Fitness column: Addictions are a response to stress
One of my passions is understanding human behavior. I spend lots of time studying it. The more I understand it, the more I get to enjoy my life and understand others. Studying human behavior has given me the opportunity to help many people.
Of course, addictions are part of human behavior, and many of us practice conscious or unconscious addictions. For example, many alcoholics think they have control over alcohol. If they are not heavy drinkers, they think they can drop the addiction at any time. However, if they could see that alcohol has destroyed parts of their life, they could see that alcohol has always had control of their life. Other people are conscious that they are addicted to something, but they enjoy it so much that they don’t do anything to stop it until, once again, the addiction gets a powerful hold on their life.
Many individuals think that they can be addicted only to a substance, but that isn’t true. You can also be addicted to behaviors, such as shopping, playing video games, watching TV, sex, gambling, working, exercise, etc.
This doesn’t mean that the behavior is negative; it means that the person has become so dependent on the behavior that she or he can’t function without it, and the behavior can have negative effects on his or her life.
People can also be addicted to food. They may eat so much that it causes negative effects, such as heart problems or obesity.
The question now is why people become addicted to substances or behaviors. Aside from liking the substance or behavior, we search for pleasure or relief, and we search for these gratifications when we are in pain or under pressure. In other words, we become addicted to something when we are stressed and don’t know how to deal with it.
Stress is not a negative feeling. It can help us succeed, overcome difficulties and transcend problems, but it also can make us commit suicide, hurt others and become addicted. What is stress? Many people hear the term, but they don’t understand it. Stress is nothing more than worries: present worries, future worries or worries from the past that persist.
Some examples are uncertainty about being able to pay bills, being afraid of losing a loved one or being haunted by a past sexual assault. People don’t like to deal with their thoughts, and it is easy to forget them when they practice relief behaviors instead of approaching the real issue. Anyway, stress itself deserves its own article.
As mentioned, people can become addicted to food. Some of us keep our mouth busy to take our mind off of our stress. Then people feel guilty when they find out they have overeaten or eaten the wrong foods.
The real deal in this case is not overeating or eating the wrong foods. It is understanding that certain foods have become “comfort” foods, and until the person admits that and understands it, they will never stop overeating or eating the wrong foods.
I have discovered that in reality we all are recovering from some kind of addiction. There is nothing wrong with having an addiction; the problem becomes when we don’t accept it and approach it. Just like an alcoholic, we have to learn many steps to stop the addiction. Understanding what makes you stressed, why you feel this way and how to approach it is the solution to addiction.
Sandro Torres is owner of Custom Body Fitness in Carbondale, author of the book “Lose Weight Permanently” and a Watch Fit columnist. His column appears on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month in Body & More.
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