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Addictions, Compulsions or Simply Bad Habits?

February 25, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 142

Addiction has some somehow managed to become such an umbrella term as to become almost meaningless to both the therapeutic community and clients whom they serve. Addiction was, and still is, a term applied to a substance abuser who has developed a physical dependence on either alcohol or drugs. A.A begin to refer to addiction as a disease in 1930's to remove the shame and the implication that addicts were simply derelicts who were morally weak. This was most helpful to get people into recovery and get them sober, since a disease is much easier to deal with then a moral failing of catastrophic dimensions. Once the shame was removed, real progress was made in turning lives around.

Unfortunately, addiction now seems to be confused with compulsive behaviors or what the British still endearingly refer to as bad habits. Compulsive behaviors are defined as behaviors that an individual is unhappy with but can't stop doing. The most familiar example of this is the Obsessive-Compulsive (OCD) who simple can't stop washing his or her hands for fear of germs. Or the hoarder who has so much junk in the house that there is literally no room for the inhabitants. Addiction may have people who are unhappy with their addictions, but it is not a compulsive behavior in this sense: a substance has been introduced to the body to alter physiological responses which in turn sets off a whole chain of psychological and emotional complications. Compulsive behavior implies a serious emotional or psychological disorder that stems from something internal rather than an externally introduced chemical.

Bad habits is a phrase that has become the proverbial four letter word in both pop culture and in therapy. Yet, most of what people now refer to as "addictions" simply are bad habits. A common example: no one is actually addicted to chocolate. It merely tastes wonderful and is a pleasure that is relatively harmless even if overindulged. Yes, it affects blood sugar levels and that is a problem for a diabetic, but for most of us it equals some extra weight right where we don't want it. Although it is enjoyable, it simply doesn't have the same action on the mind or body as an addictive drug. To put it into perspective: who has ever heard of a self described "Chocoholic" who robbed a drugstore of its hoard of M&Ms? Or abused his or her child after ingesting a rage inducing couple of Reese's peanut butter cups? Calling something this trivial an addiction disempowers the person who wishes to change a behavior that can fairly easily be altered. It also marginalizes those who do struggle with substance abuse.

Trendiness and profitability now dictate that sex can also be categorized as an addiction. Sex is generally a normal, healthy part of the human animal. By calling certain sexual tendencies an addiction, sexual behaviors that aren't necessarily either abnormal or unusual are thus pathologized. People with a truly compulsive behavior concerning sex are rare: they comprise about 1 - 2% of the population. So merely being uncomfortable or disliking a spouse's porn habits are not indicative of a sexual compulsion or sexual addiction on the part of partaking spouse. More likely, it is indicative of sexual curiosity or boredom on the part of the offending partner, nothing more or nothing less.

Serial adultery is also not sexual addiction (in the overwhelming majority of cases) but usually a sign of a deeper problem within the relationship. A woman who enjoys a rich sex life outside of a monogamous relationship or who cheats on a spouse is now slapped with the label "sex addict." This therapeutic equivalent of slut shaming since the label of "sex addict" is problematic at best. Judging a behavior that strays outside of narrowly defined ideals a "Sexual Addiction" hides what the real issues may be in favor of a moral inditement of non-compliance with conservative Judeo-Christian sexual norms. This how sex addiction has become a real money maker for therapists who support this view of relationships and detrimental to the clients.

In order for the therapeutic community to remain relevant and genuinely helpful to clients, the real distinctions between addictions, compulsions and bad habits must be reclaimed again. A true addiction is a very serious business, one which can be life threatening. A compulsion might also be very serious but possibly not. A bad habit is simply that. Correct treatment should be predicated on these distinctions. Getting rid of the pop culture confusion about these terms encourages proper treatment and successful resolution of the client's real issue. In other words, rehab is not a requirement for a love of chocolate or for some dirty pictures on sweetpie's laptop.

Illuminosity life is a professional coaching practice dedicated to the high achiever who wants to move to the next level. This practice has been in existence since 2006 and has helped many clients create the type of changes they want to see in their personal and professional lives. Pat uses a variety of techniques to assist individuals in attaining their most cherished goals.

Pat has a master's in addiction counseling and is currently working on a professional counseling masters. She has extensive experience in behavioral health and working with special needs adolescents.

Source: EzineArticles
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Sexual Addiction


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