Dealing with Non-Substance Addictions: Part 1

By Dr. Donna Wieghill

Nowadays being single is as normal as being married. With the divorce rate higher for second and third marriages, the average person goes back and forth from being married to being single, and over and over again. Sadly, some people are not very happy being single. I’ve experienced times of discontentment when  I long to be married, but I talk myself through the grief. Life, whether married or single, presents opportunities for growth. It seems that mortality is a means for providing character building situations; some trials are imposed upon you and some are self-imposed. Your attitude is one of the few aspects of life you are truly free to decide upon. Even when you try your hardest to be optimistic, finding happiness amidst, or in spite of your circumstances can be difficult. When life is tough and you feel knocked to your knees, how do you handle it? The ultimate measurement of joy is contingent upon the way you face and deal with less than pleasant situations in life.

A common yet devastating alternative for facing challenges is turning to quick fixes for relief and a distraction from whatever it is that is distressing you. What’s your poison? Do you gravitate toward substances or non-substance fixes providing you with chemical highs to alleviate some of the misery? Either way, resorting to unhealthy alternatives can quickly become bad habits. More often than not these quick fixes and bad habits snowball into addictions. The next few blogs will talk about addictions: specifically non-substance addictions. Why? The more we are aware of and educate ourselves about non-substance addictions, the better we can guard against them. As well, by becoming more familiar with non-substance addictions you may even realize that you are struggling with an addiction. Hopefully educating yourself can prevent or stop a non-substance addition from traumatizing your life and the lives of those around you.

First, let’s identify what a non-substance addiction is. The definition may be easiest by reminding you that a substance addiction is that which introduces a substance to your body. Examples of substance addictions are heroin, cocaine, alcohol, tobacco, food, sugar, caffeine, etc. When substances are introduced they stimulate chemical reactions in the brain. Positive neurological responses, or chemical highs such as pleasure, enhance a person’s drive to seek more of the same. The more you attain pleasure, the more your body wants. Over time, however, your body usually builds an immunity or gets used to the pleasure which came from a certain amount of substance and needs more of that substance to feel that initial pleasure. When your body needs more substance and craves it more often to feel the high, then you have likely fallen victim to an addiction.

Now, take that same principle of chemical highs and neurological stimulation which comes from introducing substances into your body, and apply it to non-substance highs. Your brain literally experiences the same highs from non-substance addictions that it experiences when substances are introduced. Examples of non-substance addictions are pornography, gambling, excessive shopping or spending money, and a number of other excessive activities such as exercise, tattooing, working, sex, and bodily harm to name a few.

As a final note, there is a difference between an addiction and a bad habit. You can bet you have an addiction when you 1. think about something all the time to the point where it consumes your thoughts and bothers you, and 2. obtaining the non-substance high or entertaining the non-substance activity negatively affects your everyday life-like interfering with work, play, family, etc. If you suffer from a non-substance addiction stay tuned. There is hope to minimize or eradicate the addition. Please seek professional help. Knowledge is power. Hopefully you will gain strength through educational means such as this next blog series.

Dr. Donna Weighill DPC

Dr. Weighill is the Author of To Say Goodbye and All Roads Lead Home: Shipwrecked off the 7th Continent


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