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Can Addiction Stunt Your Emotional Growth?

Your Emotional Growth – The Obvious

It’s not a secret that substance addiction is harmful. You’re smart, you’re aware of that. You know what you’re doing. As far back as you can remember, that’s been preached to you. “Drugs are bad.” That’s all you hear. If you smoke marijuana once, you’ll be using heroin by the end of the week. You’ll quit eating and your family will kick you out of the house. You’ll end up living in an alley. No one will love you and you’ll never amount to anything. So goes the story.

Is There More To It?

Let’s face it. Sometimes life can be a struggle. No way around it. People get sick, plans fall through, mistakes get made. Tragedy strikes when we least expect it. Some people seem to live only to hurt those around them. All of those are legitimate problems. And they can lead to negative coping mechanisms. We all have to deal with the negative part of life. One way we might deal with it is to use a particular substance. Beyond the physical effects and, what kinds of effects can those substances have on our emotional growth?

What Is Alexithymia?

In our emotional development, psychology recognizes a concept called alexithymia. It refers to an inability to articulate our emotions into words. If you’ve ever had a therapist say, “tell me how you feel,” then you know it isn’t always that easy. Alexithymia is hard to measure, but it has 2 basic components: a cognitive component and an affective component. Most simply, that means that it’s hard to know and say out loud, what you’re feeling and why. Think about it. It’s hard to say, “I am feeling _______ because of _______ and ________.”

I Can’t Say What I Feel. So What?

Alexithymia highly correlates with substance abuse. This is especially true in young people, whose emotional development is currently evolving. In his book In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Dr. Gabor Maté illustrates the link between unresolved emotional stress and addiction. If we can’t adequately identify and express what we feel, addiction will make that problem worse. We’re not only postponing, but likely deepening our emotional disturbances. Trauma, especially adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), contribute significantly to the abuse of alcohol and opiates.

Young People And Binge Drinking

Most young people like to party and have fun. We know this. But partying doesn’t just disturb their livers. It disturbs their minds and emotions as well. Female binge drinkers, even when sober, have a bias toward negative emotions. Also, binge drinking made it harder for them to recall positive memories. Young men who engage in heavy episodic drinking (HED) were found to have poor impulse control. Consequently, they were found to have a higher instance of committing violence against intimate partners. Students who reported difficulty regulating their own emotions were more likely to drink in social situations. On the other hand, students who could self-regulate were less likely to be influenced to drink by peers.

What Do I Do About It?

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was reported to have used the saying “know thyself.” Good advice, but knowing yourself is quite complicated. That’s why therapy is important. The word therapy itself has a Greek root. It means “healing, ministering, treating medically.” Therapy involves more than just kicking an addiction. Its purpose is wholeness. Healing open wounds, dealing with unrealized pain, and moving forward from anguish.

If you’d like more information about Midwood Addiction Treatment’s therapy options, call us now at (704) 741-0771.

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