Addicted to . . . Everything

September 15, 2011

Addiction.  When you hear that word, you probably think about substance abuse or gambling or smoking, but those are merely the vehicles for addiction – not addiction. What does this have to do with you? Well, abuse survivors are often people who live in extreme ways and have behaviors that could be characterized as addiction.

It may not be liquor or drugs, but there are many behaviors that survivors struggle with to the point that they become addictions. Food. Shopping. Sex. TV. Facebook or Twitter. Video or online games. Texting. Self Injury. Work. Sports. Working out. Hobbies. On and on the list can go, but the common feature is that a behavior becomes intrusive and often destructive. 

For any addict, the problem isn’t the behavior, it’s the addiction. New research by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) found a link between brain dysfunction and addiction – regardless of what that behavior is. The behaviors are considered symptoms – the brain dysfunction is called addiction. So let’s unpack this and take a good look at the behaviors you might practice in such an extreme way that they interfere with your life, your job, and your relationships.

One reason that abuse survivors often struggle with addiction is the impact of trauma on how the brain functions. The study cites that “psychological and environmental factors, such as exposure to trauma or overwhelming stress, distorted ideas about life’s meaning, a damaged sense of self, and breakdown in connections with others and with the transcendent (referred to as God by many, the Higher Power by 12-steps groups, or higher consciousness by others) influence how addiction develops.”

This makes abuse survivors prime candidates for developing intrusive addictions. It explains why so many of us struggle with compulsions and addictions that require every ounce of energy we possess to refrain from acting on them. The ASAM recognizes that this is a “bio-psycho-socio-spiritual illness characterized by (a) damaged decision-making (affecting learning, perception, and judgment) and by (b) persistent risk and/or recurrence of relapse . . . The bad behaviors themselves are all symptoms of addiction, not the disease itself.”

If you find yourself in the endless cycle of addiction – be it with heroin or credit cards – you need to know that you’re dealing with a brain dysfunction – a reward system imbalance – that must be addressed holistically. See your doctor, find a recovery program, get support to maintain your sobriety, take steps to maintain accountability, and enlist your spiritual resources – such as prayer, meditation, participation in a faith community, or Scripture study groups. As anyone in recovery will tell you, the longer to you remain abstinent from your addiction, the more you have an opportunity to re-wire how your brain makes decisions. Every healthy choice you make re-adjusts the reward system imbalance and gives your soul the opportunity to prosper and grow.

(If you’re interested in reading the entire story, go to this link.)

Written by Sallie Culbreth, Founder
Committed to Freedom – Abuse Recovery Solutions – providing people with holistic empowerment and spiritual tools to move beyond abuse and sexual trauma. This communication is provided for education and inspiration and does not constitute mental health treatment.  This communication does not constitute legal or professional advice, nor is it indicative of a private therapeutic relationship. Individuals desiring help for abuse related issues or other psychological concerns should seek out a mental health professional.

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