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Recognizing Addictive And Compulsive Behaviors*

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 76

Though there may be other reasons for addictive and compulsive behaviors, one common reasons is stress. Below are some key indicators of stress reactions.

1. A Prolonged, Incessant Preoccupation with any addictive agent: persons, things, activities, events, thoughts, behaviors, etc.
 
2. Increased Tolerance to the addictive agent. The longer the duration of the addiction, the greater the tolerance level for involvement with the addictive agent.
 
3. Loss of Control and an inability to cut back, modify, or resist behaviors in spite of promises.

4. Withdrawal, including any attempt to stop or modify use or attachment to addictive agent causes withdrawal symptoms such as depression, extended periods of crying, anger, irritability, etc.

5. Secretive Behavior, that is, using clever denial techniques and cleverly concealing evidence to help conceal the problem.

6. Denial, marked by defensiveness, rationalizations, or the "shrug off" ("It’s no big deal," "I’m in control," etc.).

7. Yo-Yo Complex: The tendency to experience sudden and dramatic moods swings. These are not always easy to detect as addictive persons can hide quite skillfully.

8. Blaming: The "It’s not my fault" syndrome (see "Autobiography in Five Chapters" Ministry Health article #5).

9. Mental Lapses including blackouts, loss of memories, daydreaming, and pre-occupation with the addictive agent.

10. Physical Symptoms including headaches, ulcers, hypertension, fatigue, panic attacks, numbness, pain, overall weakness, etc.

11. Rigid Attitudes. A marked intolerance of differing viewpoints and the frequent manifestation of black-or-white, all-or-nothing thinking patterns. Such patterns, of course, disrupt both personal and professional relationships.

12. Low Self-Image: The longer the period of addiction, the less one cares about themselves and the greater the potential for addicted individuals to act contrary to their original value system.

13. Tragedy: Compulsive addictions can so alter judgment that accidents, injuries and even disability or death can result. Some of these may or may not be caused by intentional decisions.
 

Seek Immediate Medical Attention

When any of the following symptoms begin to develop it is imperative to consult your physician immediately for a complete physical examination. Be sure to include blood profiles, endocrine levels, blood pressure, etc. so as to identify and treat the body's chemical reaction to the stress.

Anxiety, depression and other physical responses may be treated effectively with medications such as Paxil, Zoloft, or other medications. If medication is necessary, be aware that some medications (e.g. Xanax) may be addictive or have side effects. Check with your doctor and pharmacist regarding any new medications, their side effects, and their interactions with any current medications. Don't try to minimize the problem by self-therapies (e.g. exercise, herbal remedies, spiritual techniques, etc.).

There is no substitute for competent medical intervention.
Get The help you really need!

Seek A Competent Christian Therapist

Professional therapy with a qualified counselor should be considered a "shouldn't even have to mention how important it is" item. Don't try to be your own counselor. Don't depend on your family, your friends, or a ministry brother to support you in the heaviest burden. You don't have the strength--and neither do they--to endure and overcome the anxiety alone over what may be extended periods of time..

Get the professional, confidential support and the opportunity for emotional unloading that only a trained, competent counselor can give. Again, don't be your own counselor. It won't work nearly as effectively and will almost certainly make the healing take longer, allowing the hurt and anxiety to grow deeper and more devastating to you and those around you.

Deal With The Symptoms Early

Recognizing these symptoms of stress in the early stages is an absolutely critical first step toward reducing the impact of emotional disorders which may occur in extraordinary stressful situations. Left unchecked, those affected will be susceptible to even more intense experiences of unrelieved stress resulting in potentially tragic consequences for self, family, and congregation. An ounce of prevention can save pounds of intervention and unnecessary pain.

Don't delay! When endocrine and chemical imbalances are present, it won't just go away by itself, by praying, or by making it through each day one at a time. Almost always they get worse and even more devastating making recovery even more difficult.

Get help immediately--your life and ministry may depend on it! Of course, continue (or, if need be) start a spiritual growth program of prayer and scripture reading. Use all of the resources which God has given for your physical, emotional and spiritual healing.

And remember, someone's praying for you!

Thomas F. Fischer

* Adapted from Wright, Norman. "Dysfunctional Roles: Do I Have One?" in Always Daddy’s Girl. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1989. pp. 175-177

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:04:05 PM