Culturally we tend to associate addiction with dependencies on drugs and alcohol, and we often disregard and belittle other lesser known addictions as just people’s “issues.” Because there is still a lot of stigma surrounding addiction, people struggling with these other “issues” are sometimes afraid to consider their problems addictions for fear of being judged. This can cause them to avoid seeking the help they need. The stigmas we perpetuate cause more division in our societies and alienate people that need support.
Love/sex addicts are suspected of using addiction as an excuse for promiscuous behavior. Gaming and gambling addicts are stereotyped as being lazy and irresponsible. Food addicts are judged for being overweight and looked at with scorn, “why don’t they just stop eating so much?”
These judgments are missing an element of understanding about the deeper nature of addiction. Addiction consists of a person’s behavioral patterns that become addictive or compulsive in nature, that are used as coping mechanisms to deal with pain. These can include any behavior that a person might engage in, that then becomes compulsive for them. This can include behaviors that other people might consider harmless because they themselves are not addicted to them, but that can take over addicts’ lives and cause considerable suffering.
When we have become dependent upon these addictive behaviors, we feel powerless to stop, even when we have hurt ourselves and other people, even when we are experiencing severe breakdowns in our mental and physical health. Just like we can develop bio-chemical dependencies on drugs and alcohol, we can become dependent on the dopamine released during pleasurable activities. This becomes our escape from our pain- a way to forget, numb ourselves and self-medicate. As addicts familiar with the cycles of addiction, we know these things exacerbate rather than heal our pain.
As a culture, we could broaden our conceptualization of addiction to reflect an understanding that people can develop addictive relationships with just about any behavior. It doesn’t serve us to shun addicts, regardless of their drug of choice or addictive behavior.
Sometimes those who are quick to judge addicts and addiction also have their own behaviors, issues in their own lives, that are harmful or destructive. The more we can be inclusive as a culture, the more we can help people recover. We are stronger together when we can connect with understanding, compassion and empathy.
At Enlightened Solutions, we have years of firsthand experience with addiction and recovery. Call (833) 801-LIVE.