When Behaviors Become Addictions
by Vonda Schaefer, MFT, NNTS, Alliance Member
Behavior Addictions - Is shopping, gaming, over-exercising, bulimia, gambling, gaming, or porn a problem?
A colleague referred “Jim” to me because the couples' work he was doing with Jim and his wife was at a standstill. The therapist felt he had reached an impasse with the couple because Jim’s issues were likely more chemical than psychological.
Jim had struggled with pornography for decades and had spent the last three years "white-knuckling" it - avoiding porn but then later substituting it with increased alcohol use.
If you are in an addiction your #1 relationship is with the addiction - no one else can compete.
You may argue with this statement and I say, if you do not believe it then get clean and see how your relationships change. I have walked the journey with enough clients to promise you that you will agree with me.
But kKnowing this and saying this to Jim (or to anyone locked in an addiction) doesn’t helpmatter.
I had to help him understand with the underlying root cause of his addictions: of what his body chemistry was lacking that made him crave the porn (and then the alcohol) in the first place.
After doing an assessment with Jim I trialed the supplement DLPA (D-phenylalanine + L-phenylalanine). DLPA builds-upworks on both endorphins and dopamine in the brain. These are, the same neurotransmitters thatway porn does (and other behavior addictions) can temporarily activate. I recommended used other supplements as well, and we discussed Jim’s diet and how to make a few small changes that would be helpful.
Within a couple weeks, Jim was telling me he, was able to drink less and, much to his surprise, really didn’t think about porn at all and he was able to drink less..
I know it seems too simple, but it is very logical and scientific. When any of our key neurotransmitters are low, our body craves a way to balance them, even if it is temporary. This can includes behaviors such as porn, bulimiac behavior, shopping, gambling, over-exercising, internet addiction, or gaming. The problem is that none of these behaviors give us a lasting boost of endorphins or or dopamine, soand the behavior must be repeated the next day in order for us to feel ok.
And this is where addiction begins.
When behaviors force a the flood of neurotransmitters in dopamine on the brain, the brain adapts by making less of them and becoming less responsive to theirits effects (tolerance) needing more time and more intensity to feel the same “high.”. The neural pathways connecting the reward circuit to the prefrontal cortex actually weaken. Because tThe prefrontal cortex is responsible for taming our impulses, this makesing it even harder to stop the dopamine and endorphin endorphin-flooding behaviors.
Dr. Kenneth Blum helped the scientific and medical community by discovering what he called the Reward Gene, which is a dopamine receptor gene. Since his discovery there haves been over 3,000 studies showing the association of the Dopamine D2 receptor gene and addiction reward dependency disorders.
Douglas Gentile began studying video gaming in 1999 because he wanted to prove that there was no such thing as an addiction to gaming. He was shocked by his own results! To read his findings go to www.drdouglas.org.
I recently participated as one of the speakers in a tele-class for the Alliance for Addiction Solutions (www.allianceforaddictionsolutions.com) on this very topic.
Of course, no one amino acid supplement stands alone. It's important to insure that all the building blocks are present so the body can maintain make its own optimal levels of all the neurotransmittersdopamine. It's also important to make address life style changes: 1) Improve the diet, its protein content in particular (protein is composed of amino acids). A pro-recovery diet also regulates blood sugar, which further reduces cravings and negative moods., tweak the diet, regulate blood sugar and incorporate other ways to increase dopamine naturally. We can also use yYoga, breathing, exercise and any form of exercise as all cause enhance the release of dopamine and other neurotransmittersnaturally.
Hear Vonda participate as one of the speakers in a tele-class for the Alliance for Addiction Solutions on this topic [Nicole, can you link to it or a sound bite?]. Also,Is addiction getting in the way of your life? tTo learn more in a self-study method, you can take a look at Vonda’smy ecourses at www.nutritionistherapy.com which explain neurotransmitters and the nutritional diet connection in more in-depth.