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‘Addiction’ is a concept that is in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but not a diagnosis. There is substance abuse and dependence, which carry the concept, but there are things that one can be ‘addicted’ to that are not drugs or even substances.

Whether it can be ‘diagnosed’ as a medical desease or not, it is a problem. Some are glad to have a name and label such as ‘alcoholism’, others feel replacing the idea of ‘sinner’ with a label that has stigma like ‘alcoholic’ can be just as damaging to one’s identity (Prentiss, 13). At least if one is a ‘sinner’ they can claim they are also a ‘saint’ and filled with the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ by his grace and nothing they have done. However, understanding the problem is complex, can be biological, genetic, imbedded in family dynamics, and involved some things out of one’s control is also freeing. Either way one has to take responisbility. Whatever the problem is labeled or diagnosed it is important to find a way to become aware of and recognize the underlying issues, beliefs, impaired thinking, and abusive cycle that drives the ‘addiction’.

The video above is an excerpt of an interview with Patrick Carnes, who is the author of the book Out of the Shadows; Understanding Sexual Addiction. This book is used in some sex offender treatment programs to help men recover from sexual addiction and explains how the cycle of abuse and addiction begin.

Carnes lays out four core beliefs of addiction: 1) I am basically a bad, unworthy person. (stems for abandonment); 2) No one would love me as I am (leads to putting up a mask- image of the self so people can not really know them and thus possibly reject them); 3) My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on others; 4) _____________ is my most important need (Carnes, 99-102). Important core beliefs develop in childhood even before age 6 about the self, relationships, needs, and feelings (Carnes, 97).

Carnes gives an in depth explaination of the pattern of thought, feeling, and behavior that creates the unhealthy cycle of addiction. Impaired thinking such as blaming others, rationalizing the addictive behavior, self-deulusion, denial, justification, suspicion of others, paranoia, and minimization of the harmful affects of the addiction on oneself, others, and the community all support the behavior and false belief system. He also discusses the role of ‘cosigners’ and ‘enablers’, along with the important but not curative role of consequences as minimal as an unfriendly look or loss of small change to going to jail, losing one’s significant other through divorce, or having to attend a program. Below is a sketch of the cycle he lays out in the book.

In this video Dr. Carnes talks about the purpose and need for support groups.

He emphasizes the importance of being in therapy and also meeting with a support group where one can share their story with others who have experienced the same things. One such group is http://www.freedomeveryday.org/

With the internet it can be difficult to manage this addiction and there are several programs for computer internet monitoring that can be helpful such as http://www.covenanteyes.com/

Carnes, Patrick, Ph.D. (2001). Out of the Shados: Understanding Sexual Addiction. Center City, MN: Hazelden.

Prentis, Chris. (2007). The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure. Los Angeles, CA: Power Press.

For more info from Rachel Hofer check www.lovingtherapy.com