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Drug Addiction: The Defining Characteristics Of Obsession And Compulsion

Aug 30th, 2010 | By | Category: Drug Treatment Rehab, Featured

It is extremely difficult for people not involved in drug addiction to understand the concepts of obsession and compulsion. Ironically, to truly understand addiction and addictive thinking it is very important to get a grasp on these two concepts. Addicts and alcoholics can readily understand and discuss obsession and compulsion because they are living it, reading it, and focused on it.

A person who is not involved in addiction will simply look at the addict and say “Why don’t you just stop?” That type of statement is indicative of a person who cannot fully comprehend the obsessive and compulsive state that active addiction brings about.

One way of attempting to comprehend these concepts is to understand that an addict or alcoholic is focused on one thing, getting high and staying high, at all costs. The use of drugs or alcohol has moved from a casual indulgence into the main factor organizing the addict’s life. It becomes the pivot point around which everything else is focused. It is extremely common for an active addict to put his drug use ahead family, friends, and employment.

It is the intense focus to the exclusion of everything else that is the defining characteristic of addictive obsession. Family members often misinterpret this prioritization believing that the addict has stopped loving them. This is a reasonable conclusion based on the addict’s actions, as they are continually choosing drugs or alcohol over the family members. But this is just not true, what has actually happened is that the obsession has grown to such a strength that it overrides even family ties. Any addict will say, of course I love my family. I just can’t stop thinking about using.

The compulsion piece of addiction can be explained by the need to act on the obsession. If we view obsession as the mental component, then the compulsion is the action component. Several components come into play when obsession is linked with action. First, the common characteristic of a person active in addiction is the need for instant gratification. This means an addict needs to feel good, or kill the pain, now. This need for instant gratification will overrule long-standing life principles and values. That leads to behaviors such as lying, stealing, and cheating to satisfy the urge to act even though they know the behavior is wrong.

People in active addiction also have poor impulse control. Impulse control is the thing that keeps us from acting out irrationally on urges or cravings. For instance someone may get me angry and I have the urge to punch them. Impulse control will prevent me from doing so as I consider the risk of getting beaten up or arrested. Addicts have poor impulse control, they tend to act immediately. One of the characteristics of drug or alcohol abuse is that it lowers inhibitions. It allows the person to act more ‘freely’ than they would without being under the influence.

If you take all all of the above points into consideration you can easily see how, if a person has obsessive thinking. With an overwhelming focus on drugs and alcohol, and that thinking connected to a physical compulsion or craving and an almost unstoppable urge to use with an extreme desire for instant gratification, poor impulse control, and lowered inhibitions; the outcome will not be good and in fact one can expect that ultimately a disaster will occur.

Please contact Challenges for more information and to discuss intervention if you are concerned about the addiction of your loved one.

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