The meaning of addiction has changed over the years and now can include more than just addiction to drugs or alcohol. The term processes addictions refers to behaviors that are used to regulate emotions but can create an unhealthy pattern of compulsive behaviors that have unintended consequences. Some of these process addictions are sex/love, gambling, shopping/ spending, internet/gaming and other behaviors that have similar effects on the brain’s motivation and reward centers. Don’t let the term addiction scare you. What is important is to ask yourself is whether the use of a substance or behavior has harmful consequences and whether you find yourself needing more, or seeking more intensity for the desired effect.

According to Patrick Carnes, Ph.D. a leading researcher on addictions: “All addictions share features of chemical dependence: Self-medication to mitigate dysphoria, escalation, psychosocial consequences, increased tolerance, loss of control, and withdrawal

I view all addictions as a problem of affect regulation. To feel better the substance or behavior is used and the use or behavior escalates. Often attempting to break this pattern is complicated and may require seeking assistance.

Some of the signs to look for are:

  • Preoccupation
  • Loss of control
  • Mood-altering effects
  • Psychological or Physical withdrawal
  • Escalation
  • Requiring more to achieve original high
  • Shame
  • Minimization, rationalization, justification

Often trauma is at the core of addiction and can be responsible for chronic dysregulation that fosters unhealthy ways to deal with emotions. If you are wanting support or have questions about addiction, feel free to contact me.