What Does H.A.L.T. Mean? The Risks of Being Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

Nov. 172023

In today's fast-paced world, we can forget to stop and check in with ourselves. With rates of anxiety, depression, and drug overdoses on the rise in the U.S., self-care is more important than ever. That’s why the acronym HALT was created. 

HALT stands for “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired.” If you’ve been to a 12-step program, AA meeting, or NA meeting, you’ve probably heard this term before. They represent the four most common stressors that can put you at increased risk of making poor decisions that could trigger a relapse. In this article, we’ll explore each stressor, why it’s a risk factor for your well-being, and how to avoid it so you can live a happy, healthy, addiction-free life. 

H: Hungry

Hunger is a basic biological need. We need food to function, both physically, and mentally. Our moods are intimately linked to the quantity and quality of food we consume on a daily basis. 

When we fail to eat properly, such as eating a poor diet or skipping meals, we can experience dramatic shifts in blood sugar levels, which can cause negative impacts on our mental state such as irritability, inability to focus, and heightened stress levels. Hunger may also trigger cravings that can lead to relapse for those in recovery. 

The following practices can help mitigate the negative effects of hunger and prevent relapse from occurring: 

  • Meal Planning: Plan your meals ahead of time to gain more control over your diet and prevent unnecessary stress. 
  • Balanced Diet: Eat a well-rounded diet full of nutritious foods and vital nutrients to stay healthy and energized. 
  • Healthy Snacks: Prepare healthy snacks in advance to maintain stable blood sugar levels and keep your appetite satisfied. 
  • Regular Meal Times: Try to eat your meals around the same times every day to help regulate your digestive system and minimize stress. 

These preventative measures can be an effective way to reduce cravings, foster self-care, and keep the consequences of hunger at bay. 

A: Angry

The most important thing to understand about anger is that it’s normal, and it can even be a healthy emotion to express. It is only when anger gets out of our control that it becomes destructive to ourselves and others. 

Substance abuse disorders can often be tied to deeper emotions that we want to bury or run away from. Anger, as well as anxiety and depression, are among the most common mental health issues that can trigger the need to use. Anger can also contribute to many health risks such as hypertension, coronary heart disease, and diabetes. When we enter therapy and counseling, anger management, or rehab, we begin to understand the root causes of our anger and can heal ourselves and the need to abuse drugs and alcohol in the process. 

There are various ways to improve unhealthy levels of anger so that it doesn’t become a stressor. Deep breathing techniques, counseling, and physical exercise are effective options for calming down your anger. You can also try joining an anger management program for additional support and comradery. 

L: Lonely

Everyone feels lonely from time to time. It’s a natural part of life. However, prolonged feelings of loneliness can become debilitating and difficult to overcome. 

Often mistaken as social isolation, loneliness can manifest whether you are alone or around other people. The health risks of loneliness can be severe. Researchers in one study found that loneliness can be as deadly as smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day. Loneliness and social isolation have been associated with serious health conditions such as increased risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety, and suicide. 

If you’re feeling lonely, participate in community events and activities. Discover a new hobby where you can meet like-minded people. Nurture old relationships, and be open to building new ones. If you’ve struggled with substance abuse and you’re dealing with loneliness, consider joining a local rehab program that can offer community support. 

T: Tired

In today’s world, getting a good night’s sleep is becoming more and more difficult. Between work, family, and treatment for those in recovery, it can be hard to get to bed on time. But if we’re not careful, lack of sleep can pose some significant consequences. 

Sleep is the foundation of health and well-being. The benefits of sleep range from improved mood and mental function to cardiovascular health, a better immune system, and stress relief. On the other hand, sleep deprivation can cause a host of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression. Here are a few simple steps you can start taking to improve your sleep hygiene:  

  • Sleep at least 7-9 hours per night
  • Have a consistent sleep schedule 
  • Shut off electronics before bedtime
  • Limit exposure to bright light at night 
  • Exercise regularly 
  • Maintain a healthy diet 
  • Avoid caffeine in the evening
  • Avoid water before bedtime  

For those struggling with certain sleep disorders like insomnia, seek a professional who can help treat you with non-addictive medication and other treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)


Now, you understand how HALT (hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness) can contribute to your overall mental and physical health. It can shape the quality of your relationships, your mood, and your state of mind. By implementing the practices we’ve discussed, you’ll be well on your way. Don’t forget to check in with yourself and ask if you’re feeling hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. 

Preventing each of these stressors is easier said than done, and can be overwhelming to do on your own, especially if you're struggling with drug addiction. If you or someone you love is interested in outpatient treatment for substance use, please visit our website Waterstone Counseling Center for more information.