Knowing the Root Cause of Your Addiction

When focusing on making changes to addictive patterns of behavior, the behavior itself tends to take center stage. Whether it’s compulsive sexual behavior, alcohol use, drug use, or gambling, the natural thing is to want to disrupt the pattern of behavior. After all, the behavior is what has hurt those around you, and is the most obvious thing that has gotten you into trouble.

This leads to a heavy focus on relapse prevention, daily structure, and other behavioral interventions. There’s something that’s missing in addiction treatment. Many people try and fail to manage their behavior in the long-run. Yet, focusing on behavior has its limitations.

When focusing on the behavioral aspects of an addiction, there can be some level of success. Some people might even maintain that for the rest of their lives. However, other people will discover some short-term success, only to return to the same pattern down the road. Sometimes the behaviors are even more problematic when the use starts back up again.

In working with clients, I have helped many identify behavioral struggles, and ways to intervene with them. However, I know that most won’t be successful with just this type of intervention. They have to be able to go deeper. This can get complicated because it can mean many different things.

What makes the underbelly that fosters your addiction?

The undertone of an addiction can come from several sources. These sources can be complicated and difficult to find.

Here are many of the sources that we see in our practice:

  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Unidentified negative emotions
  • Poor boundaries
  • High general anxiety
  • Lack of personal connection
  • Personal trauma history
  • Disconnected body and mind

There are many other potential sources that can feed into an addiction, and there is no way to make a complete list of all of the potential sources. If you use the list above, you’ll have some good starting points to consider.

Having a plan is still important.

Identifying these sources is important. However, it is still important to develop a plan to prevent problems in the future. This means understanding the problem behaviors, as well as situations that can get you into old habits. Understanding this can help you plan day-to-day obstacles, so that you are more centered to handle them.

Having a plan means there will be trial and error. Some things will work, while other things won’t work at all. While you build your inventory of what works, you’ll be able to continue to implement these things more successfully. As time passes, you’ll build an increasingly solid foundation to work on identifying the underlying causes of your addiction.

Working on underlying causes means that you should be working with a therapist.

Many people can find ways to manage their behavior without seeking out a therapist. However, doing deeper work should be done with the help of a therapist. Without such help, you can unpack emotions and past experiences and not know what to do with this. A therapist can help you while you walk through your narrative. This can help you develop new meaning that can enhance and build upon your recovery.

Working with a therapist can also help if you are dealing with a trauma history as well. Many people who deal with addictions have a history of some type of trauma. This type of therapy definitely requires a skilled therapist. This therapist can help you process unfinished business so that it doesn’t hold power that will put you at risk of re-engaging with your addiction.

Two well-known types of trauma therapy are EMDR and Somatic Experiencing. These approaches are different in how they help you process your trauma. However, they are similar in that they have the goal of making it so you don’t have to hold trauma in your mind and body. They require specialized training, so finding a therapist who is trained in this can be extremely helpful.

Whether you use a specialized trauma therapist, or you find a therapist to help you with introspection, this can help you on your journey. You can learn about your emotional experiences. You can also learn how to open up doorways with loved ones that previously seemed closed. Therefore, after you build that foundation of understanding of your behavior, you can really learn more about yourself. This can help you build on your life, existence, and relationships as a whole.


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