As we learn more about the causes of addiction, we’re coming to understand the many complex factors that make people more vulnerable. There is a genetic component – meaning addiction can be hereditary – and some people’s brains are structured in such a way as to make them susceptible. It turns out that people who are at risk for one addiction, or have struggled with one in the past, are more likely to develop other addictions. There’s a term for this, called having an addictive personality. Addictive personality isn’t an actual psychiatric diagnosis; it just means that certain people possess a combination of factors that it more likely for them to develop an addiction. Unfortunately, what this means for people who are in recovery is that you have to be careful not to replace one addiction with another.
We’re told to find new hobbies or focus on positive things in our lives when we’re struggling with substance use or mental health disorders. It’s an effective way to keep our hands and minds busy, where boredom can lead to relapse. If you become too obsessed with this new thing, however, it might prove just as damaging as drug or alcohol use. The following are some things that can end up being substitute addictions.
Food. If you’re already the kind of person who eats your emotions, you’ll have to be careful not to go overboard eating unhealthy foods. You might find that eating fatty or sugary foods seems to take care of other cravings – which is true to an extent, because sugar leads to an increase in dopamine production. That flood of dopamine in your system is the same process by which you became addicted to drugs or alcohol. It tells you that the activity you’re engaging in is a pleasurable or rewarding one, and makes you want to repeat it. Stick to healthy foods, which will make your body feel better in the long term.
Exercise. Believe it or not, exercise addiction is a real thing. It is good for, of course, but not if you’re doing it to the point where you’re always exhausted or you’re losing unhealthy amounts of weight. Like other addictions, you start wanting to exercise to the detriment of other things in your life, and it becomes all you can think about.
Other drugs. If you started using drugs in the first place in an attempt to self-medicate physical or emotional pain, you might be tempted to try other methods. Maybe you’re in recovery from opioid abuse, and you decide to try having a couple drinks every night when you start feeling that craving. If you know you have an addictive personality, this is a bad idea, because you might just end up addicted to alcohol instead.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.