The “Other” A.D.D.: Addiction, Depression and Divorce and an Emotionally Intelligent Curriculum for Prevention, Expression and Connection
Addiction, depression and divorce…oh my! Like the unknown yellow brick road into the Land of Oz, confronting these three maladies can be very scary. And, from the statistics you’re about to see, apparently not important enough for us to put more resources into the prevention thereof.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse:
- The abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs is costing the U.S. over $700 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care. And although “abuse” may not be a full-blown addiction, I think you get the point.
Then, add to that:
- The estimated annual $33 to $54 billion a year that gambling addiction costs the U.S and the completely unknown cost of sex addiction (no one wants to admit this) and begin to see how these add up quickly.
And we haven’t even mentioned spending addiction, food addiction or internet/video game addiction. Collectively, those have to be well into the many billions of dollars as well.
would be an extraordinary understatement.
AND then there’s depression.
The National Institutes of Health reported that:
- In 2010 the cost of depression (includes major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder/dysthymia and bipolar disorder) in the U.S. was over $210 billion (this is the last known year of recorded data). It might be noted that depression is also one of the leading causes of disability in the U.S. This includes direct medical costs, suicide-related mortality costs, and workplace costs.
Double yikes! But wait, there’s still more!
The “guesstimates” of the costs to the U.S. economy due to divorce:
- Are somewhere around $60 billion annually. But, of course, the long-term impact is virtually impossible to measure.
Before I share any more bad news, let’s stop here and look at possible solutions.
To suggest that we could prevent all this is beyond unrealistic. However, to be able to prevent even some of this would not only be a huge economic relief to the U.S., but would also be a huge cultural mood shift.
In other words, we’d be happier people.
There are some common denominators that underlie depression, addiction and divorce, primarily a lack of healthy coping skill sets. Consider the following as starters to improve general coping mechanisms:
- Stress management development
- Assertiveness training
- Conflict resolution skills
- Boundary-setting education
- Emotional management coaching
If we were all taught and learned these skill-sets we’d probably prevent a large percentage of addiction, depression and divorce. AND we would ALL benefit, and be happier and healthier people, as well as living in more harmonious relationships.
Certainly no one sets out to become addicted, but many people end up addicted. So how does that happen? Why does that happen? It’s simple:
People discover that a substance or certain behaviors enable them to escape from their true emotional state, and at the same time they experience a short-lived artificial high. Once this is discovered, it’s repeated again and again.
However, addiction develops a tolerance and requires more and more of the substance or behaviors to sustain the high. Unfortunately no matter how much the addiction is fed, the expected higher highs are never achieved. New, different and more substances and behaviors are added, but the results only go downhill. A classic case of “the law of diminishing return” occurs:
The more time, energy and money that is put into the addiction only results in a more and more negative return.
But go back to the beginning:
How about if we were all taught some effective skill-sets in better dealing with our emotional states?
What if, for example, and in the simplest ways, early on in our schooling (starting in elementary and continuing on throughout every grade) we had a curriculum that taught us that emotions are only feelings and that we all have them, thereby normalizing them and making them easier to talk about? Then we could also learn about some healthy and effective ways to express our emotions. Likewise, we could also learn how to respond to others’ emotional states in ways that are supportive
Additionally, if we were also taught some basic stress management skills in this same curriculum set we would be even that much better able to deal with the emotions that accompany the everyday stressors in life. Being able to better manage emotions and stress could not only prevent some depression, but would also give people better coping mechanisms to help them recover from depression more effectively.
And then there’s the very large “communication” umbrella:
- Conflict resolution
- Active listening
- Boundary setting
These are ALL primary areas of improving one’s ability to communicate more effectively. The payoffs for improving communication may be most obvious in healthy relationships, but also help people better express themselves and ask for support, both of which can only help decrease addiction and depression, not to mention divorce.
Emotional intelligence is a term that’s been used the last 20 years or so, but still has not become mainstream. Emotional intelligence includes building one’s ability for better:
- Stress management
- Emotional management
But emotional intelligence has an even higher calling: To fully embrace our emotionality as part of our humanness and learn how to manage our own emotions while also knowing how to connect with others on an emotional level.
Is this a tall order? Yes, but only because it’s something that has not been fully embraced. We’ve become more reactive than proactive. It’s only when the prisons are full that we say there’s a big problem. And when the numbers of suicides, homicides and rapes become unsightly, then we ask why and try to figure out what to do. And when homelessness skyrockets and unplanned teenage pregnancies happen within your family or the family next door, it’s then that we say we must do something.
It’s time to be proactive!
It’s time to create a prevention model. It’s time to become a more emotionally intelligent culture. It’s time to admit that our education system is antiquated and is not equipping or children and young adults with the skills they need to not only survive, but to thrive. We need our young people to be the positive and emotionally intelligent change agents for future generations.
Without change, we only perpetuate addiction, depression and divorce more and more, and it’ll only get worse and worse, causing more economic and emotional burden for us all. Addiction, depression and divorce will never be eliminated completely, but we can prevent some, and we can better prepare our young people to be more resilient and resourceful in the face of addiction, depression and divorce.
We can, and we must, become more emotionally intelligent.
Oh, by the way, it’ll also result in a happier culture.