Causes of Addiction
Understanding the causes of addiction can stimulate you to want to recover from it. There are many models of how addiction originates.
Bad Habit Model:
In this model of addiction, bad habits develop as a benefit of pleasure, comfort, and security. These habits have been influenced by negative environments. Habits can be stopped by changing behaviors, repairing relationships, and utilizing strength of will. Although this model offers useful ideas, it’s not the best answer for recovery.
Brain Addiction Model:
According to experts, about ¾ of drug and food addicts, and likely many other types of addicts, have brain chemistry issues, specifically:
- Mood chemistry deficiencies: Inherited or triggered in response to stress.
- Poor regulation of blood sugar: Inherited or made worse by bad diet.
Both negative moods and irregular blood sugar result in cravings. This is what 12-Step programs and the disease model call an allergy. It’s the essence of the cause behind addiction. Increasing the health of neurotransmitter activity in your brain with good diet and nutritional supplements will decrease negative symptoms and increase emotional and physical well-being.
The process of addiction of all substances and behaviors, from liking to wanting to needing, occurs in the pleasure circuit of the brain. You experience pleasure from an experience, so you repeat it increasingly until your tolerance develops. As time passes you need more intensity or frequency for the same amount of pleasure to occur. Eventually, your liking becomes needing – not for pleasure, but to not feel bad and to be able to function. This process changes the addicted brain permanently. The neurobiology behind the addicted brain model is gaining visibility and acceptance in recovery communities and the scientific world.
Disease or Medical Model:
This model believes some people have a genetic predisposition for drug or alcohol addiction which causes them to establish a lifelong, incurable physical allergy. Evidence appears to validate this.
Loss of Choice Model:
A new theory states that in some addicted brains, the region of the brain needed to make good decisions is more vulnerable to addiction and addictive behaviors. As abuse grows, this region becomes more emotionally detached, and its decision making ability is reduced. Eventually, the natural yet inaccurate brain hardwiring that results from your addiction overrules all else, and you use, no matter the consequence. You believe that you need to use in order to survive.
Drugs, including sugar and addictive behaviors to a lesser degree, cause large amounts of brain chemicals, especially dopamine, to flood through your brain and control your thoughts and behaviors. Chemical floods produce new addicted pathways that start small then become large canyons, while normal pathways become weaker. These changes may become permanent.
This model describes addiction as an immoral behavior by people who make sinful choices due to having bad character or those who violate social and moral codes. The addict is unworthy of sympathy and should be punished.
Personal Issues Model:
Core childhood issues or traumas may lead to negative patterns and emotions. If you don’t explore your personal issues, they will undermine the quality of your life, and you won’t maintain high-quality recovery. This is at least part of the cause of addiction for many, and a big part for some. As such, if you have unresolved issues or traumas, accept that resolving them may need to be a part of recovery. Denying issues will continue to cause pain. Please note, doing deeper work in early recovery deserves caution, leaning to contain core issue may be a better approach.
All addictions – except alcohol, drugs, and maybe sugar – are obsessive compulsive issues rooted in personality and character flaws. Some can be helped with medication. From this comes the Personal Issues Model.
Separation from your spiritual connection causes a void. This leads to the desire to replace that void with something that makes you feel good or feel numb – this often leads to an addiction or addictive behavior.