"Addiction is an instinct that causes the addict to seek Dopamine enhancing activities" by S Mott
All addicts know addiction is a condition making impulse control very difficult. Addiction has now been categorised as disease and rightly so. But what gets us started? I propose that it is an instinct within us that leads us to start using.
Instinct means an inborn pattern of behavior often responsive to stimuli. The internal stimuli could be a feeling of anxiety for exsample and the external stimuli could be a social occasion that creates the need to level out the addicts natural brain chemistry.
In the addiction treatment sector we call a stimuli a trigger.
It could be that addiction is an instinct that causes the addict to seek Dopamine enhancing activities - dopamine being the brain chemistry that makes us feel good, so this is a form of self medicating a deficite by the addict.
Psychologists have long argued that Addictive behaviour is a condition response. I.e. a learned response to a trigger, the conditioning means it becomes automatic. Automatic behaviours live mainly in the unconscious mind so free-will does not apply.
However an instinct is something you don't need to learn, but also lives in the unconscious mind.
The instinct is to increase Dopamine, the behaviour that achieves this, often described as compulsive behaviour or addictive behaviour can be learned.
Dopamine is the so called feel good neurotransmitter in the reward centre of our brains - Simply put the reward centre is responsible for motivating us to do the things that keep us alive and survive.
"So our survival instinct is triggered and we act out on our addictions. Take sex for example - this is instinctive however many addicts acknowledge they are sex addicts"
So does the Addiction also keep us alive?
Dangerous instinct: When we are hungry we go hunting - when hunting or doing a dangerous job or fighting to protect ourselves we run the risk of getting hurt or even dying - Addiction is no different.
Addicts suffer from low dopamine this has been established. But are they born with low dopamine or is this as a result of childhood trauma or as a result of prolonged substance misuse, and other addictions.
As infants does an addicts brain wire up creating a Dopamine deficiency? or are we born with low dopamine? It seems addiction neuroscientists are working with both hypothesis.
Stress is a common trigger for addicts to use or revert to there chosen addiction. Coping with stress or escaping from stress is instinctive.
And then there is the pleasure instinct - dating back to infincy when as a baby we sort all the comforts the womb afforded us. And according to Freud our ID still demands this pleasure and unless strictly managed by our super-ego would stop at nothing to get it.
Symptoms of Addiction
Now we know from neuroscientists that Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of the brain, its also progressive and is often fatal.
So the disease is not the behaviour or the self medicating it is a malfunctioning reward centre that causes other problems within the brain such as dysfunction in the executive function located in the frontal cortex.
Like most disease Addiction has symptoms which cause pain and discomfort to the suffer.
These symptoms manifest in personality traits or characteristics in the addict.
A sign someone is an addict can be seen in their behavior, primarily drug and alcohol seeking and self-medicating.
As I have stated previously self medicating is instinctual for an addict – Both unconscious and consciously for social reasons or pain management, however it is helping them cope with low dopamine.
The symptoms of addiction are biological, psychological, social and spiritual in manifestation, characterized by,,,
- Inability to consistently abstain
- Impairment in behavioral control
- diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors
- Interpersonal relationships
- Dysfunctional emotional response
- Distorted thinking
A negative belief system evolves due to symptoms of addiction and active addiction over time, such as...
• I can’t live without it
• I need it
• It helps me
• I don’t have a choice
• I can’t say no
• I must have it
Addiction is an instinct by Simon Mott