Addictions and compulsions refer to those instances where these problem behaviors disrupt an individual’s ability to function and lead a normal life. In fact, compulsions and addictions can be debilitating or become destructive if left untreated, for the individual as well as his/her family, friends, and others. Addictions are not limited to biochemical substances such as alcohol, cocaine or nicotine. In fact, people may experience behavioral addictions that reduce the capacity for a healthy life such as eating, pornography, masturbation, video games, texting, shopping and gambling. These behaviors are particularly problematic because they provide the opportunity for immediate reward with a fast feedback that reinforces the problem behavior. Gambling is an example of a potential activity that can quickly turn from a fun pastime into a compulsive pursuit of reward. The result is the individual becomes increasingly unable to disengage from the activity. The consequences of problem gambling can include losing large amounts of money, lying, stealing, chasing and the destruction of important relationships.
If substance misuse, drugs, alcohol, shopping, internet, sex, gambling, eating and other addictions and compulsions have become a concern in your life, or in the life of someone you care about, it may be time for help. Addictive behaviors lead to isolation, poor self-esteem, hopelessness and a disconnection from others and activities that you once enjoyed. Important other parts of the "self" stop developing when so much time and energy is directed towards the addiction or compulsion. The individual struggling with addictions and compulsive behaviors experiences guilt and shame as a result. As a trauma and addiction specialist, I utilize an integrative, non-judgmental and interpersonal approach to help individuals address the problem behaviors as well as any co-occurring problems such as trauma, ADHD, developmental disorders, depression, anxiety, social anxiety, personality disorders, self-esteem and social and environmental problems.
Treatment for addictions and compulsions will help you identify, understand and regulate emotions that may be driving problematic behaviors. Learning to identify and manage triggers in addition to developing new coping skills will give you the confidence and tools needed to navigate a life of freedom and choice. As a highly-trained integrative psychotherapist, I use a variety of techniques that target problem behaviors and past traumas including: EMDR therapy, psychodynamic and relational psychotherapy, CBT and DBT skills, guided imagery, meditation and Mindfulness. These are all effective therapies that help individuals develop healthier interpersonal skills, communicate more effectively, learn to tolerate distress and overcome negative feelings through mindfulness and acceptance.
A professional can help one determine whether problem behaviors are interfering with having a healthy and balanced life by asking these helpful questions:
- Can you stop the behavior?
- What happens if you abstain from this behavior for a day, a week, a month?
- What are the benefits of this habit?
- Do you do this behavior with others, alone, or both?
- What else do you like to do?
- How do you feel about this habit?
- What are the thoughts and beliefs that are associated with this behavior?
- What are the problems, if any, that it causes?
- Have you experienced serious consequences related to this behavior such as loss of relationships, jobs, legal problems?
Individuals dealing with addictions or compulsions need to seek evaluation and treatment from a medical or mental health professional who can recommend therapy, medication, group therapy and often a higher level of care such as an intensive recovery or rehab program to help restore a sense of control over their behavior.