Habits & Addictions

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Are You Struggling to Change a Bad Habit or Addiction?

  • Are your unwanted habits getting in the way of living your life?
  • Are you trying to numb out your feelings with food, alcohol, nicotine, drugs, sex, gambling or shopping?
  • Do you feel guilty that you can’t seem to find enough willpower to control yourself?
  • Have you been able to change your behavior for a little while, but then find that you go right back to your old patterns?

man standing by lake dusk

Not all habits are unwanted. In fact, most habits are good for us. Habits such as brushing your teeth, looking both ways before you cross a road, or turning out the lights before you leave the house are examples of positive habits.

A habit becomes a problem when you do something “too much” and it has a negative impact on your life or the lives of those around you. While some bad habits like biting your nails can be annoying, they aren’t harmful. However, there are many habits that can be very damaging. Some unhealthy habits can even turn into addictions, which of course can be devastating.

It’s Not Your Fault – It’s Your Brain

In my counseling practice, I often tell my clients that it’s easy to turn to something else outside of ourselves in order to help ourselves feel better. After all, most of us never learned from our parents and teachers how to manage the stress in our life. Without knowing healthy ways to effectively deal with our feelings, it’s very natural to reach for something else outside of ourselves in order to soothe our feelings.

When we start out picking up that cigarette, having that alcoholic beverage, eating that unhealthy food or spending that money, it is a temporary distraction from whatever is troubling us. In addition, it can give us a high by boosting dopamine, a “feel good” chemical in our brain. And because it feels good we tend to do even more of it, which only reinforces the bad habit making it even harder to break.

Before we know it, the habit often turns into a real problem. One or two cigarettes becomes a pack a day habit. Those extra snacks have now caused unwanted weight gain. The glass of wine after work has turned into a bottle a night. The occasional spending or gambling has created serious financial problems. What started out as no big deal turns into a very big deal, causing problems for ourselves and sometimes even affecting other areas of our life.

At this point you realize that you may have a problem, so you try to control yourself. You stop smoking for a few days, only to get stressed out and start smoking again. You cut back on drinking, but then find yourself drinking too much to unwind after a tough day. You go on a diet and lose some weight, only to get off track and gain it all back again. You cut back on your spending for a while, but then find yourself going into even more debt.

Millions Struggle with Addiction and Unhealthy Habits

If you’re struggling to change an unwanted habit, you’re not alone. In the United States, studies show that 1 out of 7 people report that they have a bad habit that they would like to change. Let’s explore some of the common unwanted habits and addictions.

Weight Issues

We are no longer hunters and gatherers. Today food is available everywhere and it’s socially acceptable to overindulge. But as most of us know all too well, overeating leads to weight problems.

According to the CDC, the percentage of adults in the United States who are overweight is now over 72%, with almost 40% of adults in the obese range.* Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. On average, obesity robs about 20 years of good health off of your life and can shorten your life expectancy by 8 years.

Smoking and Vaping

Even though we all know tobacco use is bad for us, it is still the leading cause of disease and death in the United States. According to the CDC, 40 million adults smoke or vape.* Every year almost a half a million Americans die prematurely due to smoking-related illnesses. Life expectancy of smokers is at least 10 years shorter than non-smokers.

Substance Use Problems

Substance problems range from mild to severe. When use of a substance such as illicit drugs, prescriptions or alcohol begins to negatively impair aspects of your life, you may have a substance use problem. Repetitive use of a substance alters the brain and body, whereby you need more of the substance in order to feel the same rewarding effects.

One of the key signs of addiction is when you have lost control over your behavior even though it is causing serious consequences. Addiction can seriously damage families, relationships, workplaces and neighborhoods. People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol have a shorter life expectancy due to health issues. And substance abuse can lead to overdoses, crime, accidents, violence and suicide.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2017 19.7 million Americans aged 12 and older battled a substance use disorder.* Of those, almost 74% suffered from an alcohol use disorder. The most common types of prescription drugs abused were pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives. Common illicit drugs include marijuana, cocaine, hallucinogens, methamphetamines and heroin.

Overspending and Gambling

For many, spending and gambling can be a real rush of excitement. However, when something feels good it’s easy to do more of it, leading to serious financial problems. About 6 million adults meet the criteria for problem gambling, according to The National Council on Problem Gambling. Shopping is also very common, with almost half of adult Americans admitting that emotions cause them to spend more than they can afford, resulting in significant debt.

Compulsive Sexual Behavior

Compulsive sexual behavior may include multiple sexual partners, paying for sex or pornography. These sexual behaviors can be a problem when they take up too much time, become difficult to control, and are disruptive to you or others. The National Institute of Health estimated that 3% to 6% of adults in the United States have a serious sex-related issue.

Pornography addiction is increasing due to the online availability of sexual material. Simply viewing porn doesn’t make you addicted to it. But when the amount of time you spend watching porn keeps increasing and it starts to cause disruption in your romantic or personal life, it can be a cause for concern.

Gaming and Social Media

While playing video games a few hours a week can be fun, it can become an issue when you are unable to stop playing when you know you should. When a gamer neglects their family, friends, work or school, it may be time to seek help.

Social media can also be highly addictive. The likes, notifications, and comments we receive on our computers and mobile devices create positive feelings of acceptance. It’s no secret that social media companies tweak their apps to be more addictive, so it becomes easy to become dependent on them for instant gratification.

Bad Habits Are Easy to Make But Hard to Break!

Habits are very hard to break. Consider New Year’s resolutions – despite good intentions, only 8% of people follow through with their intention and reach their goal.

Why is it so hard to change? Common sense would tell us that if we know something is bad for us then we should be able to stop. But that’s not the case.

The fact is that it is very hard to change habits and overcome addictions on your own. But the good news is that with modern science, we understand a lot more now about how the brain works, and with the right treatment, recovery from your unwanted habit or addiction is very possible!

Choosing the Right Treatment

Acknowledging that you need help isn’t easy. But making the decision to get help can be one of the best decisions of your life. Now that you’ve decided that it’s time to get help, you want to make sure that you choose an experienced therapist that you can trust.

With my extensive inpatient and outpatient experience in psychiatric and chemical dependency treatment settings, I can help you get on the track to recovery. In addition, I also have specialized training in both smoking cessation and weight issues and have helped hundreds of clients to successfully quit smoking and lose those unwanted pounds.

In my office, I provide a confidential, warm and compassionate environment where you can be yourself and discuss your issues freely. As there is no single effective “one size fits all” treatment, I will take some time to complete a thorough assessment and recommend the best treatment options for you. Together we can explore the root causes of your issues and create a treatment plan to help you reach your goals.

You Can Regain Control of Your Life Again

With help, freedom from your bad habit or addiction is possible. Don’t wait any longer – the sooner you get help, the sooner you’ll feel better.

If you are located in Phoenix, Scottsdale or Paradise Valley and would like to have a free phone consult, give me a call at 602-992-4318. I would love to support you on your path to health and happiness.

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*Sources:

Habit & Addictions.  Center for Disease Control.  Health Center for Health Statistics  Retrieve from  https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm

Smoking and Vaping Statistics. Center for Disease Control. Retrieved from  https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/index.htm

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Statistics, American Addiction Centers. Retrieved from  https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/addiction-statistics

Gambling.  National Council on Problem Gambling.  Retrieved from  https://www.ncpgambling.org/