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Sunday, 27 September 2015

Dysfunction, is it Our Addiction

The term addiction is defined as:  the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity. Synonyms are: dependency, craving, habit, weakness, compulsion, fixation, enslavement. When I think of what is the biggest benefit an addict has when using, I would have to guess it is the immediate satisfaction they feel from the high, but the high may come from a variety of substances or behaviours. Most common addictions society thinks of, are of course drug and/or alcohol addiction, yet there are so many other types. On Wikipedia it did surprise me the types of addiction they refer to: substances, gambling, eating disorders, cell phone use, internet/computer use, tanning and exercise. In my opinion there are  so many other behaviours that can become an addiction, but the one I want to focus on is not the one that led me to write my blog in the first place (substances) but rather, I would like to consider self harm as an addiction, which many organizations have already acknowledged it as such.


On the "Addiction Care" website, they offer help from a far more extensive range of addictions. They cover alcohol and drugs but also: Gambling, Sex, Co-Dependency, Eating Disorders/Compulsive Over Eating/Bulimia, Spending, Exercise, Internet/Gaming, Work, and Self Harm. On the website they explain that:

Self-harming does make people feel better; the act releases endorphins, a brain chemical, which can bring on a sense of well-being and relaxation. Self-harm can be a way to get a release from intense emotions that can seem overwhelming and impossible to survive. A self-harmer might typically cut, burn or scratch themselves. The objective of self-harm might be to quell intense rage or anger or even to distract themselves from other physical pain.
Self-harming becomes addictive because there is a feel good factor. It appears to work. But of course the need to cause injury to oneself escalates.

I sometimes think that my daughters self harming is her addiction and she is getting the same sort of release from her self harming as my son gets from substances. She started self harming when her brother lived her and there was a lot of chaos and anger in the home. She has continued off and on though and many times we think she has "overcome" this problem, she then begins again. Her self harming started with scratching her head until it bled, then cutting, and then she began burning herself. The marks and scars on her are many. I was the most distressed by the burning since they eventually left large scabs that she would then pick. After the burning, blistering, healing, picking, process she would be left with these marks/scabs that resembled craters. No matter how many times I would search her room for sharp objects and matches, she would find a way, especially since all she would need is to break the blade out of a pencil sharpener from her school bag to start cutting again. I would hide knives, matches, scissors, etc but it got to the point where I would feel it is never enough because there will always be something I had not thought of. Even if there were no "tools" to harm herself with, she always had her fingernails to scratch the bloody skin off of her scalp. Just as my son would always find a way of getting his hands on any substance that would sedate him.


I understand how this could be classed as an addiction and interestingly enough my daughters behaviour at home is much like her brothers was in the sense that they seem to have addictive personality type behaviours. I am referring to some behaviours/feelings  that fits into addictive personality traits such as:

  • Need for immediate gratification, 
  • Low self worth.
  • Mood swings.
  • Social alienation and loneliness.
  • Constant stress and/or anxiety.    
  • Inability to control impulsive behaviour.
Also, her behaviour with me when she wants something is very much like the behaviour of her brother, an addict. She can be extremely:

  • Manipulative.
  • Controlling.
  • Dishonest.
  • Angry and threatening.
  • Relentless.
Then I began to realise that my daughter also seems to have a lot of attention seeking behaviours as well, but in a completely different way to my son's. Of course, both my son and daughter craved attention and love and acceptance in one way or another, as all human beings do. Sometimes seeking other people's attention and approval can manifest into a disorder as well. One of the theorised characteristics of people with attention seeking disorder is that they also look for immediate gratification in situations. In relationships they tend to use emotional manipulation on one level but displaying dependency on another level. There are many incidences when my daughter's behaviour is not in the realms of an attention seeking disorder, but are most definitely a young person trying to get attention! Of course we can also argue that the reason much of my daughter's behaviour mimics my son's is due to learnt behaviour or possibly even genetics.

Some people may argue that most of my concerns for what my daughter does or has done is ALL attention seeking. Self harm, an overdose suicide attempt (which she immediately induced vomiting), complaining of constant pains and generally feeling unwell, issues revolving around food and eating, refusing to go to school,  changing her mind on her sexuality more than once, refusing to cover up her neck and chest when covered in hickies, and others. Writing them down, I feel it unlikely that they are ALL attention seeking behaviours, but some I feel are. As I said though there are people out there, both professionals and lay people who I know would shake it all off as attention seeking.


Maybe the simple truth is that my children, the first two in particular grew up in a dysfunctional family in which impacted on their self esteem and sense of self worth which lead them to seek gratification in less traditional or socially acceptable ways. Perhaps they both suffer from the lack of a positive male role model and in fact rather than having NO male role model, their role model negatively affected their emotional development. Alongside this there was little, if any, extended family or social support system to help offer these children guidance, love and acceptance. In addition to this, the main female role model was emotionally and financially controlled, and though she loved and praised and praised her children it was not enough to alleviate the tensions and inequalities within the family. Perhaps her self doubt and frustrations overshadowed her trying to be a positive and loving mother she was/is. Perhaps these children, a product of an unhealthy and to some extent forced union, were just confused and ill prepared for life and they have tried to help themselves along in the only ways they found that worked for them.


Whatever the twisted and complex reasons that we are who and what we are, and why we have become this way we may never be privy to, and in some ways it is irrelevant. I can only try to help myself become a better person, stopping bad habits and fears and insecurities influence me and rather seek out positive people and positive solutions to better my life and my children's lives as well. I must try to stop the cycle of negative learnt behaviour and dysfunction. I will continue to love them and support as well as become frustrated with them and even angry with them, but at the end of the day I want them to learn that they ARE worth it and they deserve happiness and a healthier way of life. Maybe we have all become  used to and addicted to dysfunction since it has been our way of life for so long, but it is not what I am compelled to do, it is not my natural self,  I long for a life in which I can truly be myself living with the family I feel robbed of. Dysfunction and addiction have messed up my plan, damn it, and I want to find the power to reclaim my dream and make my kids believe in dreams too!