Sunday, August 30, 2009

Are you addicted?

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Are we a society of addicts? Addicted to Shopping, Alcohol, Shoes, Drugs, Food, Sex, Sport, Gambling, Work, Twitter?
The bigger question is; are these addictions of choice that add fun and excitement, color and texture to our lives? Or perhaps they are subconscious default habitual addictions that imperceptibly eat away at our ability to adapt to our social environment. Whilst there are physiological addictions that require medication to stabilize behavior, ever more research is providing compelling evidence that a huge percentage of destructive habit patterns are controllable. This research is suggesting that many addictions are adaptations to stress. Often these behavioral adaptations are inherently self destructive.

Stressful events affect the immune system. Anxiety, fear, tension, anger and sadness are emotions and physiological stressors.

It needs to be understood that these descriptive words are actually describing chemical reactions in the body. These chemical reactions define our physical and mental health.

Addiction derives from something called the dopaminergic system, or in simpler English-The brain's reward system. The intensity of this desire for reward (the rush of dopamine running through our veins and the ensuing spike in sensory pleasure)

A polarizing theory is posited by Professor John Booth Davies in his book 'The Myth of Addiction' He asks the question 'Is addiction a choice?' and suggests that addicts fall into two categories; those interested in changing, and those not interested.

Insight is the starting point for those interested in changing their habitual destructive actions.

Dr Hans Seyle, coined the term 'General Adaptation Syndrome" He describes three clear stages of adaptation to stress. Initial brief alarm, followed by prolonged resistance, and eventually the third stage, which is exhaustion and death! The chemical precursor to this disturbing eventuality is; enlargement of the adrenal gland, atrophy of the thymus and spleen, and lymphoid tissue, as well as gastric ulcerations.

This is not a medical resource article, but it's worth noting that the throw away labels we give to our emotions and behaviors have an underlying and very real impact on our well being.

So much misery in life is the result of maladaption to stress. What interests this scribbler however is the area of science called Psychoneuroimmunology. Research in this field of science, looks at the impact that state of mind has on the immune system. Former Harvard professor of physiology-Walter Cannon first coined the term Homeostasis. He observed that there is a brain body dialogue played out via control of cortisol levels that can largely be manipulated by conscious thought. Popularly known as the power of belief.

Many NLP(neuro-liguistic-programming) practitioners believe that we can trick the body by changing our response to stress triggers. The belief is, that the stimulus is not the stressor, rather our response. How we label a stimulus defines its impact. Are we angry, or merely annoyed. Are we devastated or merely sad. These labels, our interpretations of our life experiences, are ultimately manifested within our immune system.

Beware how you label your experiences it's self fulfilling. Just a thought!

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