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  • Gary Probst

Why do people become addicted?

I have yet to see an addiction situation where anxiety is not involved. When people suffer from anxiety, they tend to self-medicate. Sometimes it is alcohol--sometimes drugs--even gambling, promiscuity or food. Anxiety is behind much of what drives people to addiction. Unfortunately, after the introduction has been made by the anxiety, a percentage of the population has brain enzymes that desperately crave the adrenaline or dopamine rush that comes with the temporary relief of the anxiety and the body needs it more and more. The classic and deadliest example is heroin.

All binging and wrongful use of any item is a form of addiction, if the person has a compulsion to find and use the substance; relationship or activity. Addictions can range from exercise bulimia, where the person's anxiety over being heavy prompts them to exercise to a compulsive level, thus giving them the dopamine rush that comes with the kick of endorphins. The addiction begins with fear and anxiety and maintains through a pleasure sensation in the brain. Addictions can be compulsion to use a substance, be involved with a person or persons who are unhealthy for us or actions, such as gambling or speeding.

Sometimes medication is needed to fight addiction. Drugs like Suboxone can be prescribed by doctors to make it unpleasant for a person to misuse narcotics. That, however, does not cure, only control. Curing addiction involves relief of the underlying anxiety. Until the anxiety is decreased, through Cognitive Behavior Therapy (rethinking things) or Reality Therapy (driving to the hard conclusions and consequences), the addictive compulsion will remain. Addictions are so strong that, many times, severe consequences are not enough to break the draw of the addiction.

If you have a person in your life with an addiction or are fighting one on your own, please talk with us about the underlying anxiety and how we can help you to break the self-destructive chain.

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