Psychotherapy for Addictions and Dependency
Addictions and Dependency, both physical and emotional: Psychotherapy helps you address these and move beyond.
Physical addiction is the biological consequence to the body of taking a drug. The body adapts so that larger or more frequent quantities are needed to get the same effect. An aspect of physical addiction is the way the brain responds to cues and associations with the drug; the smoker sitting down for her coffee break experiences an added desire to light a cigarette; an alcoholic entering a bar feels compelled to have a drink.
But most addictive behaviour has more to do with underlying emotional stress than physical dependence or adaptation to a substance or its associated cues. People who compulsively drink, shop, gamble or seek sex do that in response to the stress of an inner emotional state that the activity helps to regulate.
Isn’t addiction just a bad habit? Why don’t addicts simply stop?
Addiction is more than just a bad habit that has got out of control over time. It has a distinct purpose as a coping strategy, a way of managing life. Addiction lessens negative emotions and provides pleasure or the anticipation of pleasure. It numbs feelings that are too hard to bear – loneliness, fear, or dread. The chosen substance (e.g. sugar, nicotine, alcohol, cocaine) or activity (e.g. sex, shopping, gambling) distracts from the difficulties of relationship, or the stress of overwhelming work pressures. So addiction often serves a regulating function, lifting a person out of a despairing emotional state, or settling someone who is in an agitated state.
Some people are more susceptible to addiction than others. Experts have differing views on why this is. However there is broad agreement that people seek from their chosen substance or behaviour the pleasure, connection and relief that we are hard-wired to expect from loving attachments with others. In this way the substance or behaviour is a replacement for interpersonal relationship.
When does addiction become a problem?
Acceptable indulgence becomes addiction when the habit begins to harm us, or harm others in our lives, and we’re still compelled to continue rather than draw back. People who can’t say no to the pull of their drug or activity find that addictive behaviour is running their life: they no longer have choice. Addiction is problematic when you wake up every day determined to stop that behaviour – but then go ahead and do it anyway. This situation compromises relationships, financial stability, and future happiness.
How can psychotherapy for addictions help?
‘Regulating’ or stabilising your feelings and your emotional state isn’t possible in the long term without external assistance – that’s what addicted people use their substance / activity for. The journey to health is to become able to take in external assistance in the form of healthy relationship and interaction.
To help this journey I ask you to commit to abstinence, which is a crucial part of recovery from addiction. Then, in sessions together, I explore with you the psychological and historical roots of your addictive behaviour. This collaboration is the basis of recovery and a life not narrowed by compulsion.
To talk through your addiction and dependency issues contact me to discuss how we can work together with psychotherapy to manage your addictions.
You may find some more useful information in this recent article expoloring the subject of Addiction and Dependency in Psychotherapy Today