Google+ Followers

Friday, 13 September 2013

Genetics or Learning, or Both?

Are we all predisposed to addiction? Is there such a thing as an addictive personality?

There are definitely socially acceptable addictions such as exercise/sport addictions and legal addictions such as social networking addictions! Of course we have all known "workaholics" and "shopoholics". These are all forms of not being able to function without something and has in essence taken over the person's life. However, we praise and admire the athlete who trains endless amount of hours each and every day, who in fact feels unwell and unsettled  if not able to train. We often praise the workaholic who spends his life working to "provide" for his family. However there are many forms of addiction; whether it be sport, food, sex, gambling, shopping, work, social networking, mobile phones, video games, the internet, alcohol or the most stereotypically negative which is the drug addict.

As far as people being predisposed, well I think there is enough evidence to say that , yes, we are predisposed to addiction. It does not mean that that is the only factor in addiction. Of course there are behavioural factors such as poor coping mechanisms, learned behaviour and psychological elements which of all part of addiction as well. Yet there is no denying that genetics play a role, we have always heard comments such as, " he is an alcoholic, his father was an alcoholic, so what did you expect?". For many years I think people thought is was just the way it was with some people. Don't get me wrong, there is truth in learning negative, self destructive behaviour, but I think there needs to be something in the brain that make some people become addicts.

I am sure I have intimated before that my ex husband has many issues of his own and one thing that was an issue for me but not for him, was his drinking. I still tend to believe that while we were together my ex husband displayed an alcoholic personality. I think this because for one, if he had one drink he could not stop at that. He could not calm down and relax and enjoy any social situation without having quite a few drinks and in fact would get quite agitated if he was not "allowed" a drink. As the years went on, the amount of drink he would consume in one sitting increased and as it did so his aggression and tension also increased while he was "sober". I once set him the goal not to drink for a short period after our first child was born and after just a few days he became very angry that he could not sleep and he was not feeling well because of it so therefore he will no longer entertain my silly "challenge" and went back to drinking. Many times he would look unwell, red beady eyes, puffy and smelling horrible in the morning as he went to work.

When ever the subject would come up that maybe his drinking is turning into more than just casual, he would refute this argument with the "I do not have a drink in the morning, therefore I am not an alcoholic. I do not have a problem, you do". Not all alcoholics drink in the morning, that is at least my opinion.

My ex husband's father also drank a lot and in all honesty it was the norm and the excepted thing that men drink, they go out drinking, they drink a lot, so let them be.

While my ex husband and father in law were quite compelled to drink and could not easily stop when they did, my ex sister in law, in my mind, also has an addictive personality but always used that compulsion to  do things excessively to good use; studying, working and especially running. She can not imagine life without running and sometimes would design her holidays and work trips to coincide with races, training, etc.. Having children did not even stop her, she was out there running the track while pushing her baby's buggy!

I believe that my son has a genetic predisposition to addiction, he has been psychologically "damaged" which led to the desire to escape through drugs as well as having a role model from whom he learned behaviours such as using substances/alcohol as a coping mechanism which help us we hide from our emotional pain.

I do not think it is easy to explain addiction and it is different for each individual while those individuals share many similarities as well. Genetics is of course only one element of addiction.

More interesting is that of all the addictions, drug addiction is still portrayed as the junkie shooting up, the low life, the pot head who sits in a cloud of smoke all day, the "off his face nutter" in the street. Well it is not like that as everyone reading this knows! People also seem to think that giving up drugs would be "easier" than giving up many other addictions, that also I do not understand and is again as we all know, not at all the case. For the addicted, it doesn't matter what the addiction is, what matters is the painful emotional dependency as well as the physical need to continue with that addiction.

Anyone who is addicted has their reasons that are often multiple and very complex. Giving up and relearning coping skills, learning to fill their time with other things that are productive rather than destructive, reforming relationships as well as saying goodbye to others, the list goes on, takes a lot of work and courage and perseverance. We need to try to understand and never forget that these people who suffer from addiction are people who need support.