The Neurology of Addiction
The Complexities of Emotions and Addictions
God created the human mind and body with the beautifully complicated ability to experience all types of emotions. Ranging from pleasure to pain and love to anger, emotions are incredibly complex and difficult to fully understand. Because everything in this physical world is wearing down, sometimes our minds and bodies don’t function correctly and this complex system of emotions and gratification is corrupted. Everyone has been influenced by an addiction in some way, even it it’s not in your own life. Sometimes, you might not even realize that you or someone you care about is addicted to something. In our impatient, instant-gratification world today, it’s easier than ever to develop an addiction. The good news is, addictions can be overcome. Not always overnight, sometimes it takes a lot of work, dedication, and pain, but it is very possible to live free from addiction. Read on to find out how!
What Exactly is An Addiction?
An addiction is the inability to control yourself from taking or doing something. That thing could either be drugs, alcohol, nicotine, work, sex, food, or exercise. Really, you can become addicted to almost anything. Addiction starts in the reward pathways of the brain. Whenever you do or experience something that is rewarding or pleasurable, even as simple as eating a piece of chocolate, your brain sends a small shot of dopamine into your reward pathways. When a substance or action begins to be used excessively, your brain floods the reward pathways with almost 10 times more dopamine than is normal. This much dopamine is overwhelming for your brain and starts to lessen the number of neuron receptors in your brain. So, even though your brain is still receiving an extremely large amount of dopamine, the feeling of satisfaction from the action is reduced every time. This much dopamine also starts to damage different areas of your brain such as the ones responsible for decisions, judgment, and even memories. What seals the deal to cause an addiction is when the act of satisfying this need becomes a habit instead of a conscious decision.
(Most) Everything in Moderation
While some of these dopamine-inducing activities are not wrong in moderation, like exercise or yummy food, some are highly-addictive and damaging to this reward system in our brain, like drugs and excessive alcohol.
One glass of wine won’t necessarily cause an addiction, but when alcohol is used as a coping mechanism it can cause your brain to develop a need for the dopamine release. Drugs, on the other hand, are extremely addictive and induce so much dopamine that you can become addicted after only one use. People often justify their drug use by saying they are “experimenting” and then develop a drug addiction before they even realize. Over time, your brain needs more and more of the substance to induce the same level of gratification. That’s why addictions don’t just occur from alcohol or drugs, but sometimes also sex, food, caffeine, or even success.
Are You Addiction-Prone?
So why can one person have a glass of wine and be fine, but someone else can very quickly develop an alcohol addiction? There are a few factors that determine whether or not someone is more susceptible to developing an addiction. You’ve probably heard someone say, “I have an addictive personality”. This might have a grain of truth! One of the main factors that has been found in developing an alcohol addiction is your genetics. There are certain biological differences that can make someone more susceptible to addiction, and also worse withdrawal symptoms should they attempt to quit. Here’s the bottom line: if your mother, father, or distant family member struggles with addction, that by no means indicates that you are destined to develop an addiction yourself. Your environment also plays a big part; the type of social settings that you put yourself in and state of your mental health and wellbeing have a great influence on whether or not you develop an addiction. For example, if you are in a stable, healthy relationship and take care of your mental health, your reward pathways are likely more stimulated by someone who is unhappy, unsatisfied, or depressed. Again, this is not always the case and anyone can develop an addiction, no matter their social status, relationship status, or mental state. However, taking care of yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually seems to have a great influence on reducing the likelihood that you will develop an addiction.
Stopping It Before It Starts
Everyone knows that teenagers and young adults are prone to “experimenting”; trying new things, and often getting into trouble. But did you know that people are most likely to begin abusing drugs and other mind-altering substances in their teenage years? Because your brain is not fully developed until about your mid-twenties, you are much more likely to engage in addictive activities due to lack of good judgment and decision-making skills. Sadly, many young people are pushed into addictions by their peers and the pressure of society, or lack of direction and attention from parents. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, please schedule a Discovery Call with me today, I can help you overcome your addiction and live confidently.
Our world today is a breeding ground for addictions. With everything you could possibly think of a few seconds away from your fingertips, our brains are constantly stimulated. There is no concept of waiting; it takes 10 seconds to fill your online shopping cart of things you don’t need or access a pornography website. You can have addictions to your phone, computer, tablet, TV, game console, or social media sites. Most people are sucked into an addiction before they even realize it, and their lives are often ruined because of it. Marriages and relationships are broken, careers are ruined, and your mental health can be destroyed. If you’re struggling with an addiction, don’t wait. If you are in Florida, you can call the hotline 211 for help with all types of addictions. If you want to take the courageous step to freedom in your life, I encourage you to schedule a Discovery Call with me today. Your life and mental health will change drastically when you can live free of addictions. It’s possible to be free and live confidently!