Addictions can be organized around different triggers that activate the Core Addiction Syndrome. These activating triggers have one thing in common – they activate an addictive brain response. This means that the brain is flooded the brain with pleasure chemicals that create a unique sense of euphoria while being inhibiting from producing warning chemicals which cause the feelings of stress, anxiety, fear, and panic.: As a result when people expose themselves to addictive triggers, their brain responds with an addictive brain response which positively reinforces them to keep hitting the addictive trigger. When people stop hitting the addictive trigger they experience dysphoria, The triggers for the addictive brain response can be classified into two major groups:
- Chemical Addictions to mind/brain altering substances (which include alcohol, illegal/illicit drugs, prescription medications, and over-the-counter medication)
- Process Addictions to mind/brain altering behaviors (which includes food, sex, gambling, work, and money).
A large number of people switch from one addiction to another. This often goes unnoticed because of problems with language. Most people, even most professionals, think only of chemical addictions when they hear or read the word addiction. Many people describe process addictions as compulsions or else describe them in the context of DSM using words like sexual disorders, eating disorders, etc. The idea of a process addiction doesn’t even come into mind.
Most people have an addiction of choice. In other words, they receive treatment for a chemical addiction, and then in sobriety, they crossover or migrate to another addiction, often a process addiction. The negative consequences of the process addiction causes pain and problems in “sobriety” that can lead back to the use mind/brain altering chemicals. This progression of pain and problems in sobriety are often called Early Relapse Warning Signs.
The switching of addiction –from chemical to process and then back to chemical –is a common but not universal phenomena. This raises the questions of whether chemical dependent people with a process addiction have independent and co-existing disorders, or if there is an underlying core addiction syndrome that drives them both. This is, of course, black-and-white thinking, which is not always helpful. Perhaps chemical addictions and process addiction share some things in common yet have significant difference. This is a reasonable position, especially in light of a long history in the addiction field of defining different types of addiction.
In the next blog we will look at the simalarities between chemical and process addictions.
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