Addicts are rarely just their addiction. There is always something else going on with that patient, or their past, that either set up, or contributes to, addiction.
At Decision Point Center, we know, and the research shows, that the factors listed below make any person more vulnerable to, and likely to develop, addiction; that is why we extensively assess for them:
- Mental illness
- Learning disabilities/Executive functioning disorders
- Being autistic or having Asperger’s
- Having been raised in a significantly dysfunctional family
Let’s talk about each of these and briefly illustrate how each one relates to addiction.
Mental illness covers a wide range of conditions from mood disorders (depression, bipolar) to psychotic disorders (schizophrenia). Some of these, especially psychotic disorders, are debilitating to both functioning and making sound decisions. Many addicts we see have become addicted while attempting to self-medicate a mental illness.
The correlation between childhood sexual abuse and developing an addiction in later life is high. Combat trauma contributes to addictive behavior in our veterans. The death of a parent or loss of a friend or loved one can all produce fear, anxiety and loss that substances and alcohol relieve. Before the person realizes it, they become dependent.
Learning disabilities separate and isolate those who have them from the general social fabric around them. Reduced self-esteem (The belief one can be capable and can achieve), academic difficulty, loneliness, depression and the desire for social acceptance all come into play. The facts are that this group of people learn differently, and our education system teaches mostly one way. When they know they are intelligent, but just can't get it, alcohol and drugs are an easy way out of the shame and loneliness.
People with Asperger’s and autism may learn differently but mostly, they think differently. As with learning disabilities, the differences between them and others set them up for social isolation, a feeling of worthlessness and devastated confidence and pride in self. At Decision Point Center, we have had multiple clients who have been in many different treatment centers and after a thorough assessment by our team, we have discovered the client has a learning disability or Asperger’s that had not previously been diagnosed.
Human development involves several stages, some of which are Trust and hope, Autonomy and will, Initiative and purpose, Industry and competence and Identity, the knowledge of who you are. In a dysfunctional environment, some or all do not develop, either fully or at all. The most talked about lately is the lack of identity and purpose known as “Failure to Launch”. These developmental deficits carry forward into life and evidence as lack of direction, little sense of purpose and resistance to living and functioning independently. This, too, creates a situation where addiction offers a convenient out.
Trying to treat addiction without assessing thoroughly for these conditions is like putting a Band-Aid on a gash. It may look good for a while, but it won’t stand the test of time.
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