Recognizing addiction is a matter of recognizing one particular principle: if it causes a problem, it is a problem. If it is affecting your academics, professional success, relationships, physical health, mental health, then it is a problem.
The short answer is if it causes a problem it is a problem. The same line exists for video games. If you are seeing impacts in terms of your performance at school or in terms of who you are at home, then it is a problem.
Sometimes Dr. K asks parents: "When your child plays a video game do they become someone else, do they get really irritable, do they get super moody, do they become completely disrespectful?"
Parents often say, “Where did my child go? That's not the kid that they were two years ago. They're not my child. They’ve become someone else." They get so engrossed in the video game that they don't even seem like themselves.
People who have addictive personalities often say that they used to be addicted to video games, and are now addicted to alcohol, etc. They seem to trade one addiction for another and their conclusion is that they have an addictive personality. There is some neuroscience evidence supporting the existence of addictive personalities, but most of the time, people simply trade one addiction for another because they do not deal with the underlying cause of the addiction.
There is a concept from Buddhist philosophy called the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. In their mythology, they have heaven, earth, and hell. Between earth and hell, there is the realm of hungry ghosts. It is filled with souls that are always hungry and never feel full and satisfied. They eat forever and are never satisfied. That is quite similar to addiction.
People who are addicted are usually looking for something. If they try to fulfill these desires with one thing or another thing, it usually does not work.
For example, if someone has a bad sex addiction, usually what they are looking for is a connection with another human being. They use sex to fulfill these desires because that is when they experience these feelings of warmth from another human.
At their core, behavioral addictions have hungry ghosts in them. There is a part of them that feels unfulfilled and they turn to certain behaviors to satisfy that void. They bounce from one behavior to another to fulfill that need, but until they feel valued on a stable basis (or whatever they are trying to experience with the addiction), the addiction will not go away.
People with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) often have addictive behaviors and high-risk sexual behaviors. Their basic problem is that their sense of self is not well-formed. They feel empty inside. They fill themselves up with the way other people treat them. That causes them to engage in high-risk behaviors because the way they feel inside tends to be based on how other people treat them.
People can trade one addiction for another, and also throw themselves into work, but at the end of the day, unless they satisfy that need inside them, it will always be there and they will simply try to find other ways to satisfy it.
Often times, video games tend to fill that hole for gamers. People find it hard to quit games, especially when their primary community is the game because when they try, they feel a sense of emptiness inside them. The only way to resolve that addiction is to find a way to fill that hole without being addicted to something.
People use the same wisdom to combat today’s addictions (such as social media and video games) as the wisdom originally used to combat substance-use disorders such as alcohol or drug abuse. However, today’s addictions are fundamentally different than the addictions of the past, and therefore require new methods to combat them. Old methods such as abstinence can help, but they are not the only way.
Making a commitment to abstinence can feel very resolute and empowering, but in reality, the only action that can be taken is focusing on being abstinent today. Quitting cold turkey and maintaining it is a daily struggle and one would require pure willpower to stay away from desire. Most of the time, we are one bad day away from breaking the streak. However, those who are truly sober are the ones that do not have to fight their desire. They are the ones that choose a life without it.
The best thing to do, aside from abstinence, is figuring out what needs the addiction fulfills for you. The point of our community is not overcoming our addictions — rather, the point is to become free from our addictions and build a fulfilling life with our new freedom.
When avoiding addiction, people often reward themselves to reinforce their abstinence such as congratulating themselves or treating themselves with something special. Telling yourself "I will get used to it," "I am doing a good job," or eating a nice meal will not help you build the behavior.
Dopamine is used to promote behavior, and it is not generated through positive reinforcement. Even though compassion and self-care are important, they can not be used to transform or push yourself to believe that abstinence is good and pleasurable because they do not create dopamine. In fact, forcing yourself to believe that abstinence is not hard is giving into the negative emotions and letting it take control of your behavior. Instead focus with full awareness of your negative emotions as you abstain, and watch as your awareness turn your abstinence to a harsh but bearable experience.
Exercise: Eat something you do not like, but eat with complete awareness. Notice your ability to chew and eat the food as you continue to eat with full awareness. Notice your ability to tolerate the food you do not like
Pornography's effect on society is a complicated matter, and, while there is an increase in pornographic, sexual, and explicit content, the matters continue to be complex. However, there is an overall sense of uncomfortable change and possibility for predatory behavior because content that does well on the internet takes advantage of the brain's evolution. For example, humans have a survival mechanism that pushes them toward sugary and fatty foods, but, now due to the excess and easy accessibility of those foods, this survival mechanism can push people towards causes death through diabetes. Although there is personal freedom involved with making these choices, there are entire industries that employ intentionally or unintentionally predatory tactics that fit with how the brain works.
What is seen in the internet, dopamine, and sexuality landscape is that tactics of these industries and the content on them is an increase in pornography addiction, increase pornography addiction intensity, death grip syndrome, propensity toward certain stimuli, and confusion of intimacy and expectations. However, despite researchers seeing an effect on society, researches do not know what the effect is on society because the content is evolving so fast that it cannot be studied.
People can look at this change in society as an overall negative outcome, which could be the case. However, it does not mean that everything needs to stop changing because with these new challenges come the human need to take new initiatives and grow. For most of humanity, health relationship training has not existed, and it could be possible that people can maintain healthy relationship with people and pornography, despite the inundation of content. This change starts by helping those around you have healthy conversations regarding relationship and pornography, education, and self-reflection. The world is constantly changing and any change can cause problems but that does not mean that this change is evil and that the world needs to stop changing. The goals is to learn about yourself, and manage it.
When trying to help your significant other with porn addiction, you need to understand that it will be difficult to discuss because it brings out their shame and insecurity of having the addiction, and also your possible trust and shame. As a result, people make promises of abstinence out of fear and not from their ability to abstain. Since these promises are based off of their emotions, their resolve will be fleeting and waning because the emotions will wane as well. So avoid having them make promises.
Instead focus on communication and understanding. By question their reasons for pornography consumption, you will find that it is a form of internal emotional regulation rather than sexual expression or desire for someone else. This is for you to understand that their porn consumption are not related to their sexual desires, and about their own personal problems.
You may find yourself with insecure feelings, so it will be good to communicate how their porn consumption creates your feelings of insecurity. It may cause another emotional reaction and promises to change behavior, so tell them avoid the promises and listen to you instead. The goal is to build trust by understanding each other's perspective, and find a foundation where both of you can agree on.
With ADHD, people consequently have deficiencies in behavior inhibition, altered sensitivity to reinforcement, and high impulsivity. This is due to deficiencies with the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which controls behavior inhibition, and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which controls selective attention, while also having impaired dopamine activity across the brain. As a result, they are prescribed stimulant medication because it increases PFC activity, and allows your brain to inhibit negative thoughts and impulses. In addition, the drug use can be used as self medication for their dopamine deficiencies by increasing dopamine levels. However, this effect is temporary and can have long term effects on the striatum, which decreases dopamine and worsens ADHD. At the same time, substance abuse can cause the brain to acclimatizing to the increase in dopamine by increasing dopamine tolerance.
Another driving force for drug use in those that have ADHD is that ADHD is associated with a lot of shame. Because those with ADHD have impaired executive functions and they struggle to do things that are simple for neurotypical people, they feel fundamentally broken and rely on maladaptive coping mechanism because of the altered sensitivity to reward. These coping mechanisms provide an escape for them to from the shame. As a result of these factors, half of adults with ADHD have had a substance use disorder.
To combat ADHD,