Psychological Perspectives on Real-World Issues

     Tricia Parido. October 23, 2018

     Addiction is characterized by a person’s inability to consistently abstain, presents significant impairment in behavioral controls, is accompanied by cravings (or a strong desire for something), a diminished ability to recognize significant problems with the individual’s behaviors, and presents with prevalent dysfunction in emotional responses (ASAM, n.d.). So, I often ask myself why is the focus or belief about addiction mostly concerned with the use of controlled substances? I find that I hold what can be considered divergent thinking (psychology and society, n.d.), or unconventional thinking where problem-solving is concerned in this matter, but I believe that the real current epidemic in society is an addiction in general. But more so, the across the board correlation of comorbid emotion dysregulation and lacking impulse control. And I quite often challenge people to consider that it doesn’t matter what the substance, action, or behavior is, the real issue is the level of behavioral malady and addiction severity that needs to be addressed and or treated to produce a higher functioning society.

I bring this topic to the table because if we are truly watching it would be seen that addiction is highly prevalent in human beings. It is in our nature. Classical conditioning (psychology and society, n.d.) provides great examples of this in the simple fact that people learn or condition themselves to associate one stimulus with another unrelated stimulus as soon as they experience a response whether it is positive or negative. For example, alcoholics that have a positive experience with drinking may find they are happier drunk and continue to seek the euphoria, whereas the alcoholic that drinks to avoid a painful experience may continue to seek the numbing effect as a way to avoid dealing with their problems. But the same can be said for the lonely housewife that finds herself impulsively binge shopping for items that are not needed simply to feel the pleasure of receiving something. Or, the bachelor that, despite the financial hardship it causes, will only feel confident wearing what is considered the most recent line of elite attire and has to make sure he has plenty of it. And how about the young adult that in the face of life and all that is coming with it, engages in binge eating to escape their thoughts, feelings, and emotions? Especially when they are trying to avoid the pain of a traumatic event.

The ladder, food addiction, is a primary passion in my practice. I have conducted observational studies among my clientele over the years that have shown a direct correlation to the substance use detoxification period and the development of food addiction. I have also done the same where benefits that can be achieved by engaging in healthy dietary practices during the recovery process are concerned. But it’s the correlation to the comorbidity of symptoms between the person with what is considered a substance use disorder (SUD) and the person with a food addiction (Hardy et al, 2017) that I felt important to discuss.

In a recent case study, the statistical analyses generated through varying case studies and the compilation of controlled data found that people (women specifically) with food addiction present with the same, classic symptomologies of addiction as those with SUD (Hardy et al, 2017). That is, the preoccupation, the excessive and continued intake, the depressive states, emotion dysregulation, and the poor impulse controls, in the individual diagnosed with SUD are also present in the person diagnosed with food addiction (Hardy et al, 2017). In fact, food addiction is assessed using the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) that was developed based on the criteria for SUD in the DSM-IV (Hardy et al, 2017).

In closing, I contend that the primary issue needing attention when discussing addiction is the etiology. Meaning, just as in the case study “Food addiction and substance addiction in women: Common clinical characteristics” (Hardy et al, 2017), we need to be looking at the severity level of emotion dysregulation, impulsivity, depression, PTSD symptoms, maladaptive coping skills, and lacking distress tolerance that can be associated with the mal-conditioned behavior. Thereby making a shift from being focused solely on controlled substances because regardless of the addiction the symptomology does not widely differ.

References

ASAM. (n.d.). American Society of Addiction Medicine. Definition of Addiction (2011). Retrieved from https://www.asam.org/resources/definition-of-addiction

Hardy, R., Fani, N., Jovanovic, T., & Michopoulos V., (2017). Food addiction and substance addiction in women: Common clinical characteristics. Elsevier journal. Appetite 120 (2018) 367-373. Retrieved from the Walden University databases.

Psychology and Society. (n.d.). Psychological concepts. Retrieved from http://www.psychologyandsociety.com/index.html

 

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