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Can't get enough?

We can immerse ourselves in all sorts of things...
food, sex, booze, work, coke, tech...
How much is enough?

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Pleasure can be addictive. So are things that let us escape for a while but ultimately do us no good. Whether that be the other worldliness of gaming, the excitement of gambling, the rush of sex or the abandonment into booze… How do you know when enough is enough?

The different forms of addiction

We all need to escape sometimes. And we all need pleasure in our lives.

But when is “your thing” becoming a habit that is in fact harming you or those around you? Often the “pleasure” we experience is a double-edged hedonism. And we can get addicted to pretty much anything…

Why do we get addicted?

Everything in moderation is ok. We are good judges of what is good for us, what makes us feel good in our selves and our bodies, and what doesn’t. If there’s something about our use of anything that’s causing us distress or discomfort – whether physically, financially, morally, or due to the knock-on effect in another area of our life – it’s valuable to explore our behaviours. 

The real issue isn’t the thing being used; alcohol isn’t necessarily dangerous just like food isn’t dangerous. It’s the amount we’re using it, and what’s going on inside us that matters.

Identifying Addiction

When any addiction gets serious it can have unwelcome consequences:

So why do we do it?

What causes us to want to much of a good(bad) thing, and how do we break the cycle?

You may have heard the phrase “fight or flight”. When we are under intense stress, our system responds in one of four ways (“the 4Fs) in order to cope:

  1. We “fawn” – connect, compromise / manipulate, alienate or acquiese
  2. We fight – assert boundaries / physical or verbal aggression
  3. We flee/flight – retreat / escape, physically or psychologically
  4. We freeze or flop – quit / detach or shut down.

These are the natural and automatic responses of our nervous system that keep us safe. All the 4Fs have positives and negatives when used appropriately and with an intensity proportionate to the current cause (the blue above is the negative).

But, we can get stuck in one response. The “flight” response is the addiction response.

We usually “favour” one of these stress responses according to our childhood experiences, birth order and genetic predispositions. When we experienced emotional or physical threats and a need to attach (which we all have) in the past, our body and brain remember our historic safety mechanism. Often this is unconscious – we are not aware of the reason or the memory. But the body remembers.

So what’s the solution?

Compulsivity or obsession – addiction – is a form of “flight” – of escape into something to avoid something else.

There’s no shame in it; paradoxically it’s your brain and body trying to keep you safe. However, there may not actually be a threat. And the flight response is no longer helping you; something is stuck.

By developing a healthy nervous system we can begin to choose any one of these four methods of keeping us safe in the face of real danger. And relax the rest of the time.

This is why therapy is so useful. Uncovering our underlying beliefs and experiences that eventually led us to this reaction in adult life is important in regaining choice in our behaviour. We learn why we behave as we do, we work through our original feelings and responses to what life threw at us, and release more choice over which of the 4Fs we use in the present. We regain self-control.

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There is always help available to regain control of our responses and recover from addiction. If you are impacted by this article speak with one of our therapists, or contact one of these resources today.

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