Addiction- Ask a Therapist: Facing Our Addictions (cont.)

tdauble: Is it possible to get addicted to the Internet (computer), and what are some signs?

Richard Kneip, PhD: Again, we would define "addiction" to the Internet in terms of its effects on the functioning of the individual. For instance, a student that skips school or neglects their studies in order to spend more time on the Internet could probably be thought of as addicted. Common signs of addiction include preoccupation or obsession with the addictive behavior, much time spent planning and anticipating upcoming opportunities to engage in the addictive behavior, poor performance in other functional life areas such as school, work, or relationships, and possibly withdrawal, which in this case would be marked psychological distress when blocked from engaging in the addictive behavior. Another significant sign of addiction is persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or stop the addictive behavior.

Pimpdaplanet: I have a problem. I wash my hands at least 100 times a day. Please help me.

Richard Kneip, PhD: The hand-washing behavior you describe is a manifestation of what we call obsessive/compulsive disorder. While not an addiction per say, it does share certain characteristics with the addictive behavior in that it persists when the person tries to stop the behavior. Treatments are available and would include individual counseling, behavioral counseling or psychotherapy and medication. You should talk to your family doctor and seek a referral to a qualified mental health professional right away. You can find more information on obsessive/compulsive disorder at www.planetpsych.com.

twilight_52: I am an Rx addict that just relapsed. I deal with a lot of stress and physical pain. How can I deal successfully with my addiction and still find relief?

Richard Kneip, PhD: Addiction to pain medication can be quite complicated, as you point out, when the patient depends upon the pain medication to manage chronic or intractable pain. Without knowing more about your particular problem, it is hard to say, but we most likely would recommend that you receive simultaneous treatment for your medication addiction and your physical pain. Physiatrists are medical doctors that specialize in the management of pain and very often can recommend exercises and relaxation techniques that may help you to greatly reduce your pain without the use of medication.

marina_s2: What about image disorder? Is that an addiction?

Richard Kneip, PhD: I am not familiar with image disorder, but if you are referring to a body image disorder, then the answer would be no. By definition, addictive disorders involve either appetitive (meaning consumption) or behavioral (such as sex or gambling). A body image disorder is a disorder of perception, in which an individual might have distorted, inaccurate, or even bizarre perceptions of themselves.

LuckyStar_02: Is it possible to inherit addiction?

Richard Kneip, PhD: Good question. There is strong scientific evidence that addiction is at least in part heritable. For instance, some individuals lack a particular enzyme that is important in the metabolism of alcohol, making them much more susceptible to addiction to alcohol. This trait can be passed on from parents to children. Also, studies have shown that identical twins reared apart are more likely to demonstrate addictive behavior more so than unrelated individuals in the general population. These types of studies show, therefore, that genetics is at least partly responsible, as is the individuals social environment and psychological makeup. You can find more information about addictive disorders and treatment at www.planetpsych.com.

adampmp: I have a friend who is addicted. How do I make him realize the truth? He is addicted to acid and pot.

Richard Kneip, PhD: One of the cardinal signs of addiction is denial. Denial is the psychological defense mechanism that individuals use to blind themselves to the consequences of their addiction. It never ceases to amaze me when I see a patient that has lost their family, job, home, and continues to flatly deny that any of their problems are due to their addiction. Unfortunately, there is probably very little that you can do that will break through your friend's denial system. Of course, you shouldn't hold back from expressing your concern, but don't expect much. Sometimes we use what we call an intervention, where a large group of friends and loved ones assemble to confront the addict with the negative consequences of their addiction. When effective, such interventions might motivate the individual to seek out treatment. More information can be found about denial and recovery from addiction at www.planetpsych.com.

Tinklemizer: I've dealt with the active part of my addiction, but now I'm having spiritual problems. What do I do?

Richard Kneip, PhD: Good for you. Changing your behavior and dealing with your active substance abuse represents a significant milestone in your recovery. Although I am not quite sure what you mean by spiritual problems, many individuals in recovery find that without drugs or alcohol in their lives they are unable to find meaning in their lives. Recovering from addiction usually involves breaking old friendships, learning new behaviors and pastimes and finding new areas of interest and personal expression. At this point in your recovery, you might find that a support group such as AA or some other 12-step group might be very helpful. As I'm sure you know, these groups have a spiritual component.

TheBard2000: Do you think an addict can break his/her addiction without any outside help?

Richard Kneip, PhD: Absolutely. In fact, we know that more individuals recover from addiction of all types (alcohol, cigarettes, drugs) without help than with help.

Thank you all for joining me today. For those of you struggling with recovery from addiction, take it one day at a time and stick with your program. Also, for further information on addictions, please visit www.planetpsych.com.

Moderator: Thank you, Dr. Kneip, for joining us today. We had so many great questions, and I know you would have liked to answer more, but unfortunately time has run out. Sorry we couldn't get to all of your questions, but hopefully you were able to get some information.

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