Do We Need Our Compulsive Behaviors?

In any 12 month period, reports the National Institute Of Mental Health, 18%of adults in the united States will experience anxiety so severe it could be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder. About 7% of adults will experience major depression. Anxiety is a pervasive problem which threatens people’s sense of security. Anxiety causes us to feel that we are being threatened in some way if by nothing else than our own thoughts. Often, addictions and addictive behaviors are coping mechanisms for anxiety. New research suggest that the majority of our compulsions- from drug use to checking our social media sites- could be rooted in anxiety.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “...compulsions...are born in anxiety and remain strangers to joy. They are repetitive behaviors that we engage in repeatedly to alleviate the angst brought on by the possibility of harmful consequences.” Symptoms of withdrawal like obsession and craving, for example, can feel like harmful consequences because the brain is convinced that it cannot survive without drugs and alcohol. For other anxieties, however, the brain is convinced the absolute worst will be the result of not engaging in a compulsion. Not checking social media, for instance, could mean we miss out on important news from a friend.

Compulsions, the article argues, are a form of self-reassurance. “Suffused with and overwhelmed by anxiety,” the author explains,  “we latch onto any behavior that offers relief by providing even an illusion of control.” That is because “the roots of compulsion lie in the brain circuits that detect threats and generate a profound feeling of anxiety…” Meaning, that compulsions cause our anxiety and anxiety causes our compulsions. Compulsive behaviors are a form of self-soothing, self-care, and survival.

The Difference Between Compulsion And Addiction

Where does a compulsion become an addiction? As the author points out, compulsions are “strangers to joy” whereas an addiction is rooted in pleasure. Neuroimaging research of both addictive and compulsive behaviors shows a distinct difference in this way. Of course,someone receives a reward from feeling relieved from their anxiety. Such reward would stimulate the areas of the brain which process pleasure. But the greatest activity is in the anxiety circuitry. Behaviors are not the same as substances. Though they create pleasure, they satisfy a different need.

Enlightened Solutions is a certified co-occurring disorder treatment facility offering partial care programs of treatment for both anxiety and co-occurring anxiety. If you or a loved one are struggling to cope with anxiety and compulsive behaviors call us


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An Eating Disorder at the Dinner Table

Eating disorders are not always obvious. On the other hand, eating disorders are not always hidden as well. Many wrongly assume that an eating disorder is most strongly evidenced by how thin someone is. Mostly that is because people wrongly assume eating disorders are about eating. Just like alcohol and drugs are really symptoms of the mental illness that is addiction and alcoholism, food, weight, and eating, are just symptoms of eating disorders.

Having an unhealthy obsession over food consumption, weight, body image, and body mass index is indication of a problematic way of thinking. That unhealthy obsession can be displayed in numerous ways. Similar to the way an addict or alcoholic goes to great lengths of dishonesty to protect their addiction, someone with an eating disorder will protect their illness. Binging and purging are easily hidden. When weight loss, or weight gain, or not noticeable, these harmful and potentially fatal practices can carry on under the radar.

“Weight loss,” chief executive of the National Eating Disorders Association Claire Mysko explains, “is not necessarily associated with a lot of eating disorders. Certainly with some- and with anorexia- that is a sign. But for most people who struggle with eating disorders, you wouldn’t necessarily know it from looking at them.”

Anorexia is a prevailing eating disorder that can affect men and women of all demographics, cultures, and appearances. Since anorexia mostly involves restricting a diet, commonly to the point of starvation, weight loss is a regular symptom. However, not all eating disorders are about restriction. In fact, most eating disorders include the practice of binging and purging. Binging is eating a copious amount of food to the point of feeling sick. Purging means using a method like vomiting, abusing laxatives, or excessive exercise, to get rid of that feeling. These practices can cause subtle fluctuations in weight, but no drastic weight loss.

The pervasive stereotype of what an eating disorder “should” look like prevents thousands from seeking treatment for their harmful habits. Eating disorders can cause heart failure, stroke, intestinal problems, and weight problems.

If you are concerned you or a loved one might be experiencing an unhealthy relationship with food, exercise, or body image, call Enlightened Solutions today. We offer care for dual-diagnosis issues. Eating disorders are commonly accompanied by substance abuse of drugs and alcohol. For more information call 833-801-5483.