According to the Merriam-Webster, an addiction is described as a strong and harmful need to regularly have something or do something.
Addictions come in all shapes and forms. Some are less harmful than others. And some are more toxic. But they all have one thing in common, addictions trick the mind to think that a need is being fulfilled. I find it interesting that the dictionary chose the word “need”.
A need is something we all need to survive and thrive. We have physical needs such as food, clean water, bodily comfort and shelter. We have emotional needs for love, security, safety, affection, acceptance, appreciation and acknowledgement. We have spiritual needs for peace, connection to others and/or a higher being, belonging, and a sense of purpose and meaning in life.
But the object of addiction is a false replacement for what we ultimately need. In an instant, the addiction can fulfill an immediate need such as the need for love (sex addiction), the need for comfort (alcohol or food addiction), the need for security (a gambling addiction, where the gambler wins a lot then tries to win more) or the need for acknowledgement (internet, social media addiction).
What is so attractive about an addiction or addictive behavior?
1. They are a quick fix.
Have you heard of avoidance therapy? We avoid dealing with the real need at hand, so we mask the need with the object of addiction. Fulfilling a need often takes a bit more effort of discovering the real need and finding healthy ways to fulfill it.
2. They have real appeal.
The object of addiction makes us feel really good for the time being, but makes us feel bad after the effect wears off. (i.e. overeating causes weight gain or diabetes, alcohol abuse causes depletion of finances, alienates loved ones etc.)
3. They change our chemistry or neuro-associative conditioned reactions.
Drug, alcohol or food addictions literally change our bio-chemistry which causes us to crave them more, even though the addiction is not good for the body. Addictions like gambling, sex, internet over-usage, or excessive gaming give us an initial rush of excitement which condition our minds to crave that excitement.
4. They temporarily fulfill an immediate need.
As humans, we are needs driven. We will only do something if it fulfills a need. However, addictions seemingly fulfill a need, but in the end leave us more “needy”. For example, an addiction to internet and social media or gaming, may fulfill the need for significance and acknowledgement in the immediate sense. But when you realize you’ve been consecrating several hours daily to these activities, you’ve ignored a whole host of other needs, like working effectively at your job or spending time with your kids or spouse.
But ultimately, addictions leave us weak, ashamed, sometimes broke, and with a loss of integrity and self-worth. Addictions leave us disconnected from our true selves. We forget who we really are and act as if we are alone.
Ayurveda takes the perspective that an addiction is an extreme penchant toward object referral instead of self-referral. In the next blog post on Addictions: An Ayurvedic Perspective, I’ll explain the difference between object referral and self-referral .
Wishing you a beautiful day and perfect health always,
Founder of The Ayurvedic Path, Inc.