What is addictive behaviour?
While the form of addiction varies (people can be addicted to alcohol, drugs, smoking , sex, gambling, binge eating, shopping, pleasing others/codependency) what is similar with all addicts is that their behavior is an attempt to cope with overwhelmingly painful feelings. The addictive behaviour attempts to block out the painful feelings by distracting the person from these depressed feelings. However because the original feelings are not addressed, they remain unresolved. In addition to this, the addictive behaviour itself has a detrimental effect on relationships and can cause stress at work .
How can addictions counselling help?When I see clients who have addictive behaviours, we will look at the underlying, painful feelings, often unresolved from childhood. I see the addiction as a symptom of these feelings. These feelings could be sadness, fear or anger. Over time we will explore the link between feelings and behaviour and I encourage my clients to believe that, with awareness, they can create a gap between the feelings and self harming behaviour. In this gap clients can use thinking interventions to challenge their limiting beliefs and by doing so realise that they have a choice about whether they want to do the addictive behaviour or not. In this way counselling can change the neural pathways in your brain. I encourage clients to believe that they are addicted not to the drink, gambling etc but to the negative thoughts about themselves that happens after/during the addictive behaviour. During therapy we will also explore alternative coping strategies for managing these painful feelings- eg feeling compassion for the vulnerable, anxious part of you ; allowing yourself to grieve ; using mindfulness , meditation techniques and being committed to a healthy lifestyle(choosing food to boost your serotonin levels, taking exercise etc).
How long will addictions counselling take?
For some symptomatic relief , therapy could be short term. But to resolve the underlying and often deep rooted causes of the addictive behaviour , counselling is often long term.
Listen to Radio 4's All in the Mind programme about gambling