Category Archives: Addiction Assessment

Evaluating Addictions

Brain Activity

Addictions and addictive behaviors are often defended by the addict. When you defend, it usually means you fear there is a problem. A healthy person doesn’t need to defend an annual indulgent evening on New Year’s Eve, an occasional cosmetic procedure, or hanging on to a tacky, old chair.

All regularly repeated, nonessential behaviors need to be explored for the degree of their addictive nature. For example, feeling compelled to jog daily for an hour may be a bit excessive, but feeling bad about yourself if you don’t train every day for weekly triathlon events is clearly an addictive pattern.

Brain Chemistry’s Role

The main role of the neurotransmitter dopamine is to signal the frontal lobe that a behavior is desirable, important, or better than most, which causes heightened awareness and a craving for more.

All natural pleasures produce dopamine, including drugs and addictive behaviors. Drugs induce a very large release of dopamine, which serves to intoxicate the brain into thinking that the experience was overpoweringly wonderful. And, indeed, perhaps it was.  However, with enough use, the brain’s pleasure center becomes rewired to believe that use of mind altering chemicals is the highest form of pleasure, and when triggered, your chemical response eventually becomes, “I must use to survive.” This results in persistent using and a loss of control, even when there are significant negative or even disastrous results.

Potential positive addictions

Positive Addiction

The term positive addiction sounds good, but if something is a true addiction, it’s not positive. Some maintenance addictions, like exercising or dieting, have positive aspects, but can be unhealthy when done in excess. It creates an unclear gray area where addiction problems are compared to the added value of the addictive behavior, resulting in an almost equal balance of cons and pros. This is especially tricky when dealing with addictions related to everyday tasks like eating and working. If your behavior falls into this category, consider cutting back when possible and getting involved in another positive activity.

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RESPONSE TO ADDICTION

Abstinent and Maintenance Addictions

It’s essential you have a clear and strong response to your addiction. Depending on the type of addiction and your relationship with it, this requires either abstaining or maintaining, or abstaining after attempting to maintain.

Abstinent Addictions

Abstinence requires total avoidance from the addiction. Consider the following:

Drugs or Non-Prescription Medication

  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Caffeine
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants
  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine: Smoking or chewing
  • Opiates
  • Over the Counter Medications
  • Performance Enhancing Medications: Steroids, human growth hormones, etc.
  • Synthetic or designer drugs
  • Tranquilizers

Gambling

Pica

Ingestion of non-food materials

Self Harm

  • Burning, Cutting, and Pounding
  • Suicide attempts

Sex

Pornography, Internet

Maintenance Addictions:

With some addictions aspects of the addiction are unavoidable or have some redeeming value. Your recovery approach needs a structured plan with specific limits. Some addictions may necessitate a brief period of abstinence, such as sexual abstinence when you are in recovery from a sex addiction.

Beauty

  • Cosmetic Surgery
  • Tanning: Tanorexia

Codependency

Collecting

  • Cluttering and Hoarding
  • Status: Art, cars, women, an entourage

Competition

  • Sports: Watching or participating
  • War: Against self or others

Stimulation

From high risk behavior

  • Criminal activity
  • Drama
  • Extreme activities: bungy jumping, hang gliding

Extreme Exercise and Body Building

Fame

Ego-acknowledgment, achievement, money, attention

Food

  • Overeating
  • Binging/purging
  • Dieting
  • Eliminating:  suppository
  • Obesity
  • Sugar or carbohydrate abuse
  • Under-eating: Anorexia

Gambling and Gaming

  • Personal or Interactive
  • Video: Units and online

Money

  • Saving
  • Spending: For pleasure
  • Spending: For effect, status, control, ego

Power and Control

  • Accumulation: Making, keeping
  • Institutional: Organizational, religious

Prescription Medication

Relationship, Love, Romance

Sex

  • Personal, Interpersonal
  • Video, Television, Movies, Porn

Work, Personal Projects

Note: Categories are not clear-cut. Depending on the details, addictions could be in a different or more than one category.

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Before Recovery Can Start

TBA_Recovery_Typeset

ADDICTION EVALUATION

You have an addiction when using causes significant life problems, and yet you continue to use. Using has become the problem, but it still feels like a solution. Addiction is a biological, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual based disease. It creates excessive negative behaviors that you can’t control. Addictions especially flood the brain with neurotransmitters.  These cause the brain to be rewired so it eventually believes, “I must use to survive.” Even when you aren’t using, you’re thinking about it. If you think you may have an addiction issue, you do.

Underneath the misuse of substances, destructive behaviors, and codependency, are emotional feelings that are pushing your addiction along. Coping with your addiction is difficult, but you must move past your issues and build a positive emotional life. A major factor in addiction is avoiding negative emotions. In recovery, connect with all of your feelings and with your heart.

In the beginning, your addiction likely did help you avoid negative emotions, or at least it seemed to help, but now it has turned on you. You may have sworn off using for a period of time, believing time off would solve your addiction problems, only to find the same issues reappearing when you started using again. It’s time to look at and accept the reality of your using before the dues become even heavier, or it’s too late. If there is no problem, prove it to yourself and abstain from using for six months or longer.

Addictions are common. Stop asking, “Am I an addict or not?” And ask, “How is addiction affecting my life?” or “To what degree is my behavior negatively affecting me and my family?” You may also be addicted to the process, to the experience, and to the behaviors of addiction. These include stimulation, scoring, obtaining, preparing, using rituals, social interactions, and a sense of belonging.

The key to the self-evaluation below is to be honest. Avoid rationalizing your responses. The following quiz should only be a starting place.

TBA_Addiction_Types

Addiction Self-Evaluation

Answer Yes or No:

_____ Has anyone asked me or commented about my using?

_____ Do I use more, or more often, than I plan on?

_____ Do I feel negative emotions about my using?

_____ Do I hide or sneak my using from others?

_____ Do I cover up my using or the consequences?

_____ Do I have fewer close friends than I used to?

_____ Do I continue to use despite negative results?

_____ Do I think about using for hours before I do it?

_____ Has my using caused me to act undesirably?

_____ Has my using decreased my desired activities?

_____ Has anyone confronted me about my using?

One yes answer should be a concern; three or more and you should seriously consider that you have an addiction issue and explore recovery; six or more and you have a problem. Start recovery immediately.

 

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