Category Archives: Addiction Articles

Childhood Trauma And The Development Of Impulse-Control Disorders.

childhood_trauma

If, as adults, we find we have poor impulse control, this may be, in large part, due to the legacy of a disturbed and traumatic childhood. For example, those who have suffered severe and chronic childhood trauma are more likey to suffer from conditions such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) and anti-social personality disorder (APD) than the average person and both these conditions include impulsiveness  as one of the symptoms.

If a person is impulsive it means s/he often acts prematurely with insufficient planning and lack of thoughtful deliberation; importantly, too, impulsiveness (when it is pathological) involves repeated efforts to make short-term gains but at the expense of long-term gains.

Tell-tale signs that a person may be impulsive:

– frequently making inappropriate comments (speaking without forethought)

– constantly interrupting others during conversations

– often displaying impatience (e.g when having to wait in queues)

Impulsiveness disorders may involve:

– ‘binge’ shopping for unnecessary items (although many ‘binge’ shoppers indulge in the activity in an attempt to escape from negative emotions such as depression)

– excessive use of alcohol/narcotics (which may themselves increase impulsiveness, thus creating a vicious cycle)

– binge eating (again, though, many indulge in binge eating to  overcome – temporarily, of course – negative emotions)

– dangerous risk taking (such as dangerous overtaking of other vehicles when driving)

– promiscuous, unsafe sex

– kleptomania

– arson

intermittent explosive disorder (I.E.D)

pathological gambling

impulse-control-disorder

The Five Main Stages Involved In Impulse-Control Disorders:

Research has identified five main stages a person who has pathological problems controlling his/her impulses goes through; these are:

STAGE 1: The experience of a powerful urge

STAGE 2: A failure to resist/inhibit this urge

STAGE 3: A state of high excitement/arousal (with physical and psychological manifestations)

STAGE 4: Giving in to the urge (this usually results in a sense of deep relief from tension)

STAGE 5: Feelings of guilt for having carried out the impulsive act (this feeling of guilt may be very intense and involve profound feelings of self-disgust, self-loathing and self-hatred).

Brain Regions Thought To Be Involved In Impulse-Control Disorders:

Although further research is required in order to determine with greater accuracy how certain brain regions are involved in impulse-control disorders, it is currently hypothesized that damage to both the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex may be relevant (it is also believed that these parts of the brain may be damaged by the experience of significant childhood trauma). Furthermore, it is theorized that the brain’s exexcutive function may also impaired.

Neurochemical Involvement:

Theories also exist that suggest people who suffer from impulse-control disorders are likely to have lower than normal levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in their brains.

The Possible Role Of Genes:

It is also thought that the dopamine receptor and serotonin receptor genes may be involved in impulse-control disorders which would, of course, follow from the above.

POSSIBLE TREATMENTS:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) currently seems to be the most favoured non-pharmacological method employed to address the disorder although it may also be treated with SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) anti-depressants (which should only be taken on the advice of an appropriately qualified professional).

RESOURCE:

Reduce Impulsivity Hypnotherapy MP3/CD (MP3 instantly downloadable). Click here.

eBook:

Above eBook available from Amazon (instantly downloadable). Click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSC; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Trauma Leading To The Need To ‘Self-Medicate’.

self medication

Until a few years ago I consumed excessive amounts of alcohol (leading to some appalling consequences that I will describe in future posts). Two main reasons for this most ill-advised and, above all, desperate behaviour are both clichés: one: I drank to reduce my social anxiety and, two: I drank to numb my intense and intolerable psychological pain.

The root cause of my social anxiety and psychological pain derived, I feel sure, from my traumatic childhood. Indeed, such childhood trauma is very often the root cause of why people in general use alcohol, and other psychoactive substances such as illicit drugs, to self-medicate (ie. attempt to ameliorate their emotional and psychological pain).

A main reason that many find it so hard to stop or reduce their reliance on such self-medication is that they are unaware that the origin of their addictive need to self-medicate lies in their traumatic childhood experiences and that the adverse psychological consequences which they seek to numb by excessive drinking or drug taking are symptoms of this trauma.

This lack of insight leads to the root cause of the particular addiction remaining untreated, making it much harder for the individual to recover from his/her reliance on mind-altering substances.

Very sadly, other people, perhaps ill-informed family members, who also are unaware of the true origins of the problem, may, due to their lack of understanding, blame the individual for his/her, as they may erroneously perceive it, ‘weakness of character’ and ‘selfishness’ (it is not selfishness – being addicted to, for example, alcohol is hardly fun or enjoyable; one does not choose to suffer from such an addiction, by definition).

self medication

Equally sadly, the addict may blame him/herself, adding to his/her depression and worsening yet further his/her already extremely low self-esteem, thus, in all likelihood, aggravating still further his/her addictive disorder.

Whilst the afflicted individual may sometimes enter stages of incipient recovery, if his/her childhood trauma remains therapeutically unaddressed, s/he is likely to relapse when events in his/her life trigger traumatic memories and flashbacks.

It is useful to provide some statistics in connection with the idea of childhood trauma leading to self-medication as an adult: for example, intravenous drug users are 1000% (one thousand per cent) more likely to have suffered childhood trauma than non-intravenous drug users. A second example is that (in the USA) female alcoholics are twice as likely to have suffered significant trauma compared to their non-alcoholic counterparts.

The Role Of Adrenaline:

Those suffering from the effects of severe trauma, such as those who have been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have been found to produce in their bodies excessive quantities of the hormone adrenaline which significantly contributes to their feelings of deep anxiety and general psychological distress.

It is hardly a coincidence, then, that one of the illicit drugs they can become dependent upon is heroin as this drug is highly effective at shutting down the brain’s adrenaline center – the locus coeruleus.

Other drugs that have a similar effect are Valium, alcohol and benzodiazepines (the latter is a drug which played a role in the shamelessly hounded and persecuted musical genius Michael Jackson’s tragic and untimely death – it is well documented that he was traumatized by his childhood, not least because his father, Joe Jackson, would allegedly whip his son if he made mistakes during rehearsals when he rehearsed with his older brothers who made up the Jackson Five).

Conclusion:

Therapies for those who have experienced significant childhood trauma and are consequently addicted to the sort of substances referred to above are far more likely to be successful if they do not ignore the root cause of the problem – namely the afflicted individual’s childhood traumatic experiences.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

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Addressing Childhood Trauma To Treat Addictions

 

Addicts, sadly, are too frequently blamed for not being able to overcome their addictions; however, this can be based on the misunderstanding that the addict must be hedonistic. This, though, is to miss the point.

The addict is not so much seeking pleasure but, rather, is desperately seeking relief from intolerable emotional pain (dissociating). In other words, the addict is self – anesthetizing.

Very frequently, the unendurable mental anguish that the addict feels stems from their childhood trauma.

Internal versus external coping mechanisms:

It is necessary for the addict to stop relying on external coping mechanisms (such as alcohol and drugs) to cope with their psychological pain but instead cultivate internal coping mechanisms such as:

– learning how to self-sooth

– using visualization techniques (such as visualizing a safe place whenever, for example, an incident occurs which triggers anxieties linked to their childhood trauma).

Survivor versus victim:

If no therapeutic work has taken place in order to help the addict resolve the feelings associated with his/her childhood trauma, s/he is likely to remain trapped in the role of victim (in effect, their psychological and emotional development is arrested at the time of the trauma).

However, when therapy begins it can help the addict develop an alternative view of him/herself – that of a brave and strong survivor.

The kinds of childhood trauma that are particularly likely to cause symptoms such as addictions and arrested psychological and emotional development include:

abandonment

rejection

– being treated with contempt/disdain (eg always being on the receiving end of ‘put downs’ by a parent/parents/primary caregiver)

– sexual and physical abuse

– verbal and emotional abuse

hypnotherapy_for_addiction

Such treatment frequently causes the child to develop what psychologists refer to as a negative cognitive triad, ie:

– a negative view of self

– a negative view of others

– a negative view of the future

In the absence of effective therapeutic intervention, these negative attitudes may endure for a lifetime.

Other symptoms the individual who suffered childhood trauma may develop are:

– a deep and abiding sense of alienation from others/society

– avoidant behavior, including fear of intimacy (due to fears of being vulnerable to rejection if s/he gets too emotionally close to others).

– an irrational sense of shame

– self – destructive behaviour

When talking to a mental health-care clinician about one’s experience of childhood trauma, it is very important to provide the following details:

– age at time of trauma

– severity of trauma

– who committed the abuse eg.  stranger, family member (more harmful if family member)

– was it a single incident or ongoing?

– was thethe event/ act/s intentional or accidentalaccidental?

– was escape possible?

– what was the level of severity?

– was the trauma response one of flight, fight or freeze?

Resources:

hypnosis_for_addiction   Addiction Help (Many addictions addressed)

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

The Link Between Childhood Trauma And Addiction.

 

We have seen in other articles that I have published on this site that those of us who have suffered significant childhood trauma are more likely than others to develop addictions (often multiple addictions) during our teens and adulthood. Why should this be?

Condition One:  A solitary rat in an impoverished environment (ie. one in which there is no stimulation, just an empty cage).

Condition Two: The rat has the company of other rats and has an enriched (ie stimulating) environment

 

Results:

– In condition one rats became extremely addicted to the cocaine, becoming heavily addicted

– In condition two rats ingested far less cocaine (75% less) and did not become addicted

(The psychologist, Professor Bruce Alexander, pioneered these studies).

If we extrapolate from this research (ie apply it to humans) it would be expected that :

Individuals with empty, lonely lives are significantly more likely to become addicts than individuals with full and socially integrated lived. Indeed, there is much research evidence to support this view and a growing school of thought is of the view that a person’s life situation plays a more important role in an individuals addiction than the addictive substance itself.

Implications:

It is likely, then, that a person’s life circumstances play a vital role in whether or not a person becomes an addict. Therefore, it follows that the most effective way to reduce addiction is to help addicts re-connect with society and gain dependable social support.

Because those who have suffered childhood trauma are more likely to develop chaotic, disenfranchised lives as adults, as many of the articles on this site have shown, such people are at greater risk than others of living in the kind of social isolation which fosters drug addiction.

Resources:

addiction_help    Addiction Help.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Why And How Childhood Trauma Can Turn Us Into Addicts

We frail humans can, all too easily, become addicted, psychologically and/or physically, to a large array of substances and behaviours. I provide a list of examples below:

– alcohol

– drugs (including drugs obtained on prescription, such as sleeping pills), illegal drugs and, in the UK and no doubt many other countries, so-called ‘legal highs’.

– tobacco

– work (people who are workaholics may also suffer from the condition known as PERFECTIONISM)

– food (people who over- indulge in food to help them to cope with psychological pain are often informally referred to as COMFORT EATERS)

– exercise (especially body building and/or jogging)

– watching TV

– surfing the internet

– computer games

– relationships (constantly getting bored with existing relationships and therefore perpetually and quickly moving from one partner to another always in search of fresh excitement and thrills that often accompany the start of a brand new relationship).

– sex (click here to read my article about erotomania)

– gambling (with online gambling becoming an increasing problem)

– risk-taking (e.g. driving too fast, dangerous sports etc to gain a so-called adrenalin buzz’)

– power

– excessive spending (again, this can produce a temporary ‘high’ until the novelty of the item purchased wears off (usually quickly necessitating further purchases…)

download

Root Cause Of Such Dependencies:

We can become psychologically and/or physically dependent on behaviours and substances such as those mentioned above in an attempt to fill a void caused by a more profound dependency deriving from our dysfunctional childhood.

These dependencies/addictions are essentially defence mechanisms – a way of trying to reduce the level of our psychological suffering. Psychologists refer to this defence mechanism as DISSOCIATION (click here to read my article about this).

Multiple Addictions:

The more traumatic our childhood was, the more psychological defences we are likely to develop; this translates to the fact that many people suffer from multiple addictions. Also, those who had the most traumatic childhoods are likely to be those with the deepest, most intractable, addictions.

Symptoms Of The Dependent Individual:

As well as having one, or several, addictions, the person with a dependent personality may also :

– feel an abiding sense of abandonment/rejection

– constantly feel anxious

– be easily angered and his/her angry outbursts may be very intense/lacking control

– feel a sense of emptiness

– feel life lacks meaning

– have a very weak sense of own identity

– feel that s/he has been used, exploited and taken advantage of (often by parents in childhood)

– feel s/he has been manipulated and controlled (often by patents in childhood)

– feel a general sense of confusion

– feel a deep sense of loneliness and ‘disconnection’ from others/society

– often feel fearful / a sense of impending doom

Also, in childhood, as a result of out trauma, we may have been prone to angry/aggressive outbursts, withdrawn and ‘moody’, negative, pessimistic and ‘difficult’ (actually, that sounds uncannily like me as an adolescent. And as an adult? Let’s not go there).

Short-Term Gains:

Addictions deliver short-term benefits (if they didn’t, people would not become addicted in the first place).

For example, addictions may provide :

– temporary relief from stress and anxiety

– temporary feelings of well-being

– temporary feelings of control and/or power

However, these benefits must be off-set against, for example, such considerations as the following:

– they mask the real issues and prevent the individual from dealing with his/her life problems (such as seeking therapy for a traumatic childhood)

-they lead to avoidance of confronting and working through/processing true feelings

The Addiction Cycle:

Addiction leads to a vicious cycle from which itbecomes increasingly difficult to break free. Fiirst, there is an emotional trigger such as an argument with a partner.

This leads to stress and anxiety which in turn leads to :

a craving for the addictive substance / to perform the addictive behaviour in an attempt to reduce this anxiety.

There then follows the addictive ritual (eg drinking a bottle of whisky, going to a casino with all one’s hard earned cash).

After the substance is consumed / the behaviour carried out feelings of guilt follow…and so the cycle continues ( until effective therapy is sought and administered).

The diagram below illustrates this inexorable cycle of self-destruction:

images

 

The Fundamental Elements Of Addiction:

The main elements of addiction are:

1) An increasing obsession/ preoccupation with the substance/behaviour of addiction

2) Increased tolerance : the person needs more and more of whatever s/he’s addicted to due to ‘diminishing returns’ (e.g. takes increasingly more alcohol to produce desired effect – in this case, possibly, oblivion).

3) Diminishing control : e.g. a gambler may start losing larger and larger sums of money, overtaken by powerful and self-destructive impulses

4) Secretiveness : e.g. an alcoholic may hide bottles of whisky about the house and at work and deny to others that s/he drinks excessively

5) Denial to self / self-delusion : e.g. the drug addict who tells him/herself ‘giving up would be easy’ but that s/he currently ‘chooses’ not to. Or may deny to themselves their addiction is doing them any harm when it is clear to others that this is patently not the case).

6) Mood swings e.g. extreme anxiety suddenly changing to severe aggression/anger

7) Loss of self-respect : e.g. the alcoholic who can no longer be bothered concerning him/herself with his/her appearance / personal hygiene

8) Loss of moral principles e.g. the drug addict who steals from friends to get money to pay for drugs

9) Suicidal feelings / impulses

10) Exacerbation / development of psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety and paranoia.

11) Physical illness (e.g. liver disease, lung cancer)

Resources. Click Below:



Help  For Addictive Personality

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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The Association Between Child Abuse, Trauma and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

childhood_trauma_and_early_signs_of_psychosis

‘Character depends essentially on whether a person is given love, protection, tenderness and understanding during the formative years or is exposed to rejection, coldness, indifference and cruelty.’

Alice Miller.

 

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer.’

Albert Camus.

 


THE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN CHILDHOOD ABUSE, TRAUMA AND BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER.

Many research studies have shown that individuals who have suffered childhood abuse, trauma and/or neglect are very considerably more likely to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) as adults than those who were fortunate enough to have experienced a relatively stable childhood.

it is thought marilyn munroe suffered from BPD

It is thought Marilyn Monroe suffered from BPD

Kurt Cobain bpd
Did Kurt Cobain Suffer From BPD?

 

WHAT IS BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER (BPD)?

 

BPD sufferers experience a range of symptoms which are split into 9 categories. These are:

1) Extreme swings in emotions
2) Explosive anger
3) Intense fear of rejection/abandonment sometimes leading to frantic efforts to maintain a relationship
4) Impulsiveness
5) Self-harm
6) Unstable self-concept (not really knowing ‘who one is’)
7) Chronic feelings of ’emptiness’ (often leading to excessive drinking/eating etc ‘to fill the vacuum’)
8) Dissociation ( a feeling of being ‘disconnected from reality’)
9) Intense and highly volatile relationships

For a diagnosis of BPD to be given, the individual needs to suffer from at least 5 of the above.

frequently rejected in childhood, BPD sufferers live in terror of abandoment

frequently rejected in childhood, BPD sufferers live in terror of abandonment

A person’s childhood experiences has an enormous effect on his/her mental health in adult life. How parents treat their children is, therefore, of paramount importance.

BPD is an even more likely outcome, if, as well as suffering trauma through invidious parenting, the individual also has a BIOLOGICAL VULNERABILITY.

In relation to an individual’s childhood, research suggests that the 3 major risk factors are:

– trauma/abuse
– damaging parenting styles
– early separation or loss (eg due to parental divorce or the death of the parent/s)

Of course, more than one of these can befall the child. Indeed, in my own case, I was unlucky enough to be affected by all three. And, given my mother was highly unstable, it is very likely I also inherited a biological/genetic vulnerability.

 

EXAMPLES OF DAMAGING PARENTING STYLES:

 

1) Dysfunctional and disorganized – this can occur when there is a high level of marital discord or conflict. It is important, here, to point out that even if parents attempt to hide their disharmony, children are still likely to be adversely affected as they tend to pick up on subtle signs of tension.

Chaotic environments can also impact very badly on children. Examples are:

– constant house moves
– parental alcoholism/illicit drug use
– parental mental illness and instability/verbal aggression

 

2) Emotional invalidation. Examples include:

– a parent telling their child they wish he/she could be more like his/her brother/sister/cousin etc.
– a parent telling the child he is ‘just like his father’ (meant disparagingly). This invalidates the child’s unique identity.
– telling a child s/he shouldn’t be upset/crying over something, therefore invalidating the child’s reaction and implying the child’s having such feelings is inappropriate.
– telling the child he/she is exaggerating about how bad something is. Again, this invalidates the child’s perception of how something is adversely affecting him/her.
– a parent telling a child to stop feeling sorry for him/herself and think about good things instead. Again, this invalidates the child’s sadness and encourages him/her to suppress emotions.

Invalidation of a child’s emotions, and undermining the authenticity of their feelings, can lead the child to start demonstrating his/her emotions in a very extreme way in order to gain the recognition he/she previously failed to elicit.

 

3) Child trauma and child abuse – people with BPD have very frequently been abused. However, not all children who are abused develop BPD due to having a biological/genetic RESILIENCE and/or having good emotional support and validation in other areas of their lives (eg at school or through a counselor).

Trauma inflicted by a family member has been shown by research to have a greater adverse impact on the child than abuse by a stranger. Also, as would be expected, the longer the traumatic situation lasts, the more likely it is that the child will develop BPD in adult life.

 

4) Separation and loss – here, the trauma is caused, in large part, due to the child’s bonding process development being disrupted. Children who suffer this are much more likely to become anxious and develop ATTACHMENT DISORDERS as adults which can disrupt adult relationships and cause the sufferer to have an intense fear of abandonment in adult life. They may, too, become very ‘clingy’, fearful of relationships, or a distressing mixture of the two.

This site examines possible therapeutic interventions for BPD and ways the BPD sufferer can help himself or herself to reduce BPD symptoms.

 

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2015 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Obsessive Love Resulting From Dysfunctional Childhood.

childhood_trauma_questionnaire

I have already written about OBSESSIVE LOVE DISORDER on this site (click here to read my article) and, in this article, I intend to examine its likely causes in a little more depth :

LACK OF RESPONSE FROM THE OBJECT OF OBSESSIVE LOVE :

Individuals who fall victim to feelings of obsessive love tend to focus these feelings on a person who is obviously UNAVAILABLE (e.g. has a different sexual orientation or is in a happy and devoted relationship with someone else).

This means the object of obsessive love is likely to be, at best, indifferent to the attentions s/he receives from his/her ardent admirer. Indeed, it is thought to be this very lack of response from the object of obsessive love towards the one afflicted by the obsession that is largely responsible for fueling and perpetuating the obsession. But why should this be?

The answer to this seems to be that because the admirer’s deep feelings remain utterly unreciprocated and no relationship develops, the only way the admirer can have a ‘relationship’ with the admired one is IN HIS/HER OWN HEAD (i.e. a FANTASY RELATIONSHIP).

And, of course, a fantasy relationship (i.e. one that exists only in imagination) can be an IDEAL RELATIONSHIP, something that could never happen in reality (because, of course, no relationship between two people can possibly be ideal and perfect ; most, in fact, are very far from it).

WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE ARE PRONE TO DEVELOPING FEELINGS OF OBSESSIVE LOVE?

The type of person who develops feelings of obsessive love tends to be, or perceive him/herself to be, an OUTSIDER and one who DOES NOT ‘BELONG.’ Such a person may be on the fringes of society and feel both unfulfilled in life and vulnerable.

A further characteristic of such people is frequently that they have severely weakened ‘ego-boundaries’ which means that they have a very poor concept of their own identity as a unique and separarte individual (click here to read my article about how the experience of childhood trauma may lead to us having a poor sense of our own identity in adult life).

It follows, therefore, that falling obsessively in love can be a desperate attempt to ‘belong’; in fact, one way to view it is as an attempt to ‘merge’ with the other person in an unconscious attempt to make them ‘part of us’, so that we can feel what they feel and obtain a vicarious sense of identity – a desire for the self and the object of obsessive love to ‘become one’.

This is an intense, primal need (which can be, one theory suggests, due to a dysfunctional relationship with our primary care-giver during our very early development leading to a lack of healthy bonding) we failed to have fulfilled for us when very young. This is thought to be why it is so intensely painful when the object of obsessive love remains resolutely indifferent to, and unreciprocating of, our ardent yearnings.

REGRESSION :

Developing feelings of obsessive love can, then, be seen as a type of REGRESSION (i.e. a return to a childlike state).

OTHER POSSIBLE CAUSES OF OBSESSIVE LOVE :

More research needs to be conducted on the causes of obsessive love, but, as well as thepossible causes referred to above, other contributory factors are currently thought to include :

– having a distant father when we were a child

– a lack of emotional support in general when we were a child

– absence of a parent when we were a child (e.g. because of divorce)

– death of a parent when we were a child

– role-reversal when we were a child (e.g. as a child, we had to ‘act as a parent’ to our mentally ill mother – a position I myself was in)

– rejection as a child by parent/s

THE REPETITION COMPULSION :

If we were rejected by those who were supposed to care for us when we were children, it is a well accepted psychological phenomenon that WE UNCONSCIOUSLY SEEK TO REPEAT THE EXPERIENCE OF REJECTION WE SUFFERED DURING OUR CHILDHOOD (in a desperate attempt, again unconsciously, to gain ‘mastery’ over the feelings of utter devastation that it originally engendered in us).

Therefore, those who fall victim to painful feelings of obsessive love often have a profoundly entrenched perception of themselves as unworthy and essentially unlovable; such an abject self-view has been conditioned, frequently, by their unhappy childhood experiences.

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Above e-books now available for immediate download on Amazon. $4.99 each. CLICK HERE. (Other titles available).

OTHER RESOURCES :

Dealing with obsessive love MP3. CLICK HERE.

Dealing with unrequited love MP3 CLICK HERE

WHATISCODEPENDENCY.COM

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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Copyright 2014 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Trauma Leading to Addiction – The Signs

cropped-cropped-childhood-trauma-fact-sheet1.png

I have discussed, in other articles, how the experience of severe childhood trauma can lead us to have a powerful need to dissociate’(‘mentally escape’) from painful reality in adulthood (click here to read my article on dissociation). One of the main ways in which individuals attempt to do this is via an array of possible addictions.

In this article I want to look at :

1) The types of substances/activities/behaviours individuals most frequently develop an addiction to (and it is worth noting that most people with one addiction will also have at least one other addiction).

2) The signs that a person may be addicted to a particular substance/activity/behaviour.

So, let’s begin :

1) A list of the types of substances/activities/behaviours individuals most frequently develop an addiction to :

imagesvvv

– alcohol

– street drugs

– prescription drugs (both legally and illegally obtained)

– sex/pornography

– spending

– gambling

– power

– relationships

– caffeine

– nicotine

– danger (eg dangerous sports)

– fast driving (eg joy riding)

– exercise

– reading

– watching television

– playing computer games

– social networking/chat rooms

– power

– work

– cults

– stress

Of course, many of these are harmless or beneficial in moderation, so at what point would a clinician be inclined to diagnose an unhealthy dependence on, or addiction to, the substances/activities/behaviours listed above?

The criteria listed below are generally used as a guide as to whether or not a person has an addiction to a substance/activity/behaviour (I will call this ‘x’).

a) is the person preoccupied with x?

b) does the person experience a loss of personal control in relation to x?

c) does the person suffer from withdrawal effects if s/he has to go without x?

d) does the person try to hide his/her dependence upon x from others?

e) does increased tolerance of x lead to an increasingly growing need for more and more of it?

f) does the individual seem to be ‘in denial’ in relation to his/her problem in connection with x?

g) does the person have rigid views in relation to x (eg completely dismissing the concerns of others about his/her dependence upon it).

h) does the individual blame others for his/her need of x? (eg says that others drive him/her to it).

i) does the person suffer from blackouts related to x?

j) does the person have physical problems relating to x (eg weight loss, shaking etc)?

k) does the person seem to be suffering from mood swings or personality changes connected to his/her dependence on x?

l) does the individual seem to be losing his/her sense of personal values because of x (eg putting x before needs of family)?

Clearly, different types of addiction will lead to different types of problems featured on the above list; however, in general, the more of the above problems a person has, and the more intense they are, the more serious the particular addiction or addictions.

imagesvvv2

 

The diagram above shows a typical addiction cycle which can underpin all addictions.

THE TWO COMPONENTS OF ADDICTION :

Addictions tend to comprise two main components :

COMPONENT 1 – biological/physical

COMPONENT 2 – social/emotional

Examples of when the biological/physical component plays a part in addiction :

ALCOHOLISM:

Research suggests that there is a genetic component to alcoholism that causes the individual to metabolize alcohol in a different way to how ‘normal’ drinkers metabolize it – it is thought that, in alcoholics, the intake of alcohol leads to the production of an opiate-like substance in the brain. It is believed that it is this opiate production to which the alcoholic becomes addicted.

‘LOVE ADDICTION’ :

Neurological research suggests that in certain individuals the act of ‘falling in love’ produces far greater quantities of a particular neurotransmitter in the brain than it does in ‘normal’ individuals. It seems that this particular neurotransmitter, in high quantities, produces intense feelings of euphoria.

Unfortunately, however, this very pleasurable mental state soon begins to fade.

It is therefore hypothesized that individuals who produce these large quantities of the neurotransmitter may become addicted to repeating the euphoric high which comes from forming new, intimate relationships. Because of this, they may have frequent, short-term relationships and find it very hard to stay faithful to one partner.

Examples of when the social/emotional component plays a part in the addiction :

The emotional/social component, in fact, seems to play a part in all addictions, irrespective of the biological/physical processes involved. I list below the various aspects of the emotional/social component that addictions may lead to :

– temporary reduction in level of anxiety/stress

– temporary feeling of well-being

– avoidance of ‘real’ feelings

– avoidance of dealing with vital life problems

Whilst addictions offer temporary relief, they serve only to compound our problems over the long-term. For example, drinking a lot, or going on an over-spending spree, may provide a short lived ‘high’ but this is soon replaced by feelings of guilt, shame, emptiness, despair, anxiety and depression.

 

RESOURCES :

ADDICTION HELP – click here

 

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

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