Many addicts suffer from mental health issues, and similarly many of those suffering from mental health problems also struggle with addictions. We tend to think of addiction as a dependence on drugs and alcohol, but people can have addictive relationships to anything from eating, to lying, to shopping, to dating. Just as our behaviors can be addictive, so too can our thought patterns be addictive and obsessive. There are some clear links between addiction and mental health problems, and these are a few of them.
Addicts can be addicted not only to their drug or behavior of choice, but also to ways of thinking that become ingrained in their subconscious minds after years of programming. For example, an alcoholic might have come to believe on a deep level that he is inherently inadequate and unworthy of love. He might create mental and emotional associations between drinking and feeling more confident, extroverted and secure within himself. This thought pattern reinforces and perpetuates the problematic behavior, in this case drinking alcohol, and as he continues to drink, he may feel worse about himself, making him want to drink more, thus continuing the cycle.
A person with chronic depression may have formed thought patterns over the years of self-doubt and self-hatred. As she continues to tell herself stories that she will never reach her goals, or that she is inferior to others around her, she becomes more and more addicted to self-deprecation. Her low self-esteem makes her more depressed, and as our inner world creates our outer world, this can manifest in more circumstances reflecting this belief: financial instability, unhealthy relationships, daily struggles- making her that much more depressed.
Anxiety-sufferers may be addicted to worrying, to pessimism, to jumping to conclusions, or to expecting the worst-case scenario. Those suffering from delusions might compulsively accuse others of silencing or victim-blaming them. Similarly, people can develop different forms of neurosis, such as pathological lying, as coping mechanisms that morph into addictive, compulsive behaviors. Another neurosis, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is essentially an addiction to certain thoughts and behaviors. All of these mental health problems can derail your life, in much the same way addiction can, and all of the above can be a result of our relationship to trauma: how we face our trauma or run from it, how we address it or try to escape it. Do we feel our pain and find healthy ways to heal it, or do we turn to self-destructive coping strategies that ultimately harm us more?
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