Mindfulness -- How it affects addiction treatment

How Does Mindfulness Affect Addiction Treatment?

Mindfulness As An Addiction Treatment

Mindfulness is an addiction therapy that is proving to be successful at preventing relapse, and that can be integrated into other treatment programs.  It is something that can learned and performed anywhere.  One of the reasons mindfulness may contribute to sobriety is that it provides a healthy way to deal with and reduce stress1 and can increase self-acceptance2.  

What is it?  One definition describes it as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”3.  Essentially, it is consciously being aware of how and who and what you are right now, and doing so without judging yourself.  Other ways of describing or thinking about mindfulness are “objectivity”, “neutralness”, “observing without judgment”, and “self-observing”. In mindfulness, you become an objective observer or scientist, consciously becoming aware of yourself, your experience, and your surroundings.

The idea of what we now call “mindfulness” is not new. Hundreds of years ago, Leonardo da Vinci stated, “An average human looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odour or fragrance, and talks without thinking.”  In other words, the average human is not mindful.  When we become mindful–when we become aware of what we are doing and experiencing–our human experience becomes richer and more meaningful.

Non-Judgmental Observation

While there are multiple elements of mindfulness–including observing, savoring, meditating and breathing–conscious, non-judgmental observation is its core.  Whether you are at a party, at work, out with friends, or at home, you can choose to intentionally notice the sensations you are experiencing and the thoughts you are thinking.  How does your food taste?  What do your fingers feel as they move around the keyboard clicking keys?  What is it like being with your friend?  What emotions are you feeling?  Simply be aware of what is going on, without passing judgment.

You can use mindfulness to examine how your own addiction works or relapse occurs, and to stop them.  In an article in The Fix, Jenifer Talley says, “The process of becoming nonjudgmentally aware of the components of a compulsion weakens its power. That’s why increasing numbers of clinicians are eagerly incorporating mindfulness into the treatment of substance use disorders, eating disorders, sex addiction and other compulsive behaviors.”4

Observe Instead of React

One of the ways this works is by helping the person become aware of what is going on, and instead of reacting, to continue observing.  Since cravings are temporary, by watching, one can become aware of what triggers the craving, of the craving itself, and then of the craving’s abatement without actually giving in to the craving.

Judson Brewer M.D. Ph.D. puts it this way, “mindfulness helps individuals pay careful attention to their cravings, such that they can see what they are made up of – thoughts and body sensations. Importantly, with this awareness, they can notice cravings as they arise, see how they change from moment to moment (instead of lasting “forever” as some of my patients have described), and as a result, stay with them and ride them out instead of acting on them.”5

You can practice mindfulness throughout the day by asking yourself intentional questions such as:  What emotions am I feeling?  What sensations is my body experiencing presently?  What am I thinking?  As you observe your thoughts, you can intentionally decide whether or not to believe them.

Mindfulness is one of the therapies that Paradise Creek teaches at its recovery center for sexual addiction.  Call (855) 442-1912 to learn more.

Sources:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2818765/
  2. http://www.naadac.org/mindfulnessandaddiction
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2818765/
  4. http://www.thefix.com/content/mindfulness-addiction-therapy-cravings-awareness8712
  5. http://www.rehabs.com/pro-talk-articles/is-mindfulness-an-emerging-treatment-for-addictions/
Do You Have Addiction Interaction Disorder

Do You Have Addiction Interaction Disorder?

Addiction Interaction Disorder

Many people with a sexual addiction also experience one or more other addictions or compulsive behaviors. And if they don’t have another addiction co-occuring with the sex addiction, the other addiction(s) can occur once the sex addiction has been stopped. These addictions can interact or replace each other, and “fuse” together. This is called Addiction Interaction Disorder (AID), and is something that every person with a possible addiction needs to be aware of.

In the words of Patrick J. Carnes, “Addictions more than coexist, they interact, reinforce, become part of one another. They become packages.”1 Thus, if a person has a sex addiction, the existence of other addictions and the risk of future addictions need to be screened. Additionally, since the addictions in an interaction disorder seem to have common causes, those causes–and not just the addictions–need to be treated. When there is AID, if multiple addictions are not included in the treatment plan and the causes of addiction are not addressed, then chances for recovery will be reduced.

There are multiple ways in which addictions can interact with each other. We’ll briefly describe a few of them.

Replacing One Addiction For Another

First, they can replace one another. In this case, a person may “recover” from one addiction and replace it with another addiction, either right away, or after some time. For example, a person with a sex addiction can ostensibly recover, having healthy, monogamous sex, but replace the addiction with another addiction such as compulsive work or gambling, thus perpetuating risky and dangerous behavior.

Cross-Tolerance

If the replacement occurs quickly and the new addiction is participated in at high levels, this is a sign of cross-tolerance. In other words, a person has a high tolerance for one addiction, and when he starts the new addiction, his tolerance level for it is already high.

Another form of cross-tolerance is when the tolerance for two or more addictions increases at the same time. Examples of this are having an increasing number of sexual encounters while also drinking more often, or both compulsively spending more money and eating more food.

One Addiction To Lessen Withdrawals From Another

Third, addictions can mediate withdrawals. The example set forth in “Bargains With Chaos: Sex Addicts and Addiction Interaction Disorder” by Patrick Carnes, et al., is of alcoholics smoking at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.2 The cigarettes ease the pain of alcohol withdrawal, but are still an addiction and still constitute a health risk.

Simultaneous Addictive Behavior

Fourth, addictions can “fuse” or become dependent on each other to create the necessary reward. Fusion describes when addictions are engaged in at the same time. Examples would be when a person always drinks when he gambles, but never drinks or gambles without doing the other, or when he smokes while compulsively shopping online. Says Carnes, “Neither addiction separately is sufficient: only simultaneous use suffices.”2

There are other ways in which addictions can interact, but those presented above give an idea of the importance of addressing Addiction Interaction Disorder in any therapy program. As can be seen, a person seeking to overcome sex addiction will be best served when screened for multiple addictions and for the risk of future addictions. The results of the screening should then be included in a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses (1) all the client’s addictions, and (2) the causes of those addictions.

Paradise Creek screens for AID and when indicated, incorporates the screening’s results into its treatment plans. You can call Paradise Creek at (855) 442-1912 for more information.

1Carnes, Patrick J., PhD. “Addiction Interaction Disorder: Understanding Multiple Addictions.” http://www.iitap.com/images/Addiction_Interaction_Disorder101.ppt. Power Point file.
2Carnes, Patrick, Robert Murray, Louis Charpentier. “Bargains With Chaos: Sex Addicts and Addiction Interaction Disorder.” Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 12:79–120, 2005.

Free Therapies For Sex Addiction Treatment

Are You Using These Free Therapies For Sex Addiction Treatment?

Free Therapies: Mindfulness and Self-Compassion

Sex addiction is a complex issue.  Effective treatment can require a variety of techniques and therapies.  Practicing self-compassion and mindfulness are two therapies that can help you in your recovery.  They are free, and you can start practicing them right away.

Focus on Breathing:  

In mindful breathing, you simply become aware of your breathing.  You don’t try to slow it down or speed it up.  You don’t try to breathe deeper or more shallowly.  You simply focus on breathing.

Kelly McGonigal, PhD suggests three ways to practice mindful breathing.  First, is to repetitively think “inhale” or “exhale” as you breathe in and out.  Second, is be aware of the sensations breathing creates, such as the movement of your belly or the feel of the air in your nostrils.  Third is to count each exhalation until you reach the number ten, then start over.  With all three suggestions, when your thoughts drift to something other than your breath, that’s okay, just refocus on your breathing1.

Savor:  

Rather than dreaming about the past or longing (or worrying) about the future, savor the present moment.  Whether you are eating a meal, spending time with a friend, walking, working, exercising, playing, talking or typing, become aware of what you are doing and delight in it.  Notice the sensations you are experiencing.  How does your food taste?  What do your fingers feel as they move around the keyboard clicking keys?  What is it like being with your friend?  What emotions are you feeling?  

Savor the sunset right now–the vivid pink and orange and purple colors changing shade and brightness as the clouds move and the sun sinks deeper behind the mountains.  Savor being with someone you love.  Savor the food you are eating.  Savor the feel of the breeze, or the heat or the cold.  Savor the feel of your feet hitting hard ground as you walk, or the supporting cushion of your shoes.  

Meditate:  

You can do guided or self-guided meditation, and the meditation can take different forms.  Focusing on different sensations:  the earth, your feet, what you hear, your skin.  It can include imagination, such as imagining a healing energy flowing through you.  You can use music or not.  Kelly McGonigal, even shares the idea of walking while you meditate.2

Pause and Observe:  

Simply stop and notice.  What are your surroundings?  How are you standing or sitting?  What do you smell or hear?  How are you reacting to your thoughts and feelings?  Do not pass judgment, just observe and become aware.  This “Pause and Observe” exercise can help ground you in the present so that you are not worrying about the future nor feeling shame for the past.

Become Your Best Friend:

If your best friend made some mistakes, wouldn’t you give him the benefit of the doubt, encourage him, support him, and focus on his good qualities?  Treat yourself the same way. Find the good in your situation and in yourself.  Focus on the positive.  This is not to say that you should ignore what needs to be changed, but rather that you love yourself and accept yourself as you are, even as you strive to change.

To learn more about overcoming sex addiction using mindfulness and compassion, please contact Paradise Creek Recovery Center at (855) 442-1912.

Sources:

  1. http://kellymcgonigal.com/2012/09/12/mindfulness-of-breathing/
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-willpower/201009/walking-meditation-the-perfect-ten-minute-willpower-boost

Sexual Addiction Can Happen To Women Too

(Post share from the IRATAD Blog)

Often sexual addiction is automatically associated with being a man’s problem however despite popular belief women do struggle with sexual addiction. Struggling with sexual addiction is very shaming for a person and can leave them feeling disconnected and alone. Because so few women come forward about their sexual addiction and assume it is a man’s disease the shame can be even more intense.  The diagnosis criterion for sexual addiction is the same for women as it is for men.

There are several myths surrounding women and sexual addiction that perpetuate the minimization of this problem for women and increase shame.

 Read More . . . 

Addiction, Neuroplasticity and Mindfulness

(Post share from the IRATAD Blog)

I recently read a book by Miriam Boleyn-Fitzgerald (2010), Pictures of the Mind: what the new neuroscience tells us about who we are.  This book explains how new technology is contributing to groundbreaking discoveries related to how the brain works and its influence on our behavior.  . . .

I find it hopeful to know that we have the ability to change and heal within us because of neuroplasticity.  Not only can we retrain our brains to heal and recover from addictions, but the author states researchers have identified neural pathways for spiritually significant mind states like empathy, compassion, and forgiveness . . .

Empathy, compassion, and forgiveness toward the self and other people are important skills to cultivate during the journey of recovery from addiction.  Often recovery may feel like being on an emotional rollercoaster, making it more difficult to develop prosocial skills.  It is helpful to remember that we are not our emotions.  Emotions are fleeting lasting only a matter of seconds; it is our moods that are more pervasive.  Being aware of the fleeting nature of emotions will make it easier to let them go and not identify with them.

 Read More . . . 

Resolutions and Addiction

(Post share from the IRATAD Blog)

Addiction is about not being able to maintain boundaries, follow though on commitments and being able to self-soothe in a healthy way.  When we are unable to say no and follow through on the no……(such as over-commiting ourselves to things), when we are unwilling to sacrifice an extra hour of sleep on a cold morning to go to the gym, or when we say “just one more time” or I will start this next week, we are engaging in a dangerous addictive cycle.  We become stuck in the same behaviors to which  Sisyphus was condemned by the ancient Greek Gods.  His punishment for crimes against the Gods, was to eternally roll a large boulder up a hill and upon reaching the summit of the hill with great exertion, the boulder would roll to the bottom of the hill.  This was considered by all to be not only backbreaking work, but the added frustration of the fruitlessness of the effort in the end.

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Addiction Treatment and Neuroplasticity

(Post share from the IRATAD Blog)

Neuroplasticity is the alteration of neural pathways due to changes in behavior, environment and thinking processes.  New research is making discoveries about brain functions that were previously believed to be impossible in relation to neuroplasticity. It was not so long ago that the scientific community thought neuroplasticity within an adult brain was impossible.

 Read More . . . 

What Is Sexual Addiction?

What Is Sexual Addiction?

Sexual addiction or dependency is a compulsive disorder that causes the inability to control ones sexual behavior that affects millions of people world-wide. A person with sexual addiction has excessive thoughts or behaviors relating to or obtaining a desired sexual effect. Those that suffer from this obsessive dependency suffer at work, with personal relationships, and other daily activities.

Some of the criterion associated with sexual addiction includes compulsive behavior resulting in adverse consequences. At first, these activities can be pleasurable. But the continued act becomes steadily compulsive until one becomes addicted. Some of these compulsive behaviors include pornography, multiple anonymous partners, repeated affairs, cyber-sex, prostitution, exhibitionism, and voyeurism to name a few.

The inability to control such sexual behaviors leads to depression, anxiety, and other emotional actions. Emotional coping is one way addicts use their addiction to experience a different way of stimulating the brain. Over time, the person becomes addicted pornography or other sexual stimulation to obtain feelings of gratification. But with that, other related issues like abandonment, fear, shame, or guilt are also linked to sexual addiction. Addicts can’t voluntarily disengage from sexual behavior, ending in consequences that disrupt the normal function of a person.

It’s important to recognize the complications that sexual addiction can impart on a person despite the negative consequences. Just like other addictions, these types of sexual behaviors seem to continue despite the effort to stop. Acting out sexually is usually a way to medicate or manage stress, pain, or even substitute for true intimacy. Some signs of sexual addiction include:

  • Pornography
  • Cybersex or phone sex
  • Multiple Partners
  • Compulsive masturbation
  • Unsafe sexual activity
  • Sexual paraphilia
  • Preoccupation with having sex

 

These types of compulsive behaviors derive from mismanaged emotions which can later end in sexual compulsivity. Most often people don’t realize that there is treatment to manage their addiction, continuing to struggle no matter what the cost.

What if someone I care about Is addicted to Pornography

What Do I Do If Someone I Care About Has An Addiction To Pornography?

Knowing how to deal with someone that has an addiction to pornography can be a very difficult road for many. And most often those affected by this type of addiction happens between a husband and a wife. This behavior can leave one with a low self-esteem, feeling betrayed, alone, and end up with a shattered relationship. Even if the addiction is between friends, relationships will suffer, so the issue shouldn’t be ignored.

Once you have discovered that someone close to you has an addiction problem, talk with them and share your concern. This is probably one of the hardest steps to take emotionally, but can be the most rewarding long term.

Some of you may not know that pornography is a neuron changer. The reason for this is due to the way it floods the brain with dopamine‒ giving the body a rush that eventually rewires the brains reward center. Neuroplasticity is a word meaning brain and change. It works like this:

A neuron is a cell in the brain that is activated by smell, sight, sound, taste, or touch, etc. Every time something good happens, chemicals are released in the brain, telling you how wonderful you feel. Your brain builds pathways like this for everything including emotions, and it does the same for those that engage in pornography. The problem with pornography is that the brain gets overwhelmed by the constant overload of chemicals it’s experiencing, and starts to fight back… eventually taking away some of its dopamine receptors. This begins a numbing effect, causing a result in the brain to find more arousal from pornographic materials, and ultimately becoming addicted, and always looking for something bigger and better to satisfy the addiction. Now, the addict is constantly searching for that dopamine high that they first experienced, and the more they look at porn, the harder it is to find satisfaction, and more difficult to break free from the unhealthy behavior.

Addictions of any kind use these same neurons. Within the last decade, research has proven that addictions cause the brains frontal lobes to start shrinking. This is the part of the brain that controls our logical thinking and basic problem solving. It wasn’t just drugs and alcohol causing this type of trauma to the brain. It is all types of addictions and compulsive behaviors that cause the same damage.

Now that the brain is relying on this chemical response, it suddenly has a new sense of craving that cannot be satiated. Pornography short-circuits the brain since it remembers where the sexual high came from, turning the viewer into an addict.

With this information, there is hope for those you love. Often times you may wonder how you can you assist those you care for who are suffering from an addiction to pornography. This can be achieved with a 30 step task program that was designed by Dr. Patrick Carnes, who has pioneered treatment for sexual addiction. Without identifying the core issues that contribute to the addiction, the ability to overcome and maintain sobriety with an addiction to pornography would be nonexistent.

Losing Weight, Rock Bottom, Addictions, and Resolutions

(Post share from the IRATAD Blog)

To better care four ourselves we need to pay attention to our physical, mental, social, and spiritual health and strive for a healthy balance amongst each of these dimensions.  Caring for our physical health involves more than just exercising.  We need to get adequate amounts of sleep, eat a healthy diet, and maintain good hygiene.  Caring for our mental health includes reducing stress, finding healthy and positive experiences in our daily life, being mindful of the present situation, and doing things that help us stay mentally sharp.  To care for our social needs we must engage in healthy activities with people who build us up and are positive influences on us; social isolation can lead to unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.  Finally, caring for our spiritual health involves being able to see beyond ourselves and see the big picture.  Spirituality involves being hopeful, recognizing our values, and doing things for the benefit of others.  People may connect with spirituality by reading religious or inspirational texts, meditation or prayer, or by being in nature.

 Read More . . .