Addictions are caused by our inability to tolerate normal human emotions. Instead, we replace our feelings with some sort of substance or experience that give us the illusion that we are safe from feelings that we were taught to perceive as dangerous. The substance or behavior tends to temporarily relieve the emerging feeling thereby offering perceived relief.
What is Addiction? According to drugabuse.gov, "addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain." It is considered both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness. Sometimes the "substance" is alcohol and drugs. Sometimes the "substance" can be technology. Either way, the need to take in whatever "the substance" in a manner that we "feel better" briefly, can be considered addictive.
When many people think of addictions they often think of drugs and alcohol. And indeed, this is the most well known and common form of addiction. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, in 2005, an estimated 22 million Americans struggled with a drug or alcohol problem. Almost 95 percent of people with substance use problems are considered unaware of their problem. In the last decade, this problem has skyrocketed. Yet, substance abuse is only one kind of addiction.
Many other individuals struggle with other addictions including:
and the most recent addition to the list:
Technology/ Social Media
Social Media Addiction, has become a primary and introductory addiction for many young people in our culture. Each addiction when used repeatedly actually impact the neurotransmitters in the brain that leads to dependence.
The behavior that becomes an addiction actually initially unfolds in a very protective supportive manner. These behaviors help us feel better when we are struggling. Initially, we may not even consciously notice the degree to which they are helping, but over time we find that we return to the experience over and over as a way to avoid difficult feelings. Some may say, when we use a substance or experience repeatedly to avoid feeling the normal human emotions, including sadness, anger, fear, shame, we are moving into the realm of addiction.
There are many treatments to help someone with addictions, but initially the individual must be willing to tolerate their emotional world. This introduction takes time and a great amount of support. This must be voluntary as forcing someone to face their addiction almost always fails. For more information, reach out to a therapist who specializes in addictions and allow their guidance to support you towards a more genuine connection to your SELF.