Bad Habits: Processing Addictions Beyond Alcohol and Drugs

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When people think of addiction, they think of substances like alcohol and drugs. They rarely think of addictive behaviors, but addiction goes well past substance use disorders.

In 2011, the American Society of Addiction Medicine included behavioral addiction in the broader definition of addiction. Behavioral, or process, addiction is the repeated compulsion to engage in a behavior, even when the behavior becomes harmful, because the individual cannot resist engaging in the behavior without intervention. Some of the most common behavioral addictions are eating, shopping, gambling, sex, and use of social media.

While process addictions have always been prevalent in the addiction community, they gained traction fairly recently in the larger medical community due to two big findings. First, people with substance use disorders tend to have more than one addiction. Second, the brain reacts to behaviors the same way it does to substances – this is why certain behaviors, like gambling, can be addictive.

Similar to substance addictions, there is no single cause of behavioral addictions. Addiction is complex, and so are the reasons why certain people develop them while others do not. However, research has indicated genetics play a major role in a person’s susceptibility to developing the disease. In addition, people who develop addictions often report high levels of impulsivity and sensation-seeking personality traits paired with low levels of harm avoidance traits.

Further, diminished control is common in individuals with substance use disorders and process addictions. Due to tolerance, people struggling with addiction experience less pleasure each time they engage in the behavior or consume the substance, so they become motivated by negative reinforcement (relief from withdrawals) as opposed to positive reinforcement.

Co-occurrence with substance use disorders is relatively common among individuals with behavioral addictions. People with a gambling addiction are 3.8 times more likely to struggle with an alcohol use disorder. (Correlation does not mean causation, however, and the relationship between the two is unclear.)

Oftentimes, process addictions are not regarded as dangerous or detrimental compared to substance use disorders. But job or financial loss and relationship issues with family and loved ones still accompany these disorders.

Process addictions can also be more difficult to diagnose, as the signs are usually not as clear as, say, a heroin addiction. Physical health does not immediately start deteriorating and individuals oftentimes hide and disguise their behaviors from people close to them.

One of the biggest challenges in identifying these disorders is the social acceptance and, in some cases, necessity – to a degree – of behaviors such as eating, shopping, and spending money. Others may not consider related addictions issues until it takes a tremendous toll on someone’s life, until it’s too late. Before addictions spiral, though, pay attention to the red flags.

Warning signs of a behavioral addiction:

Making lifestyle changes to accommodate the behavior
– Extreme mood fluctuations related to the activity
– Justifications or rationalizations for continuing to partake in the behavior
– Extreme excitement when discussing the behavior
– Debt and frequent money borrowing

Regardless of the type of addiction, societal stigma often casts addiction as a moral failing, a lack of willpower or motivation. Research shows sustained recovery is more successful when the addiction is treated professionally, so we must continue addressing the roadblocks preventing people with behavioral addictions from seeking and receiving professional treatment.

Blog Series for Parents: There’s No Place like CLOSE to Home

Beautiful latin family smiling at the camera outdoorsThere are many decisions to make as you decide on the best place to receive substance use disorder treatment for yourself or your child. When it comes to the decision of where, it’s all about you. While there are pros and cons to both in- state and out-of-state treatment, we will focus on the advantages of staying in state; close to home.

“One might ask; who wouldn’t jump at the chance to go to a warm state during the cold Chicago winter?” states Gina Howard, Program Director at Gateway Foundation. “When I speak to patients and families about the right place for treatment it’s really about the individual. There is no ‘One Size Fits All’ substance use disorder treatment. Florida may sound great if you’re in Wisconsin in January, but what you really need to consider is the quality of treatment you need.”

Having the support of family and friends during your treatment and recovery process is significant to success. Choosing a treatment facility near family and friends will keep them involved and keep you in the comfort of familiar surroundings.

“Some may find that staying in the same surroundings where they faced their substance use disorder challenges is difficult. For them, there may be too many distractions created by the familiarity of their surroundings. Others however, find that the comfort of a familiar setting, coupled with the participation of close friends and family, is a very effective support system. Those that choose out of state treatment should be reminded that when or if they return home, those home-based challenges will still need to be addressed,” states Gina Howard.

In many cases, your insurance provider can drastically reduce the out of pocket costs of treatment. However, there may be restrictions on the type of facility at which you can obtain services. There can also be restrictions on going out of state if your own state offers similar or better treatment services than what is offered elsewhere. Check with your insurance provider or treatment facility to get the best idea of what to expect with regard to cost.

When looking for treatment facilities evaluate your personal situation to determine the best facility for your needs. To learn about what Gateway offers, visit www.recovergateway.org.

Stress on the Road to Recovery

April is Natiroadonal Stress Awareness Month. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), medical specialists believe that stress is the leading cause of relapse back into drug use. Research shows that the brain of those with substance use disorder is more hypersensitive to stress, which may provoke them to relieve their stress by returning to drugs.

 

 

For those in recovery, many stressors arise such as family/relationship conflicts, work, money and health concerns. It is important to pay attention to the signs your body is giving you to recognize stress.

  • Headaches
  • Neck or back pain
  • Stomach upset
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Change in appetite
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety

Stress is often unavoidable. However, you can take a proactive role in acknowledging and calming the stress to avoid relapse. There are many healthy and practical ways to reduce stress and increase your chance of staying sober. Among these are: Exercise, talking it out (or write about it), breathing with purpose (yoga/meditation), and of course good old laughter.

Most important is to recognize when you are experiencing stress and find your most healthy way to cope with it.

The Role of Nutrition in Recovery

Substance Use Dnutrients and substance abuse recoveryisorder (SUD) and poor nutrition often go hand-in-hand. Nutrient imbalances can intensify the cravings for alcohol and drugs. Poor nutrition can also have an effect on co-occurring disorders such as depression and anxiety. According to an article in Today’s Dietitian SUD is known to lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies that threaten physical and mental health, damage vital organs and the nervous system, and decrease immunity.

“A well balanced diet rich in nutrients is needed for cognitive repair, processing and critical thinking; which are all compounding factors to a healthful and lasting recovery,” said Jayne Chatzidakis, Gateway’s dietitian consultant with Cynthia Chow & Associates.

The recovery process at Gateway Foundation includes encouragement for proper nutrition through collaboration with the dietitians from Cynthia Chow & Associates. The dietitians provide the highest standard of dietary consultation for the specialized needs of Gateway clients.

Proper nutrition aids in ridding the body of toxins and restores the nutrients that have been lost as a result of substance use. What does proper nutrition look like? “Eat more nutrient rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish,” encourages Jayne Chatzidakis. “Stay away from overly prep
ared, frozen, processed, or prepackaged foods. Also, drinking plenty of water throughout the day is vital to hydrate the body and assist in the detoxification process.”

“Overall, it’s about achieving a healthy lifestyle that is drug free, nutritious and active,” said Jayne Chatzidakis.

9 Tips to Encourage Your Valentine to “Lean In” to Addiction Recovery

iStock_000008811652MediumIn honor of Valentine’s Day, Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment reminds couples that selfless act of love can rekindle a sense of purpose in their Valentines. Without a doubt, the power of love can help people take the first step in overcoming alcoholism and/or drug addiction.

“An act of concern and support may arouse a renewed sense of personal power in others, which changes their perspective from ‘feeling forced’ or powerless to change to ‘feeling confident’ or capable of change,” explains John Larson M.D., Corporate Medical Director, Gateway Treatment Centers.

Building self-confidence and sense of purpose in your Valentine requires genuine respect and judgment-free affection from reliable “agents of change.” To help encourage an open approach versus a confrontation about substance abuse concerns, Gateway offers nine tips:

  1. Get smart about effects of alcoholism and drug abuse as well as potential treatment options to help facilitate a productive discussion.

  2. Timing is extremely important. Choose a time when your Valentine is sober and the mood is calm.

  3.  Set a caring and supportive tone for the conversation–anything less may backfire.
    – “You haven’t seemed to be yourself lately. Is everything okay?”
    – “What can I do to help the situation?”
  4. Use open-ended questions to draw out underlying feelings.
    – “It’s not uncommon for people to drink alcohol to try to appease their tough thoughts and feelings. What are some memories and feelings that trigger drinking?”
  5.  Talk less, listen more. Listen and respect everything your Valentine has to say, and resist interrupting.
    – “What are some of the things that make you happy when you’re not drinking?”
    – “What are some of the not-so-good things about drinking?”
  6. Use affirming statements to demonstrate understanding and to validate a loved one’s feelings. Validating a person’s feelings—no matter what he or she has to say—can help encourage self-guided change.
    – “You are under a tremendous amount of pressure so it’s no wonder you feel so overwhelmed.”
    – “That must have been devastating. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
  7. Take with a grain of salt any accusations of blame or verbal abuse, and refrain from engaging in arguments.
    – “I understand this isn’t easy to talk about so I’m going to let that one go.”
  8. Substance abuse rattles one’s self esteem so be sure to express he or she deserves better, and is capable of achieving whatever change is desired.
    – “I’m not giving up on you. You are the most amazing person I know.”
  9.  If shut down, don’t take it personal. Rather, just listen and try to withhold frustration or it may be more difficult for him or her to open up later.

“Planting the seeds of recovery from addiction is a delicate balancing act requiring patience and unconditional love but it’s not impossible,” says Larson.

For more insights and tips about helping a person take on addiction issues, download Gateway’s Roadmap to Understanding Substance Abuse at RecoveryGateway.org/Roadmap.

Another Helpful Article: “What To Do When a Loved One Has a Substance Abuse Problem?”

Editors Note: This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness February 2016.

Encouraging Substance Abuse Treatment

encouraging-substance-abuse-treatment, gateway treatment centers, gateway alcohol and drug treatmentIt is very important to remember that someone who abuses alcohol or drugs will continue to do so as long as the consequences of use do not outweigh the benefits. Once someone with an addiction problem experiences more consequences and fewer benefits they may begin to understand he or she needs help, and may consider substance abuse treatment. Do not feel obliged to cover up for another person’s habits, or make excuses about his or her behavior, that only puts you in the position of co-dependency and enabling.

As much as you may want a substance abuser to get help, you can’t force an individual to attend substance abuse treatment; begging or threatening won’t work either. You can only encourage someone to consider treatment as an option. Recovery will come, only if and when the substance abuser truly decides to seek a healthier lifestyle.

Discuss Substance Abuse in A Way That Places Importance On The Topic

It’s a tough subject, and sometimes it’s even harder to have time for a conversation that seems meaningful. Having a quick conversation about alcohol or drug abuse  in between texting and phone calls, or in the car on the way to work, doesn’t always signal the gravity and importance of the topic.

Tips for talking to a loved one about substance abuse: 

In approaching a loved one with substance abuse, the key is to choose your words and moment carefully when telling him or her how you feel. Ideally, pick a time when he or she is sober and when both of you are feeling calm.

  • Begin the dialog in an open, caring and supportive frame of mind. Anything less and the dialog may not go as planned.
  • Plan what you are going to say. This can be an emotionally charged conversation. There is a risk that you may say things under the stress of the situation that you don’t mean.
  • It is important that your loved one knows where he or she stands with you and that you mean what you say. Script out what you’d like to say, and go over it – it will help keep you on track.

If you have questions or are concerned about a friend or family member, call Gateway at 877-505-HOPE (4673) or visit RecoverGateway.org. Let us provide you with the answers you need to take the next step.

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