Social media. Alcohol. Work. Video games or gaming. Sex. Prescription drugs. Dabs or edibles. Exercise. Porn. Gambling. Addiction develops for any substance or behavior that negatively impacts your life that you have tried to cut down or stop but find it difficult to do so. Cravings, minimizing or hiding the extent of the use or behavior, feelings of guilt or shame regarding the use or behavior, and a distracting preoccupation regarding when you will next engage in the use or behavior are all hallmarks of addiction.

What causes addiction?

Currently, the Dopamine Theory is one of the leading, evidence-based theories regarding causes of addiction.  The Dopamine Theory holds that any potentially addictive behavior or substance (work, exercise, alcohol, sex, drugs, etc.) releases a “feel good” neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine. The release of dopamine through the addictive behavior or substance reinforces that action and creates a cycle that can be hard to break out of, especially depending on genetic, biological, and environmental factors predisposing how the person’s brain processes the releasing dopamine. With repeated use, the brain becomes desensitized, leading to a diminished pleasurable response. As a result, individuals genetically, biologically, and/or environmentally predisposed to addiction become increasingly focused on seeking out larger or more frequent amounts of the behavior or substance to experience the dopamine surge again. This is called the cycle of addiction.

Addiction is considered a brain disorder because it affects the brain’s reward and motivation systems. Repeated substance use or engagement in addictive behaviors can lead to changes in brain chemistry, particularly in the areas related to pleasure, reward, decision-making, and impulse control. Over time, these changes can make it difficult for individuals to resist the urge to use the substance or engage in the behavior, even when they are aware of the negative consequences.

There are various factors that increase someone’s vulnerability to the development of addiction, including genetic, biological, and environmental factors outside the person’s direct control. Genetic predisposition to how the body processes dopamine and other neurotransmitters can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction, as certain individuals experience more intense dopaminergic reward from compulsively using certain substances or engaging in certain behaviors than others who will be less genetically vulnerable to becoming addicted. Biological factors, such as one’s susceptibility to experiencing depression, anxiety, or ADHD, can increase someone’s vulnerability to addiction as the addictive substance or behavior can temporarily create a sense of euphoria, distraction, and relief from symptoms of depression, anxiety, or ADHD that can otherwise be more difficult to manage. However, in only hours following the substance use, dopamine levels are depleted with the depression, anxiety, or ADHD symptoms ultimately worse off than before the use occurred, creating a cycle where more use is sought to re-create the sense of relief, distraction, and euphoria. Environmental factors, such as repeat exposure to the addiction of a caregiver as a child or experiencing additional forms of trauma, also increases one’s vulnerability to addiction.

At EMDR Center of Denver, we offer effective evidence-based treatment to gain control of any substance or behavior you assess as currently creating problems in your life.  We will provide you with evidence-based treatment, resources, and support in identifying and pursuing your preferred level of future engagement with the substance or behavior moving forward.

Based on extensive peer-reviewed research, EMDR reduces both the unwanted thoughts and cravings for a substance or behavior through targeted bilateral stimulation. This treatment gives the person experiencing addiction a greater sense of control. In addition, EMDR also reduces the sources of anxiety and stress oftentimes motivating a person’s use. EMDR re-wires neural brain circuits through bilateral stimulation, or stimulation of both brain spheres through eye movements, vibrations, or tapping, to bring relief from unwanted symptoms to better identify and create the life you want. At the EMDR Center of Denver, we believe that every person experiencing addiction can experience relief and create a more satisfying life. Schedule your free consultation with us today to work towards gaining control and getting your life back.

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Not sure if you are experiencing alcohol or substance use addiction?

Take the Tobacco, Alcohol, and Prescription medication and other substance assessment.

This questionnaire can be used as a starting point to recognize the signs and symptoms of Addiction but is not meant to replace consultation and evaluation with a trained mental health professional. An accurate diagnosis can only be made through a clinical evaluation. Regardless of the questionnaire results, if you have concerns regarding symptoms of Addiction that you may be experiencing, please discuss these concerns with a mental health professional. We would be happy to assist with this process.