In the societies in which we live today, constantly subjected to a torrent of novelties and constant stimuli, the need to have free time, moments to carry out leisure activities at our own pace, takes on special importance. Whether it’s going out with friends, hiking in the mountains or playing sports, these pleasurable actions not only bring us well-being; they also allow us to disconnect from many of our responsibilities.
However, in some cases, these pleasant activities can take up too much time, attention and resources on our part, and this creates situations of dependency. We enter a loop of anticipation and satisfaction of needs , and the difficulty in breaking this circle hinders the course of our responsibilities to others or to ourselves. And the discomfort and frustration generated by this loss of control also takes its toll on us.
Although the word “addiction” is usually associated with drugs, in reality there are many other contexts capable of making us enter into addictive dynamics . For this reason, it is important to have professional assistance and not to assume that to overcome addiction everything is based on simply not using. It is based on returning to being oneself by re-embracing the way of life that really defines us.
Loss of identity through addiction
In any situation where we feel that we are losing control of our lives because of a type of consumption or activity that causes dependency, it is essential to consider the possibility of going to psychotherapy. Psychological assistance from mental health professionals can help us to break the vicious circle in situations such as drug addiction, gambling, toxic relationships with people who dominate us, etc.
Dealing with this kind of problem as soon as it is detected that control is lost is essential to solve it as quickly as possible. Especially considering the extent to which addictions can occur .
As shown in data from the Spanish Ministry of Health, approximately 20% of young Spaniards aged 15-24 used cannabis at least once in 2018. On the other hand, in a report prepared from the survey STUDIES in 2014 in adolescents aged 15-16, in the 30 days prior to being asked, 65% had consumed alcohol, 37% had consumed alcohol excessively, and 28% had consumed cannabis. The use of these substances is increasing, and the age of onset is getting younger.
The Evolution of Substance Addiction
At the beginning of the use of a drug, it is easy to continue using that substance: the feeling when doing so is usually pleasant. However, with time, when we get into the addiction, that pleasure is replaced by irritability , the need to go through that experience again even though that generates social isolation. Along the way, it is frequent that health also wears out, both physically and psychologically.
In the end, that ease of getting irritated with anything turns into despair and total loss of autonomy. That is why it is very important to understand the nature of addiction, so that we can fight it and prevent it from taking away our freedom.
The whole process by which addiction is consolidated usually occurs while the person is aware of that harmful drift that is taking place in his way of living . Therefore, on many occasions the person struggles to free him/herself from this kind of dependency, and this usually produces frustration and the feeling that any resistance is useless, which facilitates the appearance of relapses.
On the other hand, the periods in which one tries to avoid consumption generate even more desire to repeat the experience of taking the drug, which predisposes us to go through the rebound effect: the relapse occurs with a greater and more intense consumption than it would have been if one had not tried to stop that substance.
At the same time, the evolution of addictions makes that every time we need to take bigger quantities than what causes us dependency: the quantity that at the beginning generated us pleasure, months later it hardly serves to satisfy part of the imperative need to consume.
Of course, getting caught up in this experience of dependency is painful for those who experience it in their own flesh, but it is also very painful for their loved ones. At the same time, false beliefs about addictions, such as the idea that quitting is a matter of will power , contribute to generate frustration and stigmatization, and in some cases criminalization of the victim.
What is psychotherapy with addiction experts for?
Having professional assistance provides many benefits and useful tools to fight addiction. For example, it gives patients a comfortable and safe space in which to think, express themselves and analyse the reason for what they are feeling , without being subject to prejudice and fear of what they will say.
On the other hand, psychotherapy is one of the best frameworks in which to set realistic goals and sensible action plans that allow us to move away from what generates dependency in a lasting and effective way.
On the other hand, the possibility of having a therapeutic perspective that goes beyond the symptoms seen through the prism of psychiatry is also very valuable. Psychotherapists work taking into account the global context of people’s lives, their life as a unit: the relationships with the patient’s relatives, their workplace, their hobbies, etc.
This helps to introduce changes in your day-to-day life that facilitate the transition to a life away from addiction. The therapeutic accompaniment is adapted to the unique experiences of each patient , and not only in the symptoms that appear in moments of crisis or in hospitalisation.
On the other hand, this type of problem must be approached from a multidisciplinary logic, in which there is not just one expert voice. On many occasions it is necessary to work with both psychologists and specialized psychiatrists. The support unit is not so much an isolated professional as a team of professionals.
The moment an aspect of your day-to-day life appears that takes control of your life, and determines when you can rest, when you can work, when you can go out and how you should talk to other people… it’s a sign that your autonomy is being damaged and your quality of life is being diminished. In short, your identity is becoming blurred; you stop being you and become a version of yourself that cannot exist according to its own rules .
However, addiction does not have to be a feature of your personality that determines what you can and cannot do. Seek professional support to facilitate your return to a freer and healthier life.
Author: Alejandro Noriega de Jesús. Specialist in addictions and Psychotherapist in Ara Psychology