Those addictive behaviours we are all aware of are behaviours, which means that they were learned for a reason, through a process. These addictive behaviours can easily be learned through a reward mechanism, the outcome is something the person enjoys and this strengthens that behaviour.
I feel that a majority of people who are suffering with addictive behaviour also have underlying mental health issues which are not being dealt with.
Someone who is dealing with low self-esteem may find pleasure in addictive behaviours in a way to make them feel better and gives them a boost to how they are feeling about themselves. This is not something limited to self-esteem alone. Depression can also lead to the person wanting to get as much out of their reward system to make them feel better.
The concern which I also have is that when people develop an addiction and display these behaviours, they are then treated as addictions – whether it be a gambling addict, alcoholic, etc.
In doing so there could be underlying mental health issues which are being overlooked, and they are being treated for their addictive behaviours. This may be a reason why so many people will never get out of their addictive behaviours and end up staying in the same circles. And in some instances becoming fatal to the person.
The person will undergo treatment or rehab for their addictive behaviours, but other underlying issues may have been missed and are therefore going to resurface. For example, if the person has low self-esteem, overcoming their addiction may boost this and they feel better, but if they have only been helped to deal with addiction and not self-esteem it may not take much for them to back to their addiction.
The individual may admit to their family and friends of having an addiction and that they need help with it, they need weaning off their drugs, they need help with gambling. But are they admitting to what could be deeper rooted issues, such as low self-esteem or depression?
This happens when people are saying: ‘They feel back off the wagon,’ and ‘There at it again’. If it is the case the person has low self-esteem; comments like these are going to make the person feel worse, that they have let the people down who supported them out of their addiction. This could then also push them further back into their addiction, as this is where they find comfort and feel understood.
I feel that it is important as a society to become more open-minded towards those with addictions and the people that suffer with them, as they are suffering with their addictions. They know it’s wrong in most instances, they want to get out of it, but people see a drug addict for example and just say: ‘They deserve what is coming,’ or ‘It is their own fault,’ and other similar comments.
Having this narrow view will never be offer those people with the chance they need to overcome the deeper issues that have led them to their addiction. People will only see the person in the present – either doing drugs, gambling all their money away or everything in between.
We don’t see them how they were before, their lives before, they weren’t born to gamble, or ‘shoot up’. They were born with the same opportunities as the rest of us.
When seeing someone with an addiction, rather than seeing them as an addict, see them as person, who made decisions that they thought were best for them at the time: ‘A little bit won’t hurt me,’ ‘A quick puff won’t do any harm’. They get a positive feeling in their life, which could be stressful, or as mentioned mental health issues, and the ‘fix’ has given them a high which made them feel good.
Due to this good feeling they will keep coming back for more and more and the next thing they know it has become an addiction, and they don’t know what to do, but they admit to an addiction problem. Something similar can be seen in the psychology film Trading Places, where the top investment broker, becomes broke and starts to fall into unsociable habits.
When seeing addicts and those suffering with addictions, always keep an open mind and ask what has brought them to this life, as no one will choose to be in that position. It is an effect of something which has happened in their life, and they thought the decision they made at the time was the best.
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Dale Burden is a correspondent for Psychreg. He holds a dual honours degree in Psychology and Neuroscience from Keele University.