We received a blog from a reader who thought that she may have been addicted to the feeling of anxiety.
We were fascinated by this and asked the experts in The Hug Directory;
Do you think a person can become addicted to a partner who causes them anxiety?
“We become addicted to behaviour that gives us something we crave in some way. Food addictions usually relate to giving ourselves love and this occurs in people who feel unloved, unappreciated and have chosen to become the ‘victim’ in what we call the Drama Triangle where food is the rescuer.
An addiction to relationships that are toxic is experienced by those with low self-esteem, again a ‘victim’ who attracts perpetrators who confirm that they are worthless by how they treat them. The perpetrator doesn’t cause them to be anxious, the perpetrator has been chosen by the victim as part of their own pattern. They may well have grown up in this environment.
Anxiety is experienced by most of us at some time and it is the result of an overactive amygdala creating a fight/flight response where there is no real danger to life. The best response is to breath deeply for a few seconds and remind yourself that you aren’t under threat.
Once the Drama Triangle is revealed by a therapist and the role of each: victim, rescuer and perpetrator is discussed, new behaviour can be chosen to step away from this triangle and step away from being ‘victim’.”
Judy Bartkowiak – Child NLP Coach
“It’s normal to become co-dependent on our partner for love and connection… especially in a long relationship. So even when things start to go wrong or become unhealthy we can want to stay hooked into that drama. All too often we stay as it’s what we know and leaving brings so much uncertainty that fear of the unknown means its too scary to leave.
Its important to reassess your boundaries as to what you feel is acceptable behaviour in a relationship. All too often our boundaries are eroded over time and we end up tolerating bad and even abusive behaviour. Have a think about whether you would have tolerated this drama at the beginning of your relationship and also what your life will be life if you stay and nothing changes. Think about life in one year if nothing has changed. How will you feel and what will life be like? In 5 years? In 10 years?
Also write a list of what you love about your partner – then you can see what you have that you would like to save and fight for. Sometimes we get distracted from all the good qualities by little things that blow up out of proportion.
Spring clean your relationship
Have a spring clean of your relationship by sitting down to chat with your partner about what you would like to stop doing, start doing and areas to improve on. Agree 3 things each you commit to doing for the next 3 months to see how you can improve your situation and if you can both feel happier.”
Sara Davison – The Divorce Coach – The Hug Directory Expert
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“Research has shown that living in a state of anxiety causes physiological changes in the brain, as a result of an increase in cortisol, which is the stress hormone.
The amygdala, which is responsible for the fight/flight response grows in size leaving the person in a constant state of fear and anxiety. Physiological changes also occur in the hypothalamus, which is responsible for the release of neuro peptides such as oxytocin (bonding) and dopamine (craving, seeking, wanting) as well as others responsible for pleasure/pain and withdrawal/stress.
The release of these chemicals causes what is known as a ‘trauma bond’ as the body becomes addicted to these neuro peptides. This is why some people choose to stay in an abusive relationship, or even why they don’t realise they are being abused. It also explains why a person often returns to an abusive relationship after leaving.
They are effectively addicted to the anxiety, or at least to the chemicals released into the blood stream. If the cells in the body stop receiving these neuro peptides the body goes into withdrawal.
Rachael Davies of Bright Comet
“When you see yourself as the victim in the Drama Triangle, it can keep you stuck exactly where you are, and it can increase your anxiety and sense of hopelessness. When you identify as the victim of things that are happening to you, you are focused on the problem. How you feel about the problem then feeds your state of mind – so you may feel anxious or afraid. Your state of mind then influences your thoughts and actions, so you may act from a position of anxiety and fear. This can lead to a downward spiral, increasing stress and cortisol in the bloodstream, and exacerbating feelings of anxiety.
I always encourage my clients to think of the Drama Triangle differently. I believe that it isn’t what happens to you that makes the difference. It’s what you do with what happens to you. When you see yourself as a victim of outside events, you give control to those events. What would happen if, instead of thinking of yourself as the victim, you could change the Drama Triangle into something more empowering? In his brilliant book, The Power of TED, David Emerald turns the Drama Triangle on its head. What if the victim could become a creator? What if you could see the circumstances you find yourself in as a challenge? What if you worked with a coach, rather than looking for a rescuer?
When you empower yourself by seeing yourself as a creator, rather than a victim, you focus on potential solutions. You can ask different questions, like what could I do differently? How could I take back some power in this situation? How could I help myself here? Who could I look to for guidance? What can I do to make this better? When you focus on looking for solutions, that in turn feeds your state of mind, and influences your thoughts and actions – and you can start to act from a position of hope and motivation rather than anxiety. You can start to look for small steps that could move you forward, rather than keeping you stuck”.
Yes, we can become addicted and here is why….
We need to feel connected. Depression is disconnection. Anxiety is the physical manifestation of being worried of not being able to cope with that disconnection. Nature abhors a vacuum, so a connection will be established to compensate for the disconnection in the form of an addiction. If we can’t connect with ourselves/ the world/ people… we will connect to an addiction.
2-The brain is designed to create a comfort zone in which to keep us safe. The brain doesn’t know about happy or healthy, just safety, and the only thing deemed safe for the brain is anything with a track record. So for instance if we have been feeling depressed and/or anxious for a long time, that will be our default mode, the chemical balance, the normality our subconscious mind will always bring us back to.
3-We are creatures of feelings and sensations (The emotional subconscious mind is 95% of our mind). So although everything starts with a thought, most of our thoughts are subconscious, which means that the emotional mind will always trump the conscious analytical mind. Which demonstrate furthermore how the vast majority of the mental health industry have been looking at the wrong place all along addressing the head instead of the heart.
So what does that mean ?
We essentially get addicted to our internal bio chemistry, the established patterns of hormonal rush any kind of addiction provides us with. The greater the disconnection and the deeper the feeling of powerlessness to being able to reconnect, the more excessive the mental and emotional imbalance.
The addiction to stress, anxiety and worries
Stress and anxiety are the reflection, the physical manifestations of fearful thoughts and are normal. Chronic stress and anxiety however are a habit stemmed from the repetition of those thoughts. A habit we can’t get rid of is an addiction. Depression, stress and anxiety are by far the most common form of secret addiction people seek therapy and solace from.
We are not victim from external forces that instil stress, depression and/or anxiety in our body and mind. We are all subject to similar fluctuations in our environment daily yet some get affected more than others. Why ? Because of our filters, our triggers, the subconscious choice of reaction we choose to repeat and reinforce in the belief that this is our normality.
We return to and stay and repeat those states as we get addicted to the chemical rush we experience as we suffer them. Remember, the brain doesn’t know or care about happy or healthy… It is our subconscious automatic pilot that keeps on reactivating those triggers time and again. It is the triggers, the associations, the belief system we want to address in order to regain balance.
Fiona Murphy – Therapist
How does someone wean themselves off the “drama drug”?
“Stepping away from the Drama Triangle is quite a simple process. First realise you’re in it and then understand which role you usually end up in – you will play every role at one point or another.
Then ask yourself what benefit you get from this role and what you want instead.
Something will trigger the drama, so for you, what starts it?
When you have discovered the trigger, at that point make a decision to ignore the trigger and do what you want instead.
Once you step away, there is no Drama Triangle”.
Judy Bartkowiak – Child NLP Specialist
“The best way to wean yourself off the ‘drama drug’ is unfortunately to go cold turkey! Yes, it will cause withdrawal in the short term but the body will soon learn to function without these chemicals as stress levels return to normal.”
Rachael Davies of Bright Comet Therapy
Being addicted to drama is really just a reflection of an individuals low self esteem. Low self esteem can affect almost every part of our lives from how we think about ourselves to how we react to situations. A belief of ‘ not being enough’ is often created in our childhood when we inadvertently take on beliefs from others – parents, brothers, sisters, teachers, children at school, bullies – or even in later life from your partner or even your children. If left untreated it may lead to self destructive behaviours to numb the pain – such as over eating, drinking, drugs etc If you suffer from low self esteem you may find it challenging to make simple decisions, doubt your own judgement and be scared of getting it wrong. When you have high self esteem you are vibrant, happy and at peace with yourself and you attract people to you.
Fiona Murphy – Therapist