Of course this “pondering” could just apply to matters of self-discipline, where one might sacrifice watching television in order to get a work project done, but what if you really need to give up something that runs far deeper? What if you have a habit that you perceive as helpful because it temporarily relieves anxiety, but is really draining you of energy and motivation, and is impacting your health and relationships?

Addiction involves a combination of factors: physical (biological/neurological/genetic), psychological (e.g. mental illness/trauma) and social (e.g. unsupportive/influential). There is a difference between misuse and addiction: to be addicted means you cannot stop regularly consuming a “substance” or engaging in harmful behaviour even though it’s causing psychological and physical harm – you are dependent on it to cope with life on a daily basis.

What’s going on? You might know that our brains have a natural reward system; there is a chemical released by nerve cells (neurons) that plays a part in motivating behaviour, this is dopamine (other “feel good” chemicals include serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins). Addictions have the ability to increase levels of this neurotransmitter. When someone has a pleasant experience, or takes a recreational drug, for example, dopamine provides a boost of happiness/pleasure. Unfortunately people need larger and larger amounts associated with their addictions over time because of building up a tolerance.

This is just an interesting side bar: there are foods that act much like drugs in the brain, for example, the casein (protein) in dairy releases casomorphins, an opiate (think cheese…no wonder pizza is so popular!)

Herein lies the rub: dopamine has the effect of hardwiring the need for the addiction as it plays a critical role in learning and memory. It links aspects of the environment the addiction is associated with, so you get a double “whammy.” Even years later you can be triggered because the memories have become so intertwined. If, for example, you drank heavily with neighbours whenever you got together, but you moved away and subsequently quit, if you visit them, you might feel an irresistible urge to have a drink…or many.

There are many, and varied, things people can become addicted to: alcohol, drugs of every sort, caffeine, tobacco/nicotine, gambling, shopping, food (sugar/fast food/exclusively “healthy” food=orthorexia), work, sex, internet/social media, plastic surgery, video games, risky behaviour, television, music, love, compulsive lying, piercings, tattoos, exercise, tanning, hoarding, and even lip balm.

Of course these are not all created equal. William Glasser (MD) wrote a book in 1985 titled Positive Addiction in which he contends one can gain strength and self-esteem through positive behaviour. It does seem like exercising is more acceptable and desirable than having a cocaine addiction…

Only you know to what extent you are impacted by misuse or addiction; please seek professional help if you are deeply troubled, or if you have noticed, or are being told by loved ones, that your behaviour is being consistently, negatively affected. If you think you are able to address possible issues yourself with a little help, we are here: you can find us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/dawncady.mindsetcoach/  There are many tools and techniques that can contribute to your success within The Neural Alignment Method™ http://go.dawncady.com/the-neural-alignment-method

Please note: the addiction to pain killers has become an epidemic and will be the subject of a future blog…