Addictions & Compulsive Behaviors Counseling
We are creative beings, and so we can find a million things to become addicted to. Each person has their own particular proclivities, based on their personality mix, their background and their wounding. One of the things that makes various forms of addictions so hard to break (aside for any chemical dependency that might be involved) is that most compulsive patterns develop as a way of trying to cope with things that one does not currently have the emotional muscles (or relational resources) to healthily work through. Thus simply trying to stop (i.e., “willing” yourself to stop) the problem behavior usually fails—when a pattern (no matter how destructive) is helping you survive you cannot successfully remove it without first replacing it with something equally (if not more) effective.
Addressing the Roots of Your Addiction
While chemical dependency definitely plays a role in addictions for many people (particularly with substance abuse), I find that what sustains compulsive patterns (i.e., what keeps a person stuck) usually has more to do with deeper emotional struggles. The more that one works down towards the roots of their struggles (e.g., Why do I need this behavior to cope with life?) the greater success they enjoy at setting and maintaining long term changes. This is because the emotional muscles needed to healthily fight various forms of addiction are formed on a more foundational level than the easily observable addiction behaviors. In essence, most addictions are just the “tip of the iceberg”—it is the unspoken (and often unconscious) struggles beneath the surface which are actually driving the problem behaviors.
Additionally, these emotional muscles cannot be learned in isolation. This is why purely informational approaches to addictions are ineffective—compulsive behaviors are rarely due to a lack of information (e.g., knowing that what you are is doing is self-destructive does not give you the emotional muscles to actually change). Rather, it requires certain types of relational contexts (such as counseling) to help you learn to engage with your struggles in such a way that produces the strength to eventually make better choices for your life.
Addictions & Compulsive Behaviors Take Many Forms
It is easy to think of addictions only in narrow terms (e.g., drug abuse), but the reality is that everyone struggles to varying degrees to set healthy limits on parts of them that want to indulge in something to excess. Furthermore, in a given cultural context some compulsions can be masked by “dressing them up” in culturally acceptable ways (e.g., overworking). Addictions also vary widely in intensity. However, even though a compulsive behavior may not always meet the criteria for a clinical diagnosis, it can still be harmful to the degree to which you are feeling unable to change the pattern that is playing out. In my work with clients I am less concerned with diagnostic categories and more interested in helping folks wrestle with what is going on deep down that keeps them stuck. The following are some broad examples of compulsive behaviors, but the list of things that one can develop an unhealthy relationship with is infinite.
- Drug, Alcohol and Substance Abuse Addictions
- Sex Addictions (including Pornography & Masturbation Addictions)
- People Pleasing and Other Relationship Addictions (e.g., Codependency)
- Exercise Addiction
- Addictions to Work, Money (e.g., Shopping) and Hobbies (e.g., Video Games)
- Food Related Addictions (including Anorexia and Bulimia)
- Addictions to Rituals and Patterns of Thought (e.g., hand-washing, checking for locked doors, OCD, etc.)
If you are struggling with some form of addiction or compulsive behavior, I am glad that you are reaching out for help. You do not have to fight this battle alone, and I would be honored to help you build the muscles you need in order to move forward in your life.
Addictions & Compulsive Behaviors Resources
A comment about books and other informational resources: Books, blog posts and videos have their place in the growth process, but please do not mistake any of these as able to produce change. They can help you understand yourself and others better, and give you clarity on directions you wish to go. But if you are currently feeling stuck you will need a relational context such as counseling in order to help you build the muscles you need to move forward in your life.