You must’ve heard it before: treat the person, not the addiction. But what does it mean? Are people to blame for their problems with substance abuse, rather than the substance or some other factor? Or is addiction not the actual problem behind, well, addiction? When first confronted with the phrase, it’s easy to misunderstand it. But what it really means is that addiction treatment and recovery isn’t just about targeting addiction and fixing the many issues that it introduces into the life of a person. It’s about helping that person with all of their issues, among which addiction may be one.
Treat the Person
Most people struggling with addiction don’t just have addiction. They have other diagnoses as well – physical problems, mental disorders, health conditions that have developed as a part of poor emotional care, genetics, an unhealthy lifestyle, and dozens of other possible factors. Addiction can be part of a mess that if only tackled individually rather than holistically, never really dissolves.
Thus, you have to treat the person and focus on their system of health rather than just the addiction. It’s important to understand where the addiction fits into a person’s life. Why it developed, and what role treatment has to play in helping someone overcome addiction and deal with the other issues in their life to a satisfactory degree in order to prevent relapse. All that requires first better understanding addiction and why people even get addicted to begin with.
The Factors of Addiction
Addiction is a complicated condition caused by a number of things, with the specifics varying from case to case. In some cases, there is a biological predisposition towards a certain type of addiction, one that runs in the family. Environmental factors and lifestyle choices also play into the chances of an addiction. As do childhood experiences, traumatic experiences, peer pressure from others taking drugs or engaging in drinking. As well as the addictiveness of the substance.
Willpower doesn’t have anything to do with addiction, and neither does personality – but mental condition does. People experiencing depressive symptoms and issues with loneliness, or some other mood disorder, are more likely to develop an addiction, often as part of a wider range of self-medicating habits adopted in part to distract oneself from the pain of depression or the crippling social consequences of anxiety.
It’s important to understand the varied means by which someone can get addicted. Specifically why there’s an inherent connection between addiction and mental health disorders. Drugs, from alcohol to pain killers and heroin, all have a mind-altering effect that easily and very effectively removes a user from their condition. Then, it puts them in a place of bliss and an effective lack of worry. They no longer have to cope with all of the stress presented to them by life and their particular illness. Instead, they develop an emotional attachment to their drug of choice as a way to distance themselves from their disorder.
However, this is a maladaptive coping mechanism – it does not allow people to function normally. Instead, it takes over their lives. It controls their concept of pleasure and forcing them into situations of manipulation and worse to continue feeding the addiction. For those struggling with a mental health issue, being sober during an addiction is even worse than it is for others. All the suppressed emotions come flooding in at a higher rate, creating a punishing and vicious cycle that needs to be sustained by a continuous flow of highs, or risk a painful crashing experience.
Most drugs, however, are poisons to the body. This means that at some point, a person has to come to terms with their addiction and seek help. Or they risk death by overdose or due to other health complications related to drug use.
Addiction as a Symptom, Addiction as a Cause
Mental health disorders are a part of why some people become addicted. But, others develop mood disorders and forms of anxiety as part of their addiction. The difference is crucial, because it helps determine how best to approach a treatment plan.
Basically, if the addiction became the cause for a mood disorder, then solving the addiction first and dealing with the depressive symptoms afterwards allows them to first cut down on the cause of the depression, before working to get back into a positive vibe in life.
However, if the addiction is a symptom in a larger diagnosis of mental health conditions, then addressing these first and as part of a bigger issue will help prepare a patient to deal with their addiction by eliminating the need for it, and removing the self-medication aspect of the addiction.
A Holistic Approach to Addiction
At the end of the day, a holistic approach is just what the doctor ordered to treat the person. By tackling a system of problems after understanding each symptom’s relationship to one another, a patient can actually make real and astounding progress by getting the answers they need to progress and move forward. Tackling an addiction and tackling an addiction with depression are two different stories. And the treatments will change depending on when the depression occurred, what kind of a depression it is, and what treatment a person best responds to.
There is no quick answer, no cookie-cutter approach to treat the person – just a repertoire of therapeutic tools used to improve a person’s positive outlook, change the way they approach their recovery, and empower them to do better within their means.
Addiction doesn’t just stop when someone stops taking drugs. The effects of addiction have long-lasting consequences that reverberate through a person’s body, mind and,spirit. Therapy is one way to help the mind, but it’s important to keep an eye out for the body as well. A healthy body will promote a healthy mind, and the same is true the other way around. Healthy eating, regular exercise and simple positive mental therapy like mindfulness training can improve your self-esteem, eliminate moodiness, and help you stay focused on your responsibilities and duties in life.