Tuesday, October 24, 2006

How To Deal With Addictions

One of my first eye openers in clinical practice was an experience that occurred many years ago.

She had complaints of alcohol dependence.

Three times before her then admission, she had been treated in various psychiatric hospitals for alcohol problems.

She stopped the abuse of alcohol and her life changed.

Addiction can occur in many forms.

A person can be addicted to alcohol, street drugs, gambling and even sex.

Many people start with alcohol usage to help them sleep.

Only then is it considered an addiction or dependence.

Sex addiction as a diagnosis does not exist in psychiatry at present.

But when a persons only focus, dream, activity is some form of engagement with sex, it takes the form of an addiction.

It may involve chatting on sex lines, visiting pornographic sites on the internet, having the need to engage in sexual intercourse many times a day, visiting and soliciting prostitutes and even engaging in masturbation many times a day.

If we go by the definition of addiction, then one addiction that does not classify itself as addiction is work addiction.

When people engage in any work or a job, it increases their productivity.

Therefore it does not fit into the addiction category till damage is done to various aspects of a persons life.

Internet addiction is a new form of addiction developing in the developed world.

People engage in such activities because the activities give them pleasure or as in sex addiction, release tension.

Scientists have a theory that a chemical neurotransmitter called dopamine is secreted in the brain when we engage in pleasure activities.

When the nervous stimulation becomes excessive, a person may decide to take a downer like an opiate (heroin) to slow them down mentally.

People need these activities or substances to help them become calm.

These systems become disturbed when the person has gone through emotional distress or abuse that they are not able to come to terms with.

Almost all drug dependent people have gone through traumatic experiences in their lives.

If they have not experienced traumas, then they have come from pampered backgrounds.

In these cases, they become sensitive to even slight changes in their life situations.

So from their subjective perspective, they are traumatized.

Abuse can be in the form of physical abuse-involving beatings and food deprivation.

It can be in the form of sexual abuse- in which a powerful figure, uses the individual for their own sexual and power gratification.

In this case, it can be in the form of neglect, threat or rejection.

Almost all the addicts have such abused backgrounds.

The treatment of addictions involves medical or chemical treatment and also dealing with the emotional distress of the traumatic experiences.

If the cause is not dealt with, the drives leading to addiction do not change in the body.

In the absence of psychotherapy, meditation is the best form of treatment available that a sufferer can use in any form of addiction.

Pradeep K Chadha is a psychiatrist who specialises in helping patients with meditation and imagery using little or no medication.

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