Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Physical addiction versus psychological addiction

You hear people say it all the time:  You don't want to be fat?  Stop eating food.  

Oh, okay.  I'll stop doing one of the things I need to sustain life.

I also feel like if you are a food addict (no, not all fat people are food addicts or compulsive eaters like me), you can't just not eat.  If you smoke, do drugs, drink alcohol...you can avoid those substances.  I'm not saying it will be easy, but you CAN avoid them.  I can't avoid food.  Overeaters Anonymous likes to say:  When you are addicted to drugs, you put the tiger in the cage to recover; when you are addicted to food, you put the tiger in the cage, but take it out three times a day for a walk.

I also understand that trying to come off a food binge isn't quite the same as, for example, detoxing from heroine, which can actually cause you to die.  Withdrawal symptoms include weakness, fever, anxiety, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle spasms.

But my mind is a crazy thing.  It truly believes that I NEED those snacks.  I don't want to discount how difficult it is to stop a binge.  "Dieting" or altering your calorie intake in order to lose weight (also known as a lifestyle change...yeah, it's the same thing), puts your brain in freak-out mode.  This is not just about willpower.  If it was, we'd all be thin (rich and beautiful...because that's what the thin privilege brings, right?).  

Anyway, I don't want to really debate whether "food addiction" is a "real" addiction.  But I did want to talk a little bit about the difference between a physical/physiological (examples that come to my mind: alcohol; heroine; some prescription pills) and a psychological addiction (examples that come to my mind: sex; shopping; food; and marijuana is often put in this category even though some argue against it).  

Here are descriptions of the two addictions:


Physical dependence refers to a state resulting from chronic use of a drug that has produced tolerance and where negative physical symptoms of withdrawal result from abrupt discontinuation or dosage reduction.


Addiction is the continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse dependency consequences, or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviors. The term addiction is sometimes applied to compulsions that are not substance-related, such as compulsive shopping, sex addiction/compulsive sex, overeating, problem gambling, exercise/sport and computer addiction.

So the simple answer regarding the difference, to me and in my own terms, is the amount of physical pain you feel when you STOP said addictive behavior.  Stop eating certain food?  Your brain will probably be furious but you will physically be fine.  Stop heroine without help and you may spend the next two weeks sweating and having the worst flu you have ever had in your life.  

Here is another explanation:

Psychological Addiction - Although there are many kinds of addictions, every addict engages in a relationship with an object or event in order to produce a desired mood change. The addictive personality finds difficulty in controlling their response to stimuli. Their condition expresses itself well beyond drug use. 

Psychological Addiction is a behavioral phenomenon and addiction can be defined as compulsive use of a substance. It is also characterized by loss of control. The addict tends to focus very much on the drug. In fact, the addict's whole life revolves around the drug: obtaining the drug, using the drug, and when the next fix will be. This happens even as the addict is harming himself or herself.
Physical Addiction - Initially using a drug to compensate for a depressed mood or to cope with the difficulties of life, physical addicts have continued to use, because they just cannot stop. Many have tried to stay clean for days, sometimes weeks, but inevitably they resume their pattern of use because it has become habit. 

Physical addiction refers to developing withdrawal symptoms during abstinence. In other words, if an addict is using drugs and suddenly stops, it is normal for that person to go through withdrawal. Experiencing withdrawal simply means the person has developed a physical dependence.

HERE is another article on the subject talks about marijuana specifically, which I found interesting (I am not a pot-smoker but still find the addiction process interesting from all angles):   "In one of my previous posts about marijuana addiction, a reader suggested that since marijuana does not produce horrible withdrawal symptoms, it can not be physically addictive. While withdrawal from marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, nicotine, and numerous other drugs does not result in the stereotypical “opiate-withdrawal-flu-like-syndrome,” there is no doubt that real withdrawal from these substances exists for long term users and it sucks: Fatigue, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and trouble eating are only some of the symptoms that tend to show up."

And one last article that discusses food addiction in particular:  

Eating disorders are considered by many to be complicated pathological mental illnesses and thus are not the same as addictions described here. Eating disorders, which some argue are not addictions at all, are driven by a multitude of factors, most of which are highly different than the factors behind addictions.
It is, however, said by many that the same personality factors that place individuals at risk for substance abuse are often found in individuals with eating disorders. Often in those with eating disorders and substance abuse problems drugs or alcohol are used in attempts to avoid binge eating. Similarly, those with eating disorders may deny their problem or attempt to keep it a secret, much like addicts try to conceal their drug and alcohol usage. Similar to genetic components of addiction, there is a large genetic component to body type or image.

I know I deal with some addiction issues.  I certainly love myself a Vicodin or two, which is why I generally turn them down unless I'm having surgery or have injured myself to a point of REALLY needing them.  I have also dealt with shopping addiction. 

Anyway, I know was kind of a random post but it was just kind of a fact-finding blog to get the conversation started about addiction.  Anyone have anything to share?


If you'd like to read more of my posts on addiction, please read on (keeping in mind when I started this blog, I still believed I was going to diet myself thin one more time):











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