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Why Addiction Is And Isn’t A Compulsion Issue

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Is an addiction a compulsion? Are compulsions addictive? Compulsion and addiction are used synonymously. Mindful argues that the two are separate. Here we look at the differences and similarities and how addiction is a compulsion.


Addiction is rooted in seeking pleasure. “Addictions bring pleasure, though they also build up a tolerance over time, as the addict requires more and more of the behavior (or substance) to get the same hedonic hit,” the article writes. Behavioral addictions and chemical addictions are mostly misunderstood because of the unique way they affect mind, body, and spirit.


Compulsions are rooted in avoiding pain. When obsessive thinking of any kind takes over, there is usually a dreaded outcome on the other end of it. We don’t often obsess about what is good, unless we are afraid it wasn’t real, won’t be real, or might be taken away from us. Obsessions are ruminating thoughts which don’t relent. Anxious about the outcomes, compulsions are the actions taken by someone to avoid feeling or creating the impending doom of the obsession. “They are repetitive behaviors we engage in over and over to alleviate the angst brought on by the possibility of negative consequences,” explains a contributor to the article.

Addiction And Compulsion

Both are coping mechanisms. Pleasure seeking is a way to cope with pain while pain avoiding is a way to cope with pain. Both are inherently associated with avoiding pain. Overtime in addiction, a person develops a tolerance which requires them to use more of whatever they’re addicted to. As a result, they actually deplete their brain’s natural ability to feel pleasure. Consequently, the brain becomes hypersensitive to any kind of pain; meaning, that anything which isn’t pleasure makes the brain crave pleasure even more. According to the article, a compulsion “differs from an addiction because the initial impetus is alleviating anxiety, not finding pleasure.” Addiction is a form of compulsion. Anxiety is caused by symptoms of withdrawal once the brain and body become chemically dependent upon drugs and alcohol. Addiction as a form of chemical dependency becomes about alleviating anxiety more than it is about pleasure. Because the brain can no longer experience the same amounts of pleasure it used to, pleasure stops being part of the equation. Many addicts and alcoholics talk about their “bottom” and how the drugs and alcohol didn’t “work” or didn’t make them feel better. Instead, they shudder at the memories of feeling like they had to drink and use, or else they might die, might suffer severe symptoms of withdrawal, or might have to experience pain of any kind.

Addiction is deadly, but it doesn’t have to be. There is hope and freedom in recovery. Everyone has the capacity to change. At Design For Change, we’re giving clients a solution for fighting addiction and coming out victorious on the other side of treatment. For information on our tiered programs and recovery services, call us today at (877) 267-3646.

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