Is it being with friends? Working out at the gym? Maybe your job?
Not the typical substances you thought I was about to list off like alcohol, ice or marijuana hey?
That’s because an addiction can come in so many forms and half of them we seem to overlook.
An addiction can be either a substance we take or an activity we carry out as a way to try and escape underlying pain. It’s like a pain killer which relieves our emotional pain, however like other pain killers, is only a temporary fix requiring us to go back again and again to be able feel better.
We have all experienced emotional pain at some point in our lives and we all try to cope in the best way we know how.
Before I understood addiction in the way I do now, I used to tell myself and others that I didn’t have an addictive nature because I could try substances like cigarettes, marijuana and other drugs and not feel the need to ever do it again. Little did I know, I had other addictions of my own.
Below are a list of not so commonly discussed coping mechanisms, some of which you too may resonate with.
Work - If you find yourself constantly working (particularly if that job is not actually one you’re genuinely passionate about) or constantly creating tasks for yourself then you may be trying to avoid either something or someone that is causing you pain at home or trying to distract yourself from having to deal with your own internal thoughts that cause you pain.
Gym - This is a common coping mechanism for those who have recently experienced pain from a breakup or are trying to give up another addiction (usually a substance). Working out releases chemicals in the the body called endorphins which interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body and addictive behaviour similar to morphine, heroin or nicotine.
A healthy, moderate level of exercise each week is beneficial if done for the right reasons, however is not the answer to dealing with your pain as it only temporarily makes you feel better rather than healing the pain completely.
Food - Have you ever sat there eating a whole block of chocolate even though you had already passed the stage of satisfaction to the point where you’ve given yourself a stomach ache but continue to eat anyway? I know I have!
Food (chocolate in particular) is used as a coping mechanism for a number of reasons. Firstly, emotional pain such as stress, sadness and anxiety are stored in our body (commonly our stomach) causing it to feel dark and empty and so we try to fill that space with food to alleviate that empty feeling.
Also, just like working out, eating chocolate also releases chemicals in the body called endorphins which interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain and trigger a positive feeling in the body.
Friends - If you are constantly making plans with friends to keep busy and avoid being alone as well as find it difficult to be in your own company then you may be trying to distract yourself from painful or traumatic thoughts.
Physical Appearance - This is one I’m really passionate about because it’s the one I’ve probably come across the most and one I experienced in my early 20’s. What I’m talking about more specifically is feeling the need to make physical changes to feel better on the inside such as spending endless hours in the gym, getting cosmetic surgery and spending more money towards your appearance than you do on your rent each week. These addictions are common if you have a deeper pain linked to accepting yourself or feeling good enough and make you feel better within yourself temporarily until you decide you still aren’t beautiful enough and go back for more.
What’s important to understand here is that we are all just trying to cope with life as best we can and the only difference is the coping mechanism we choose to use, whether it be alcohol, drugs or anything I mentioned above.
The real question though isn’t why the addiction, it’s why the pain?
Once you know why the pain is there you can heal it rather than trying to escape it (which actually creates more pain like weight gain from overeating, severe stress from being overworked, etc).
If you or someone that you know is wanting to be free from pain and/or addiction, contact our centre in Melbourne by clicking here
Chanel De King, Therapist at The Melbourne Centre of Healing
Specialists in Addiction Recovery (including Ice Addiction) and Mental Health at our Addiction Rehab Centre in Melbourne, Australia.