Treating Addictions and Compulsions

People can come to depend upon many different things in order to cope with life’s challenges and its sometimes unbearable pain. Some people are addicted to chemical substances, like alcohol and drugs. These are true addictions, which generate chemical dependency, increased tolerance, painful withdrawal symptoms, and the need for increased amounts of the substance to maintain the desired level of anesthesia or euphoria.

Other people are more drawn to repetitive and time-consuming activities, such as gambling or internet pornography. While they may be experienced as addictions, these undertakings are actually compulsions and are classified along the obsessive-compulsive spectrum. Rather than fostering chemical dependency, compulsions (and obsessions) work to soothe underlying tensions by distraction and by providing alternative means of reward (e.g. winning, in the case of gambling, or orgasm, in the case of pornography.)

Whether addiction or compulsion, substance or activity, the attempt to deal with emotional problems by erasing them from consciousness generally fails in the long run. The feelings inevitably return, often accompanied by a whole raft of new problems created by the attempted “solution”. That is, drug abuse, alcoholism, sexual promiscuity, and daily distractions tend to have an adverse effect on work life, relationships, financial security, etc. etc.…as you probably know well, if you’re reading this.
The goal of treatment is to unearth the emotions that you find unbearably painful or frightening and to discover what makes them so difficult to live with. Little by little, we will reintegrate these feelings into your overall emotional world. When they are no longer a source of pain, but rather a welcome part of your affective life, you will no longer need chemical substances or compulsive activities to make them go away. At that point, you will experience more freedom than you have had before, freedom from addictions and compulsions, as well as freedom to live the life you have always wanted to live.

One important note: while working with you on your emotional issues, I may also have you consult with an addiction specialist and a psychopharmacologist, especially with reference to chemical dependency. In any case, your addiction or compulsion is treated not as an isolated phenomenon, but holistically, humanely, and comprehensively.

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