Switching Behaviors: Explaining Changing Addictions

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05 Sep Switching Behaviors: Explaining Changing Addictions

Recovering from an addiction is a very difficult experience and many people find it hard to quit cold turkey. As a result, some people find that replacing their addictive behavior with something similar, but less harmful, can help them recover from their addiction. Keep reading to find out why addictions are so hard to quit, and how changing addictions may be an effective form of treatment.

How Addiction Grabs Hold of the Brain

When someone is addicted to a substance or behavior, they are unable to stop their compulsions regardless of the potential and real consequences and risks of their addiction. The brain of an addict stores environmental cues that are associated with the addiction (such as a bar, or being around other addicts) in the hippocampus and amygdala.

These memories create a conditioned response—an intense craving for the drug or behavior—whenever an environmental cue is encountered. This conditioning causes many addicts to need therapy or treatment to quit their addiction, since their brain doesn’t know how to function normally if the craving is not satisfied.

How Switching Behaviors Can Help

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One of the things that makes quitting addiction so difficult is the new void that exists where the addiction used to be. An addiction is a coping mechanism, and without it, addicts can suddenly find they have no way to cope with challenging circumstances. This is where switching behaviors or changing addictions comes in.

Changing addictions involves replacing the addictive action, such as drugs or gambling, with a less damaging action, such as exercise or even just chewing a piece of gum. This works for some as an effective form of treatment. It hijacks the brain’s cue and reward system and inserts a different routine in the addiction’s place.

In order to effectively switch behaviors when going through a craving, one must first identify the environmental cue that is triggering them (such as being around friends who are using drugs, or walking past a casino) and the reward (the substance or action one is craving). Then, one must consciously choose to do a different action when the environmental cue occurs, such as chew a piece of gum or leave to get some exercise. Eventually the old addiction will be replaced with a new, less harmful (or even beneficial) habit.

Changing Addictions – A Holistic Approach

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Image Credit: Ali Naqi

Many recovering addicts find switching behaviors to be a very helpful method of treatment, as they are able to engage in a new coping skill when they are craving their addiction rather than ignoring the craving and hoping it goes away.

Changing addictions isn’t about treating the chemicals in your brain, and it doesn’t require any medication. This makes it a great holistic treatment option for people who are struggling with addiction. In fact, if you switch your behavior with something healthy, such as exercise, you may even find that changing addictions benefits you physically as well.

Switching behaviors can be an effective holistic treatment option for someone who is struggling with addiction. If you are worried that you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out for help from a professional to learn more about treatment options.

Feature Image: Larisa Birta



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