Addictions, in a certain sense of the word, come in a variety of shapes and sizes and forms. Many people claim to be addicted to exercise, shopping or some other beneficial past time. An addiction is only a problem when it becomes a problem. Is your addiction a serious problem? Or is your addiction becoming a problem?
Some addictions such as drug use, alcohol, compulsive behaviours or even excessive emotional spending can lead to separation from friends and family, the loss of a job or income or something much worse. Do you want and need help in addressing and changing your addiction with hypnotherapy?
Addictions – Why Do It Anyway?
Apart from the odd very unfortunate baby ( drug addicted mother ) no one is born with an addiction. So my assertion is that what can start out as a pleasurable activity perhaps a little bet at the races or the bookies, maybe a glass of wine, perhaps a pill or looking at an adult magazine can over time turn into a powerful preoccupation that can become all too problematic.
Now, how is it that what can start out as fun, pleasurable or something that is enjoyed with a group of friends transform into something that an addict feels they literally cannot live without? I will sum this up in a moment.
Not all addictions begin as pleasurable fun pastimes. Sometimes what can become an addiction initially starts out as a coping mechanism. What exactly does this mean? Let me offer you an example.
Some time ago one of my clients had experienced a bereavement, their last worldly remaining parent had died. Over a period of months which turned into years their initial coping strategy turned into a problematic addiction. When their parent died in order to cope and to try and deal with their emotions they turned to alcohol.
In this instance using alcohol to try and numb the pain they were experiencing ( it is a good number ) their coping mechanism which is very easy to understand why they did it, over time turned into a problematic behaviour and into an addiction. They dealt with their bereavement and gained an addiction.
So to sum up an addiction can be formed by way of an initial coping behaviour or can be formed by some pleasurable activity. Both of these really do have their origin in attempting to feel a certain way. And of course who doesn’t want to feel good?
We are neuro-biologically ‘programmed’ to seek out activities and behaviours that make us feel good. These range vastly for different people. And may include wanting to share time with good friends, eating great food, engaging in a hobby or pastime that we really enjoy. Or some behaviour know as an addiction.
The Dopamine Motivation Connection
Once we discover and find activities and behaviours that in some way make us feel good something curious happens in our brain. This is largely in part due to the neurotransmitter dopamine and the phenomenal way in which we learn, remember and seek out such experiences.
Dopamine produces our seeking and motivating activities to find and re-experienced something we love. This could be as innocuous as a cup of coffee in the morning, a cuddle from a lover or the next hit of a drug of choice.
Somewhere around the middle of the last century some pioneering scientists with their research discovered the ‘brains pleasure centre’. this was discovered using rodent research. A rat with an electrode inserted in its brain could stimulate that same electrode by pressing a lever with its little rat foot.
When the rat pushed the lever it received the small electric current to a certain part of the brain. This was so ‘pleasurable / addictive’ that the little rat would continue pressing the lever, refusing food, sex and water until it died.
More modern neuroanatomy knows this brain pleasure centre as a system of interconnecting areas and functions within the brain. This is the mesocorticolimbic connection.
The Neurological Addiction Pathway : MesoCorticoLimbic
The mesocorticolimbic connection are two brain connection paths and both start in the mesencephalon ( mid-brain ) at a site called the Ventral Tegmental Area ( VTA ). From the VTA there is one series of connection that go out to the cortical areas ( mesocortical ) involved in motivation and emotional interpretation and the other, to the limbic system ( mesolimbic ) which is involved in addiction, learning, reward and serious motivation.
The mesolimbic projections include the Nucleus Accumbens Septi which is a small brain nucleus in the basal forebrain known to be involved is ALL addictive behaviours. This literally means ‘addictions’ are acted on to find the source ( gambling, sex or emotional spending ) and act out the behaviour. Dopamine to a large extent provides the motivation to act out addictions.
And our brains really don’t know the difference ( unless its the magnitude of seeking / motivation ) between something that is really good for us – such as exercise or something potentially catastrophic like excess or long term drug addiction.
Homoeostasis and the Brain
Our bodies ( our brain ) have a kind of status quo. No, not the rock band but a kind of operational tolerances a bit like the maximum and minimum temperatures we set on our central heating system. If it gets too hot, the heating stops, allowing for a cool down and if it’s too cold the heating comes on for a while warming the place up.
The natural or operating conditions within a small window is know as our set point. This varies individually and what is interesting is our initial set point can be altered via addiction. In a peanut-shell our set point can be radically influenced and shaped by our behaviours over time.
As an example, when we eat carbohydrates, our pancreas releases the hormone insulin. Insulin is responsible ( the hormone of plenty ) for the chemical reactions that store away excess ‘energy’ as fat. Now imagine a person who has a regular mealtime, in the evening, at exactly 17:48. They regularly eat potatoes, bacon and sprouts. ( OK, its an example right! )
Now having established this eating pattern for a long time ( think addiction ) at approximately 20 minutes before meal time their pancreas is actively producing insulin in ANTICIPATION to a long established meal time routing. think addiction! There is a set point – established and having all the biochemestry starting ahead of time in response to a good feed … or something else.
The fundamental bit of our brain that is involved in homoeostasis is the hypothalamus. This little bit of kit is ‘monitoring’ all kinds of close up and far out outposts of our body from blood sugar levels, stress hormones and body temperature. What our bodies as physiological and psychological requirements is all being accounted for and in some real sense requested or motivated to get the balance back is by our hypothalamus.
Now this is crucial. We can imagine ourselves into all kinds of emotional states, we can exercise ourselves into emotional states and we can drug ourselves into all kinds of emotional states. Do this enough over time and there is a ‘normal’ state that we are physiologically and psychologically experiencing as the norm. Our thoughts, emotions, behaviours and environment and that whole interaction can influence our set point.
Psychology and Neurology of Addiction
The smoker can go without any hits during a aeroplane flight. The Alcoholic can go without a drink in the face of an imminent personal threat and the cocaine addict can give their baby away to a dealer for the promise of another hit. There are some very real and very different modes of ‘addiction’ which are functions of a personal-environmental interaction.
The US soldier in Vietnam who was a drug user can, on coming home, quit all drugs and becomes socially responsible completely. The environment completely changes.
Dissolving an addiction can happen organically at any time. Letting go old habits can be easier when there is a new or additional kind of perspective gleaned from changing environment, changing thought patterns and doing things different in ways that can provide new meanings and purposes which replace old behaviours, old ways of thinking with something fresh, something that is better than addiction.
Changing life circumstances, environment or situations can free an addict from their addiction just as much as a old thoughts, memories and associations can all be triggers to a set point of homoeostasis of addiction and the sense or accent is finding something better and more connecting that outframes an old addiction and opens up a whole new sense of purpose and can be very freeing.
Addiction Freedom with Hypnotherapy
Some tips to make changes yourself :
- If addiction involves other people drop them.
- If addiction is in one environment, change it.
- If addiction is related to coping – there are other ways!
Wanting to want to change is not enough. Wanting to transform is a good start and it will take effortful action from you to make this happen. Sadly hypnotherapy is not a magic potion where you the addict gets ‘some’ and is miraculously transformed into a model citizen.
Now, only if you are serious about making changes in your life, letting an addiction go and creating something positive and meaningful get in touch.
Call for a completely free, no obligation consultation. Allow 30 minutes to see how I can help you. Call 0770 481 8467 and we will arrange a convenient time to see how we can begin a transformative experience.
Calls are usually returned within 24 hours Tuesday-Friday 8am to 3.30pm. When you call should you get my answering service leave your name, telephone number and a brief description of what you need assistance with.