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The Role Emotions Play in Chemical Dependency

Emotions are at the core of addiction. While some substances are extremely addictive because they cause euphoria, addiction is more about escaping negative emotions than chasing pleasure. Often, these negative emotions are compounded by addiction. In addition to escaping the pain of withdrawal, addicts also feel the need to escape the consequences of their addiction.

Often, addiction is rooted in some trauma or abuse that engendered feelings of shame and self-loathing. Drug abuse temporarily relieves the pain and it hardly matters that it’s self-destructive. Generally speaking, using to relieve pain or get back to normal rather than just seeking pleasure is a sign of addiction. Even if there was originally no pain to cause the addiction, the consequences of addictive behavior or the pain of withdrawal caused by physical dependence can perpetuate the addiction.

Addiction is more common among people with other mental health issues. Someone suffering from depression, for example is more likely to be an addict. About a third of people with major depression also suffer from addiction. The relationship between depression and addiction is complicated. It may partly be a matter of self-medication or both the depression and addiction may stem from a common cause–perhaps some mix of genetic predisposition and traumatic event. Whatever the case, depression also makes it hard to get treatment because depression makes it nearly impossible for the addict to imagine a better future.

Anger is another problematic emotion when it comes to addiction. Everyone gets angry sometimes, and sometimes anger can be productive, but some people become chronically angry. In many ways, anger seems like the opposite of depression, but someone who is chronically angry will also feel helpless, especially when he is angry about social or political problems. That feeling of helplessness can actually lead to depression. Anger also tends to alienate people and the chronically angry person will often become socially isolated, which is a big risk factor for addiction.

Dealing with addiction means dealing with emotions. There is no way around it. Recovery requires you to confront the difficult emotions that led to your addiction and the difficult emotions resulting from your addiction. On any given day, you have to learn to work with difficult emotions ranging from minor annoyances to deeply rooted doubts about your self-worth. This usually requires the help of a therapist and a lot of practice.

If you need help for addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help. We offer medically assisted detox and we are equipped to treat dual diagnoses, including depression. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at to learn more.