Addictions - everyone's battle?
Most people associate the term addiction with hard drugs or alcohol. However our society is ripe with addicts and according to the charity Action on Addiction one in three of us is addicted to something.
This something can be a substance or a behaviour – pretty much anything including running, working, eating, shopping or gaming. It is a pretty toxic relationship that will quickly have a vast array of harmful consequences.
I worked with a successful professional in her early thirties who came to me with a compulsion to trawl retail websites, mainly clothing, at all times of day and night.
Living on her own, she managed to hide the addiction from others for a long time. Shame and guilt have let her to be in complete denial: “As long as nobody knows it's basically as if it wasn't actually happening...”, seemed her unconscious reasoning. Alas, it was happening and it soon had consequences to her finances, her work and her relationships. Frequently she would spend a whole night scrolling through shopping websites, unable to stop. Tired and drained she couldn't concentrate at work and her performance started to suffer. Increasingly she withdrew from social activities and preferred the immediate gratification of buying something online. It was constantly on her mind and impacted on all areas of her life. She started to access shopping portals even during work meetings on her laptop. When she got caught by her manager during an important client meeting, she realised that things had gone out of hand and she needed help.
It is that all-consuming nature of the relationship to a substance or behaviour that is the tell-tale sign of an addiction. Other signs are:
- When we use it to “feel something different”, be it to experience pleasure or to reduce pain, or to numb ourselves.
- When we fail again and again to control the addictive behaviour.
- When we continue despite significant destructive consequences.
Through cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy we managed to “re-wire” her emotional regulation systems and challenge and change her thoughts, behaviours and feelings. Hypnotherapy can provide a safe space to rehearse and ingrain new helpful patterns on an experiential level - and that worked very well for her.