Addiction Nation Pt. 1: Anxiety

I remember having a conversation with a peer who confessed that while she loves to work with people struggling with personality disorders, working with people struggling with addiction seemed as appealing as getting ice water poured over her head every session.

Well, as unfortunate as that may be it seems that addictions have only increased (new types, higher prevalence) throughout our nation.

The question I wondered was, “Is it even possible to avoid addiction in the field of understanding human behavior/psychology?”

If not personally struggling at a current time by an addiction, many of us can at least name ONE person in our lives who IS struggling with some sort of addiction.

It’s easy to pull out the more common addictions such as alcoholism, drug abuse, and sex addicts–but what about those more common (“seemingly tame”) addictions that many of us struggle with in modern American society?

* I am aware of the controversial nature of this blog, as well as the fact that these disorders are not classified in this way in the DSM, therefore feedback is welcome as I am trying to piece together the information I have learned, experiences, and build upon newer lines of thought.

The crazy web of ANXIETY. 

I realize that anxiety is portrayed as a disorder in the DSM, however, there is also an addictive state to it that shows it’s face in many forms.

 

In fact, after I began writing this I started to feel an overwhelming amount of information that fell into these categories (aka I have a feeling I’ll be writing a more in depth blog on this one!) and I place them all under anxiety since they all inter-relate to each other and the nature of anxiety itself.

 1. The glamorization of constant “busy-ness”

This is so common in America. The phrase, “I work ___ hours per week” tends to define more than the hours we work. For many, it also defines work ethic, if they are “lazy”, and how “good they are allowed to feel about themselves”.

I often think of the mom/dad who does it all and gives no time for themselves–all while never breaking a sweat (that is the glorification of what I like to call: the pursuit of misery)

2. Perfectionism. When learning more about the nature of perfectionism, you might be surprised to find that many perfectionists (while some OVER do everything) some under do most things/don’t finish or take on projects. Why? Because their perfectionism is so overwhelming that they can’t simply do a task “good enough” they have to do above and beyond (want me to start working out?… I’ll do it perfectly, twice a day, forever!) It’s that sort of thinking that actually makes beginning new things… well, impossible. Perfectionism is impossible. It also stems from anxiety with the ambiguity of life. Dr. Thomas H. Habib wrote, “Peope who suffer from the energy-robbing problems of perfectionsism don’t know how to effectively handle anxiety. They’re susceptible to this behavior because they have difficulty accepting the ambiguity and doubt inherent in life itself.” They struggle with wanting an “absolute” in life, when none is to be found. It feels safer living in the confines of control/making lofty goals that are typically unobtainable, and when obtained, only to be followed by the next “lofty goal”.

3. Shame. This may sound a bit nutty, but I also think that we breed a culture with an addiction to the shame we feel as a result of not being wonder woman/man 24/7 with a cherry on top. Instead of feeling guilt (i.e. I DID something bad) our brains commonly default to shaming us into (I AM something bad). One psychologist remarked that if we could read signs over people’s heads about how they truly feel about their relationships with others, it would read “Am I good enough?” for 90+% of the population. So how does this relate to anxiety?… Well, this shame actually prevents us from being authentic. From letting people know how we really feel, who we really are and ultimately prevents us from connection, creativity, and being our best selves– all bred from the anxieties that result from shame. In fact, I think another issue many americans face is the struggle to be “Authentic” when we live in a world of technology that constantly tells us to put our “best faces” out there, and leave out our imperfections (you can see how these all inter-relate in the web of anxiety).

*If this really hits home for you, an excellent resource for shame studies/ideas would be Dr. Brene Brown.*

 4. Distraction/Technology. Do you ever get that feeling of being “naked” without your phone? I certainly have. Technology, while bringing many wonderful advancements to our modern society has also become a huge distraction (for better and worse) for people throughout America. While we used to distract ourselves with imagination and creation, now many find solstice in their instagram, facebook, video games–you name it.

While social media and technology is not inherently bad, it’s how people use/abuse it to distract themselves from…. well, themselves. Many who suffer with anxiety find solstice in distracting themselves out of it. I, myself, am extremely guilty of this (as I blog… haha, I digress). The difference is, whether or not we have programed ourselves to become so distracted that moments in which we are without distraction are not “zen” like a bhuddist monk who practices meditation every day but likely the exact opposite. Boredom is painful. Meditation is anxiety provoking. Stopping distractions means a whole bubbling up of other distractions.

 

It looks like the person who sits down to meditate, only to go through the laundry lists of to-do’s (this also plays off the whole glamorization of busy-ness thing!). Our brains can actually become addicted to this cycle of distraction. It’s a crazy cycle that perpetuates itself (ahh!).

How can we change it? Well, while first order change or incessantly trying to stop these patterns (i.e. distract ourselves, think “happy thoughts”) seems like the right response–it actually perpetuates anxiety and only provides temporary relief. What works? Acceptance of these thoughts. While that sounds simple, it most certainly effort. It takes being able to be okay through the discomfort of negative thoughts, accepting their presence (and that they likely stem from somewhere rational), and that it’s inevitable that these feelings/thoughts will change. Meditation, DBT, and ACT therapies are all popular modalities for treating anxiety.

If anxiety is a pervasive issue for you (which it seems to be for most of us at one point or another), I would highly encourage addressing it through therapy or self work. Therapists can help you (via their training and third person perspective) better understand, accept, and work through your own personal “anxiety cycle”. Furthermore, therapy can provide you with tools to manage the discomfort and attack some of the more “root issues”–I say this only because I truly believe that many people use anxiety as a coping mechanism/response to some real/believed threat/trauma they’ve experienced or are currently going through.

Any way–in my efforts to be brief, feedback is welcomed and I’ll dive into other “under the radar” addictions in America in future posts.

Until next time,

J out.

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