I do not like the words addiction or addict. It makes me think of commonly used labels, such as “disease”, “powerlessness”, “patient” and the need for a “higher power”. It creates a sense of unavoidable dependency and despair, taking away the incentive for an active personal involvement in working on recovery, on healing. I prefer to talk about unhealthy habits, and that includes the way you think.
The public relates these words virtually solely to drugs and alcohol, and in the process this causes us to forget so many other types of unhealthy obsessive behavior (depression, ADHD, anorexia and bulimia nervosa, self-mutilation, sex, gambling, shopping, cleaning, etc.)
Furthermore, these words are used unjustly with respect to those concerned, stigmatizing them for life, causing them unnecessary suffering because of feelings of shame or guilt, especially if we take into account the staggering numbers of people suffering from these type of problems (see post “You are not alone”). Once an addict, always an addict is a regretful expression that I hear often when visiting clinics or in meetings of 12-step programs.
And lastly, the medical community is focusing on the treatment of the symptoms and not handling the root cause of these “diseases” or “disorders”. Treatment is largely based on the chronic use of strong medication with severe side effects, whereas it is a known fact that relapse rates remain high and placebos work surprisingly well. It is noteworthy that over the past decades the number of disorders has grown from a handful to over 300, which are currently included in the DSM IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association.
I prefer to talk about unhealthy habits. Habits are “learned” behavior. It is obvious that depending on the nature and the duration of unhealthy habits, they can cause diseases in the classical sense of the word (liver damage, respiratory problems, degeneration of brain tissue, heart disease, skin problems, etc.) that may require medical treatment, but this will not take away the habit. However, habits can be unlearned.
In my upcoming book I refer to recent breakthrough scientific research that shows how what we believe impacts the way our cells, our DNA function. I also refer to so-called psycho-cybernetics, which shows that our self-image and what we believe about ourselves is fundamental for our happiness and well-being.
I have personally experienced that unhealthy habits can be unlearned. It’s all in the mind. And there are ways to change it for the better. Read all about it in “addiction farewell”.