Psychological Suffering And Selfcontrol

A clinical-psychodynamic perspective suggests that human psychological suffering and problems with self-control are at the heart of addictive disorders. In fact, it is probably safe to say that to understand the psychology of addictive behavior is to understand a great deal about human psychological problems of suffering and control in general. The suffering that influences addictive behavior occurs at many levels, but it principally evolves out of susceptibilities involving people's self-esteem, relationships, emotions, and capacities to take care of themselves. Individuals who find various or particular drugs appealing (including alcohol) or who become dependent on them, discover that, short-term, the drug action or effect relieves or controls their distress—that is, such drugs are used to self-medicate distress. Although problems with self-esteem and relationships are important parts in the equation of addictive behavior, it is mainly the problems with how substance-dependent individuals experience, tolerate, and express their feelings and their problems with self-care that makes addictive behavior so malignantly likely and compelling.

Problems with emotions and self-care painfully and repetitiously become involved with attempts to control suffering and behavior. This process includes such self-defeating coping patterns as action, activity, psychological defensiveness (e.g., denial, boastful or arrogant postures, attitudes of invulnerability and toughness), and, ultimately, the use of drugs and alcohol. What originally was a "solution" for suffering and self-regulation— where substances were used for relief or control— turns into a problem where there is a progressive loss of control of one's self, the drugs or alcohol employed to combat one's difficulties, and possibly life itself.

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