdensome feeling, but it serves to jeopardize one’s success in recovery. As such, it’s important to process one’s resentments, anger, and other negative emotions so as to further fortify one’s sobriety and ensure long-term recovery. However, if you or someone you love is suffering from chemical dependency, the Palm Beach Institute can help. Call us at 855-534-3574 or contact us online today to speak with one of our experienced recovery specialists who offer free consultations and assessments in order to match those addicted to alcohol and drugs to the treatments or programs that will best meet their individual recovery needs.



Staff Writer

The Palm Beach Institute employs a diverse staff of writers that share a common passion for helping those who are struggling with substance abuse find the care they need. With years of experience in the substance abuse treatment industry and decades of experience in writing and research, our team of writers constantly strive to present accurate and helpful information that is easily digestible and encourages people to seek help.

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