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  • Gary Probst

What Causes Addiction?


Addiction is a symptom and binder of anxiety. There is no evil gene or character flaw. Addiction is a way to bind anxiety and feel less emotional pain. Substances like alcohol; drugs; tobacco--even diet soda--can be methods to bind anxiety and self-medicate against addiction. The problem is those binding methods have dangerous and potentially deadly consequences.

When you are anxious about your current state, you seek an altered state. An altered state is a state of illusion and flight. Anxiety--even severe anxiety--can be treated with prescription medications; cognitive behavior therapy and the tough compassion of reality therapy. Depression is the highly-destructive sister of anxiety. Depression is always a possibility with anxiety. Therefore, why would you use a depressant to deal with the anxiety?

Addiction is often associated with a rush of dopamine to the brain, allowing the person to feel relaxed and comforted--but only for a short period of time. Continual use of the substance can destroy health and destroy careers and family life. People who are addicted often feel badly about themselves. The desperation and hopelessness associated with the poor self-image creates a hamster wheel of pain and flight. You can flee the pain but when you are on the hamster wheel of addiction, you'll never get anywhere.

Sometimes strong intervention is needed to break the pattern of addiction. Family members and friends must stand up to this serious situation. Often, people need to hit rock bottom, before they will allow treatment or even admit they have an issue. When somebody is suffering from addiction, they often are suffering greatly on an emotional plane and can be defensive and fatalistic. The inner emotional pain is too severe to reveal. This is why we often find alcoholics and drug abusers, along with gamblers and sex addicts, later revealing very deep emotional scars from childhood abuse and trauma. Often, we find missing parents; deaths in the family or the trauma of war; law enforcement or a horrific accident or attack.

If somebody you love has an addiction, do not shame them. Shame will only drive them deeper into the addiction. This is a self-loathing exercise, after all. Instead, show them exactly how the addiction is having a negative impact on others and likely killing them, emotionally; spiritually and physically. Let your love drive the person to seek help, not anger or shaming. Those will not work.

Remember that most addictions are symptoms of a deep inner feeling of worthlessness and often associated with mood disorders, such as Bipolar Disorder. The person with the problem is not electing to have that problem. They are cursed with the problem. Seek to bring them to a realization of what is happening with as much compassion as possible. However, be strong. The pull of the addiction is extremely strong. You have to be stronger.


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