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Addictions can be tricky and at the end of the day it’s just a matter of definition. No one “has” an addiction like something we can see. It’s a set of behaviors that has to fall inside of a model that we create.
1. It is a deviant from the population.
2. The behavior is maladaptive.
3. It causes stress for the patient.
People can be addicted to watching TV, religion, gambling, or even cleaning. So long as it fits those three components, the behavior is addictive.
Through experience, I’ve found that the only form of therapy that makes sense is cognitive. People engage in addictive behavior to fill a void. In the long run, the last component (it will eventually cause them stress) only makes the void larger. Therapists MUST work on the underlying problems with the patient and then breaking the habit. We must realize that the difference between a habit and an addiction is that there isn’t much underlying psychological scaring in a habit, it’s completely behavioral. An addiction, however, is a multifaceted disease that can’t be treated with little things like “pair a neutral behavior with good feelings”. That comes later.
We have to fill the void with warmth, love, and other humanistic components and try to understand the patient as a person. Don’t tell them why they shouldn’t feel depressed (what they have to live for, how many people love them, ect.), but look at them as a human being. Ask them their views on things like death, parenting, and the meaning of life. Help them find a purpose and realize that other people have no control over them directly, and that the only thing they have control over is themselves.
It’s much harder to make someone believe this than just telling them that over and over. They have to want to change. A little Hispanic girl once told me a joke that went “How many therapists does it take to change a light-bulb? One, given that the light-bulb wants to change.”