No matter the addiction, whether it is an eating disorder, alcoholism, or even over-working, addiction is always a pattern of destruction. In fact, addiction not only destroys the life around you – relationships, career, physical health, and so on – it’s also destroying yourself. And, perhaps that’s where the destruction begins. Like a wheel with self-destruction at its center, the surrounding people, places, and things also feel the waves destruction too.
To destroy something, according to the online Merriam-Webster online dictionary, means to put an end to the existence of something by damaging it or attacking it. For instance, fire destroyed the city on the hill. Yet, in addiction, what are you attempting to put an end to? What are you unconsciously trying to destroy?
Self-destructive behavior is common in many illnesses including addiction, eating disorders, and bipolar disorder. It’s not uncommon for addiction and a psychological disorder to co-exist. In fact, at the root of any addiction is a psychological disorder. And for this reason, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) includes addiction as one of the many psychological disorders it lists. The DSM is a reference tool that therapists and psychologists use to facilitate arriving at a diagnosis in their patients.
What is at the root of self-harm? Self-injury is inflicting direct harm to one’s own body, without the intention of committing suicide. It can include cutting, biting, scratching, burning, and bruising the skin. Usually, treating self-harm is multifaceted because there are multiple reasons why an individual might engage in self-injury. For instance, self-harm is often a way to cope with intense emotions, to calm and soothe, to feel more alive if they feel disconnected or numb, or to release pent up anger. For this reason, part of the treatment itself is to tenderly support an adolescent in getting in touch with the reason behind their behavior.
However, with addiction self-harm might develop out of one or two reasons, both of which are related to one another. The first are attempting to cope with difficult emotions and not knowing how to do so. Perhaps a parent was an alcoholic and they modeled a dysfunctional way to deal with intense emotions – keeping them repressed and out of sight so that they didn’t have to be experienced.
Another reason for the self-destruction of addiction is a belief in unworthiness. Somewhere there is a part of the self that feels shame or rejection. The choice to drink, to deny the voice that wants more air, to continue to over work or binge on ice scream is a choice of self-harm. It is a self-abusive habit, and in a way, it’s an attempt to destroy a part of you that feels worthy of rejection. Shame and self-hatred are directly related to the destructive choices of addiction.
Additionally, over time, as the addiction becomes more and more a dominant force, denial strengthens. The life force inside becomes more and more anesthetized.
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