We Are (Probably) ALL Addicts

we are all addicts post

My team warned me NOT to write this. In fact, they threatened to quit if I did.

See ya, guys; there’s the door. I’m writing it anyways!

(They’re full of idle threats, and I know they’re just watching out for me!)

We are (probably) ALL addicts. So there, I said it (actually wrote it, but I hope you hear it in your head).

I almost always get eye-rolls, head-shakes, finger-wags and back-turning when I say or write this (I can see you!).

I’d like a moment to elaborate please.

Thank you.

Let’s start by drawing a parallel: We all have the possibility of having cancer. We all have cells that are suspect of developing cancer. No matter how healthy your lifestyle and how much prevention you invest in, you still have a likelihood of developing cancer.

Addiction is the same way. No matter what you do to prevent it, for yourself or others, you, and everyone, are suspect to develop an addictive behavior in your lifetime.

So, no, we are not literally all addicts. But we all very well could be, and that’s why I’d like your attention.

I just now did a search on “rates of addiction” and the first page results were entirely about rates of various drug addiction.

This would make it appear that drugs are really the only, or at least primary, addiction.

True or false? (It’s a trick question and you’re being set-up, so watch it!)

False. There are many “behavioral addictions” that are not substance (drug or alcohol in this case) related.

So, following this thread, I just did online searches for “behavioral addiction” and “non-substance related behavioral addiction.” Very interesting results, as apparently people are aware of these non-substance related behavioral addictions.

However, how often is this ever mentioned in mainstream media? Not much, except that Tiger Woods reportedly went to some treatment center for his sexcapades (sexual addiction) and that Charlie Sheen’s ex-wife claimed that he was spending $200,000 a week on gambling.

I also went to the World Health Organization (WHO) website and did a search on addiction. Alcohol, various drugs and nicotine showed up, but nothing else.

So let’s take a look at behavioral non-substance related addiction.

The National Institutes of Health site states the following:

Several behaviors, besides psychoactive substance ingestion, produce short-term reward that may engender persistent behavior despite knowledge of adverse consequences, i.e., diminished control over the behavior. These disorders have historically been conceptualized in several ways. One view posits these disorders as lying along an impulsive-compulsive spectrum, with some classified as impulse control disorders. An alternate, but not mutually exclusive, conceptualization considers the disorders as non-substance or “behavioral” addictions.

Sounds rather clinical but gives hope for some creditability regarding behavioral addiction.

Gambling addiction is one of the few addictive behaviors which is actually recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, and has a formal diagnosis of Gambling Disorder (notice that they don’t refer to it as addiction…hmmmm?).

Here are the criteria from the APA DSM-5:

A.) Persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as indicated by the individual exhibiting four (or more) of the following in a 12-month period:

  • Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.
  • Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
  • Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.
  • Is often preoccupied with gambling (e.g., having persistent thoughts of reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the   next venture, thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble).
  • Often gambles when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed).
  • After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses).
  • Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
  • Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling.
  • Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.

B.) The gambling behavior is not better explained by a manic episode.

Certainly sounds and looks like addiction to me.

How about sex addiction? Want to see people squirm out of their skin and put up their deflector shields in a nanosecond? Just bring up this topic.

The online Everyday Health site, although perhaps not the most clinically sound nor research-based, had a great overview of sex addiction which included the following:

  • Using sex to numb negative feelings or achieve a fleeting high
  • Hiding sexual behaviors from your spouse
  • Feeling that you’ve lost control over your sexual behavior
  • Failing to heed self-imposed limits on your sexual behavior
  • Finding that your sexual behavior has caused you to lose a relationship, fail at your job, or spend less time with your friends and family
  • Knowing that your sexual behaviors could lead to problems in your life if people knew about them
  • Finding that you can’t permanently quit harmful sexual behaviors

Again, certainly looks like a real live addiction.

Let’s examine one other non-substance behavioral addiction: The Internet.

Did you just now feel some degree of guilt, shame or embarrassment? Many, or maybe even most, people will openly admit that they spend too much time online.

Once again, let’s go to the Everyday Health site. Here’s their list of symptoms of Internet addiction:

  • Negative effects on your school or job performance
  • Reduced involvement with your family or friends
  • Loss of interest in other hobbies or pursuits
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression when you’re away from your computer
  • When not on your computer, you spend most of your time thinking about getting back to it
  • Angry or defensive reactions when someone comments on your behavior
  • Taking steps to hide the extent of your computer/Internet use

There are several common threads with all these behavioral addiction activities: Lying, hiding, decreased school/work performance, depression, defensiveness, negative impact on primary relationships, need for increased engagement of the behavior and loss of control over the behavior.

If it looks like addiction, sounds like addiction and hurts like addiction, then it’s probably addiction.

And we haven’t even addressed shopping/spending, food, video games, plastic surgery (although that might fall under the diagnosis of Body Dysmorphic Disorder) and adrenaline addiction.

You, me and everyone are very possible suspects to fall prey to any of these.

Why? Because we live in an addictive culture and we all have the seed of addiction within us that is just waiting for the opportunity to get its deceptive, mind-numbing grasp around our lives and take us into the depths of despair and demise.

Yes, we are (probably) all addicts, and we better start doing something about it.

Prevention? Start here: Marry YourSelf First!

About Ken Donaldson

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