WHAT IS AN ADDICTION AND WHAT TYPES CAN WE FIND?
By addiction we mean a repetitive or compulsive behavior that can lead to physical and / or psychological dependence, before which the person cannot set a boundary. Satisfying the addiction becomes the center of a person’s life. This behavior very often generates an experience of immediate satisfaction, but after it, the emotion of guilt for having performed the addictive behavior appears.
What is more, addictions cause negative consequences for our health, both physical and mental, and affect the person’s personal relationships and the whole life. We may consider, for instance, the harm that tobacco, alcohol, cocaine or heroin can cause in the human body, and how its use can affect the whole life of the person, damaging ties, their professional life and the its integrity.
There are different types of addictions, some examples can be addiction to drugs, video games, gambling, tobacco, alcohol, pornography, food, or sex, amongst others.
WHEN AND WHY ARE ADDICTIONS GENERATED?
Most of the time, addictions start to take place during adolescence, especially among teenagers who have developed an insecure attachment style during childhood. An insecure operating model, or insecure attachment style, is characterized by difficulty in establishing trusting and healthy relationships, and insecurity about one’s own abilities to develop in the environment.
From the perspective of John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, it is at this vital stage that the first contact with experiences that can eventually develop an addiction is usually produced. While they may initially help regain the sense of inner balance, particularly amongst people who have developed an insecure attachment style, for instance reducing the perception of anxiety, or helping avoid contact with emotions such as sadness, they soon become a serious problem for both physical and emotional health.
WHAT ARE THE BRAIN AREAS INVOLVED IN ADDICTIONS.
This is an area on which continuous innovations and lines of research are appearing, especially in the field of neuroscience. Different neurotransmitters and brain pathways are involved in addictions, such as dopamine (in the mesolimbic area), endorphins (in the mesolimbic and mesocortical area), and Gamma Amino Butyric Acid or GABA (in the amygdala). They are all linked to non rational areas of the brain.
The mesolimbic and mesocortical pathways, and more specifically the Tegmental Ventral Area, the Accumbens Nucleus, the Prefrontal Cortex, are involved in the addiction reward mechanism, which generates a biochemical response even before performing the addictive behavior, and the Lateral Hypothalamus.
HOW TO ADDRESS AN ADDICTION IN PSYCHOTHERAPY?
When dealing with an addiction, as a psychologist I am mainly interested in addressing what is underlying an addiction, because this is the way to be able to redo homeostasis, the internal balance that, through the addiction, the person tries to meet again. More specifically, from a perspective of psychotherapy based upon the Attachment Theory, we will try to raise awareness and integrate the injured, wounded or traumatized part the personality, which the most impulsive part of the human personality seeks to avoid contact through the addiction.
The wounded part of the personality is linked to childhood experiences that broke their inner balance. The most impulsive parts, on the other hand, have the function of preventing the person from coming into contact with the injured aspects. In this sense, addiction is an impulsive way of not feeling pain or negative emotions whatsoever, and therefore it will be important to help understand what aspects of the personality are at stake, and to heal what has initially generated it. In order to do this, we can support the psychotherapeutic work in which we intervene mostly in injured and impulsive aspects of the person, with a variety of techniques, such as hypnosis or relaxation.
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