Father S.O.S

Addicted brains, yearning hearts

Psychiatrist and Omnes collaborator Carlos Chiclana, in this article, which was the basis of his lecture in the cycle "Let's learn to love"The main features of addictions today and various ways to help those who are involved in one of them.

Carlos Chiclana-November 9, 2021-Reading time: 4 minutes

What is an addiction?

It is a pathological situation in which you become dependent on something to be well and stable in the short term. What you are looking for is to be well, but this unbalances, destructures and destroys you in the long term. It usually fills a biological, psychological, affective, vital or existential gap. There are levels of severity. Smoking five cigarettes is not the same as smoking twenty-five.

An addiction is different from sporadic use (snorting cocaine in the summer a couple of times), recreational use (playing video games every week for three hours), harmful use (repeated binge drinking), or habitual problematic use that generates many negative consequences (repeated use of pornography with alterations in sexual life).

Medically, in order to say that someone has an addiction, it is necessary to meet certain conditions:

- You use it in large quantities or spend a lot of time on it (mentally and/or behaviorally).

- You try to control but you can't, even if you want to.

- You crave it and have an irresistible desire to get it.

- Failure to perform academic, work, family or social duties

- Generates problems (medical, psychological, relational)

- You continue despite the problems

- Causes reduction or abandonment of important activities

- You present tolerance: you need more quantity or the behavior is more sophisticated or with more dedication to achieve the same effect.

- You have withdrawal: physical and psychological symptoms if you do not use.

Thus, the person's behaviors become automatic and are triggered by emotions and impulses. Cognitive control is impaired. There is no self-criticism, and the negative consequences are not taken into account.

What do you get addicted to?

Mainly to legal substances (nicotine, alcohol, stimulants, relaxing or analgesic drugs, inhalants, cannabis) and illegal substances (cocaine, heroin, synthetic drugs) and behaviors (gambling, gambling, sex, shopping, video games, internet, work, exercise, series, people, sects).

The most frequent are alcohol, nicotine, work, shopping.

What factors are related and predispose to addiction?

1.- Biologicals such as psychiatric pathologies (anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression); high impulsivity and need for stimulation; early age of exposure to substances (alcohol, nicotine) or risky behaviors.

2.- Psychological such as high novelty seeking, low esteem, low tolerance to unpleasant emotions, few emotional regulation strategies, inadequate coping styles, high hostility.

3.- Vital-experiential such as loss of meaning in life, exacerbated hedonism, existential emptiness, vital crisis, affective and relational deficiencies, spiritual deficit, personal discomfort, loneliness, lies, lack of communication or despair,

4.- Environmental such as low economic or sociocultural level, family problems, adverse and traumatic events, abandonment, lack of support, or weak family cohesion.

What signs can we see in an addict?

"Weird is weird, and it also ends badly", if something catches your attention, don't let it go, it alerts you, especially when there are several:

1.- BiologicalSleep or eating disturbances. Irritability, mood changes. Changes in weight.

2.- PsychologicalThe child is not aware of losing control, attributes it to external factors, uses it as a regulator of unpleasant emotions or as a reward, continues despite the problems; discomfort and irritability if he/she cannot do it, decreased academic or work performance, loss of interest in other social or recreational activities,

3.- In the relationschange in patterns of social relationships, limited to the consumer group, emergence of new friends, isolation, jeopardizes important relationships.

4.- Other signsThe following are some of the most important factors: excessive or unknown expenses, thefts, alteration of family schedules, hygiene habits or leisure styles.

How to help someone with an addiction

It is necessary to wait for him, until he is able to see the reality because of the deception in which he is involved, he is deceived, not because he wants to lie, but because he still does not know / can not recognize what is happening. Sometimes it is necessary to wait for him to hit bottom and be there to help him. We will try to understand what he needs, what he wants to achieve through this substance/behavior: tranquility, encouragement, stimulation, satisfaction, escape? To encourage him to achieve it in another way, probably with a professional.

The treatment has to be done in a complete way, it is not worth half; integral, radical and attending to the different dimensions. Like a car that needs all four wheels well put on. What would they be?

1.- BiologicalTreatment of underlying diseases (depression, anxiety, hyperactivity), drugs that can help control withdrawal symptoms, impulsivity, to reduce desire / craving. Sometimes requires hospital admission for detoxification, better in specialized centers.

2.- Psychological. Motivation to change, to generate hope for a better life, to be able to rehabilitate their life, to enjoy it again, to re-humanize themselves, to fill in their deficiencies and develop new habits, new behaviors, to change the way of thinking, to learn new strategies of emotional regulation and coping. Help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous can be useful, and there are groups of all kinds.

3.- Personal attitude: help you to recognize reality, to accept it, to be honest and sincere with yourself, to assume your responsibilities. We will work with the core of your identity, what is happening to you, to be able to free yourself and resume your life project. All the engines that can be activated will help: personal, family, social, spiritual, religious.

4.- Environmental. A change of scenarios and relationships will be necessary.

How to prevent

If you ask someone to have the ability to say no, to control and set limits and balance, help him to create the organ to develop the function. Don't teach him values, teach him how they develop into virtues embodied in his concrete person.

What can you do?

1.- Protecting minors of early exposure to substances/behaviors that may be addictive: advertising and access to substances, gambling houses far from schools, limits on the Internet.

2.- Specific campaigns (community, advertising, political) to educate, train and inform about substances and behaviors that are directly harmful.

3.- Campaigns to provide families and other training agents with education on the use/consumption of substances/behaviors that can lead to pathology (sugar, caffeine, video games, internet, cell phones, gambling).

4.- To form free and responsible people with intellectual security, help them to

            - to put our feet on the ground.

            - critical and reflective thinking (conversations, readings, traveling and seeing the world)

            - designing long-term projects (academic, sports, hobbies)

            - develop communication skills

To form free and responsible people with emotional security. This will help:

            - Cohesion, affection and security in the family.

            - Reinforce progress. Applaud perseverance. Validate emotions.

            - Training in the search for motivation to strive for and achieve personal objectives.

            - Learn to space out the reward.

            - Teach tools to face adversity, set limits and say no, comply with rules and accept the consequences of not respecting them.

            - Empowering self-care. Self-care.

            - Incorporate emotional regulation strategies

6.- To form free and responsible people with behavioral security.

            - Healthy stimulation with interests, hobbies, activities.

            - Be grateful. Give back what you have received.

            - Teaching not to renounce personal values

            - General, cultural and intellectual training.

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