We define addiction as “a pattern of thoughts or behaviors that provide a sense of relief from emotional pain or discomfort- a type of self-soothing by “numbing”. This “numbing” is what people actually become addicted to. This is not to be confused with physical addiction which explains the body’s dependence on chemicals, but rather the psychological addictions that underly and creates the physical addictions.
Many times substance use problems are also coupled with other addictive patterns and symptoms such as:
These are called process addictions and describe addictive compulsions to a “process” as opposed to a “substance”. Unfortunately, the chemical addiction community has historically recognized chemical addictions as something different than “process” addictions- with treatment requiring different facilities, different programs, and even different therapeutic approaches.
The most recent research has begun to show that the brain’s response to the addictive “rush” created by many process addictions is very similar, if not the same, as that seen with substance use.
Looking beneath the surface of the actual addictive behavior (both chemical and process), provides insight into the “function” behind the addiction itself. In a sense, we practice “functional therapy”. This approach allows us to identify the root cause of the “need to numb” as opposed to simply treating the symptoms. While abstinence is critical, true recovery must address the “function” behind all addictive patterns and mental health issues. Otherwise, one may enter drug rehab only to get stuck in a chronic cycle of relapse, or “addiction substitution”.