Addiction affects the brain in more ways than one. Addiction of any kind can be related to some form of mental instability and make mental health issues more prominent or worse.
However, the cause of the addiction is also in part due to underlying anxiety and unmanaged stress related issues.
Below we will discuss…
- Understanding Addiction in the Brain
- Connection Between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse
- What is a Cause of Anxiety and What is anxiety the cause of (exploring different forms of addiction and how they relate)
- Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of Addiction or Substance Abuse
- Anxiety Relief (Tackling the thing that may be causing the addiction)
Understanding Addiction in the Brain
Addiction in itself is a form of mental illness. There is something in the brain that gets a sense of high and/or dopamine release to make you feel good for a brief moment when exposed to that substance or item.
Addiction can occur with some known addictive substances such as drugs, alcohol, sex, and food, but can also be from something completely random that most people would not find addicting.
Addiction therefore, can stem from some sort of unhealthy relationship originating from that item. Many of these cases are evident in the show “My Crazy Addiction.”
The addiction came along from some feeling of satisfaction that items has brought you, especially in a time of complete pity and sorrow, when you may have been feelings your worst.
However, addiction in itself would not exist with a healthy brain and mind. The reason addiction occurs is because that person is looking for an escape from what they are facing in their life.
Stress in present with everyone and how it is handled is based on each individual. Many people do not want to deal with the things that are stressing them out however.
People tend to let stress persist to the point that it becomes debilitating and unmanageable, wrecking havoc in their lives and perhaps encouraging anxiety to develop.
Many don’t see how badly they have been handling their stress levels until the anxiety develops and is full-blown.
When your heart starts to race and you cannot breathe, when that panic is triggered and you feel like you are having a heart attack, that is when you sit back and realize just how poorly you have managed thus far.
Often times, rather than dealing with the anxiety and anxiety stressors, we would rather ignore it in hopes it “just goes away” and mask it or cover it up by preoccupying ourselves.
The best way to mask it (or so we think) is though the use of pleasurable substances and things that naturally make us feel good such as drugs, alcohol, sex and food.
These substances release feel good hormones and give us temporary pleasure which in turn, temporarily stops the pain you are dealing with from you anxiety and unhappiness in you life.
I say temporarily because these are only temporary fixes when the real issue is not dealt.
In turn, the more these substances are abused, the worst you end up feeling and look to abuse them even further to continue feeling good and feeling on a high. Addiction is now formed.
Welcome now to a painful ongoing cycle of substance abuse and addiction.
One in which you may even see how it is hurting you and how much damage it is causing in you life, but somehow cannot stop it.
The addiction becomes so paralyzing and consumes all your control of your mind that stopping seems almost impossible.
Connection Between Mental Illness, Addiction, and Substance Abuse
The connection here is clear. Mental illness and addiction feed off of one another. When someone is suffering from mental illness issues, they turn to any form of relief.
Mental health issues are exhausting, they are painful, and the thought of losing your mind and control of your mind is one of the most excruciating feelings in the world.
Our mind is our safe place.
There are thoughts, opinions, and secrets we have in there that only we know and would never let anyone else in the world know.
It is the one place that no other person can see what is truly inside our thought process, the one place we feel safe. In a world where so much information is expose and shared, no data is safe.
If you have an account with the bank, the bank has all your funds information. If you interact online, your social networks will see what you are up too.
If you are googling things to get further information on something, the government can see if they are suspicious of your activities. Your mind however is your safe zone.
If your safe zone is compromised, you want to do whatever it takes to get it back. Often times we think that if we find a moment, or something that will help us relax, this will do the trick.
So, binge watching shows, binge playing video games, excessive eating, shopping, and substance abuse are just some temporary solutions to help us relax.
Although some of these things are rather harmless such as shopping and eating as it is a necessity for everyday life.
However, when someone has a healthy mindset and are in control of their mind, these things are harmless but, if you have an addictive personality or are suffering mentally, these things can easily become an addiction.
The human mind is complex, and we are always looking for satisfaction in something more.
Buying more clothes, doing more, partying more, more fun, more adventure, more money, more, more, more.
We don’t need much to live and survive and be content in our lives but we are consumed by consumption.
Since the invention of radio, television, and now the internet, we are constantly bombarded with the need to buy more, try more, and do more.
We are putting our happiness in the hands of materialistic things and temporary satisfaction. “If I can just buy that house I will be happy,” “If I can just eat that ice cream it will make my day,” “If I can just lose 10 pounds I will be happy.”
There is a market for everything and we fall victim to over consumption. Happiness is within, nothing can make you happy but yourself.
You can have everything you want in the world and still not be happy.
Rather than dealing with the real issues in our lives, we would rather numb the pain. Therefore, we do over consume and abuse alcohol and drugs.
This seems to be easier because these things give us a high where dealing with problems only makes us feel low.
Abusing alcohol and drugs however can really toy with your brain and make you lose brain cells, start to hallucinate and dissociate from reality.
This in turn, can promote further mental illness while at the same time can be the thing you turn to if you already have a mental illness. It is a vicious cycle once you get into it.
Forms of Addiction
As mentioned earlier, addiction can stem from just about anything. However, some things are naturally more addictive, especially mixed in with anxiety, stress, and past trauma, and addictive personality.
Examples of different forms of addiction include…
- Illicit Drugs
- Abuse of prescribed medications (benzodiazepines/pain killers/stimulants)
- Video Games
- Over eating or junk food
- Internet and social media addiction
- Plastic surgery addiction
- Risky, adrenalin fueling activities
Signs and Symtoms
- Unkempt appearance
- Secretive behavior, always out or hiding
- Dilated pupils, bags under eyes, yellowing or redness of eyes
- Discolored skin or markings and cuts on skin and bruising
- Irritable, moody, aggressive, distant, and increased anxiety and depression
- Problems with performance and attendance at school or work
- Drowsiness and constant fatigue
- Forgetfulness and/or confusion
- Vomiting or dizziness/lightheaded
- Criminal activity and behavior, breaking the law
- Cravings, obsession
- Incoherent speech or thoughts, hallucinations, and false beliefs
- Itchy skin
- Picking at skin, repetitive eye twitching, leg bouncing, increased urination and other bodily functions
- Cold or hot flashes
- Affected relationships with partner, friends, family
- Chaotic life, preoccupied
- Dirty home, dirty clothes, dirty car
- Continuous lack of money and debt
Anxiety Relief = Addiction Relief
Coping mechanisms to help battle the anxiety that is resulting to an addiction can be found HERE.
It is important to address the core issues before they get out of hand and expand to further issues like other mental health problems and addiction issues.
If addiction is already an issue and you need to help someone cope and overcome the addiction, the following steps can help to overcome the addiction…
- Seek help, communicate to loved ones about your issues (family, healthcare provider, trust worthy friends)
- Get a prescription for the withdrawal when getting off certain substances as needed (methadone, barbiturates, benzodiazepine etc.)
- Join a support group (AA, 12 step programs etc.)
- See a therapist where you can face the issues in your life that brought you to the addiction, let out feelings
- Partake in Rehab
- Focus on positive and encouraging activities that will keep you stay busy (working out, hiking, dance class, art class, sports, publishing etc.)
- Sober Living homes for additional support post treatment centers
- Perform continuous detox (cleaning out the system and assisting the elimination of the substance)
- Set limits to non substance addictions, decreasing slowly the amount of time engaged with that addiction
- Implement a healthy life style as healthy body means healthy mind (READ ON HEALTHY LIFESTYLE IMPLEMENTATION HERE)
- Follow the natural anxiety relief tactics as listed HERE
Once again, regardless of how you choose to overcome an addiction, it is extremely important to address the underlying anxiety issue along with it.
And if you are not yet suffering from an addiction but can see yourself turning to certain activities and substances and are not coping with your stress level, take the initiative over your life and follow these natural coping mechanisms HERE.
Wrapping it up
To wrap it all up, addiction and mental illness are closely related and feed off each other.
It is so important to address the stress, anxiety, and worry, that is the underlying issues and the cause of the addiction and the reason the addiction is continuing in the first place.
There is hope for all, and you are never a lost cause. It is hard to overcome an addiction and the process is not easy.
The withdrawal symptoms are difficult to overcome and unbearable but, the substances that are lingering in your body have to come out somehow.
A difficult moment is worth it for your life and a brighter future. You have one life to live and one mind, take care of it.