*If you mist our article “Addictions Stemming from Stress or Pain Management” go read that first by clicking on the link above. In this article we address how the majority of people who live with some type of stress never set out to become addicted or reliant on whatever it is that they use. But that stress addictions kind of happen as a way of trying to cope. The article that follows below builds on that information, so you if you missed it you might want to read that first.

There are several common addictions that occur when people seek to ease stress or find an outlet for physical or emotional pain. Here are the five most common stress addictions:

Smoking Can Be a Stress Relief and Pain Management Addiction

Having an addiction to smoking is one way that begins as a means to manage stress. Because deep inhaling and deep exhaling is a natural stress relieve exercise that relaxes both the body and the brain, once you get the nicotine addiction on top of the breathing habit, it becomes easier to understand why people that are stressed turn so easily to smoking or another cigaret whenever they feel stressed.

Most people think that having a cigarette calms them whenever they feel their stress levels start to go up. But the truth is that the opposite happens. Yes, they feel more relaxed during the smoking time of the cigaret, but that’s purely because of what the deep breathing does. Inhaling nicotine decreases the level of oxygen that goes to your brain and causes stress levels to go up rather than down.

What gives smokers the sense that they’re getting relief from stress is the breathing. So, if they could just breathe like if they smoke a cigaret, but without the cigarette, that will relieve the stress. On top of that, because there is more oxygen flowing to the brain cells, they would feel more energized and clear, rather than foggy or having a spinning sensation (especially perceptive with your first cigarette).

Another way people get fooled by believing smoking a cigarette relieves stress, is that the nicotine they’re getting into their system from a cigarette quiets the craving rather than the stress they experience.

It gives a false sense of relief. This false sense of relief comes from the nicotine because this addictive substance causes a person to experience a temporary mood shift.

Nicotine makes the emotional aspect of stress less sharp. Smokers don’t feel the same level of irritation, the anger or the depression brought on by stress when they smoke, not realizing that it’s not a true release from the stress.

Apart of the relaxation effect deep breathing has in itself, Dopamine is behind the mood lift that someone feels whenever they smoke. The breathing combined with the nicotine causes the release of this chemical and makes the smoker instantly feel calmer.

The nicotine opens the doorway to a habit forming method of stress relief that’s not even a true relief. Smoking covers up the stress but doesn’t deal with it. This addiction has the same results if used as a way to attempt to deal with pain.

A nicotine habit is not an effective pain management solution because eventually the nicotine need will change. After the initial dopamine release wears off, the smoker will crave another cigarette to get the same calmness and the same relief from pain that he or she felt in the beginning. This is how someone goes from being a one or two cigarette a day person to becoming a pack a day smoker. Healthy coping skills are needed to break an addiction to smoking.

Once you stop smoking, you cut your risk of smoking related health problems and can reverse health problems that may already be happening in your body such as high blood pressure or elevated heart rate and higher liver enzymes.

If you want to break the addiction to cigarettes, there will never be the “right” time. Some people look for a time when they don’t feel they’ll have any stress at all in their lives, but stress can be a given and putting off stopping smoking until things “get better” doesn’t work.

Instead, if you stop smoking in the middle of your stress, you stand a greater chance of successfully quitting. Otherwise, when the stress reoccurs, you’ll face an even greater temptation.

Make it easy to break the addiction by making your environment one that will help you succeed. Don’t have any cigarettes on hand, don’t hang out where you used to smoke and use some stop smoking tools if you need them – such as the patch or nicotine gum.

Drinking Is One of the Top Five Addictions

Stress Addictions - Alcohol addiction

Stress Addictions – Alcohol – Photo by Eaters Collective on Unsplash

Of the most addictive substances – alcohol – makes the top five list. It’s also one of the most accessible substances to those who are underage. While a lot of people do drink alcohol, most people do understand limitations and don’t have an addiction to it.

Here are some clear signs that an alcohol addiction is present. Having an inability to do what you’re supposed to do during the day is a sign. For example, if you can’t do your job duties, or you’re failing in your college level schoolwork because of drinking, this can be a sign of an addiction to alcohol.

When you have to consume great quantities of alcohol to find the relief from stress or pain, this can be a sign of an addiction. The reason that your body needs more alcohol the more of it that you use is because it builds up a tolerance to a certain level.

So as you drink it, you have to have more and more before you can feel the same level of buzz that you did in the beginning. If you’ve tried to stop drinking, but experience signs of withdrawal when you attempt it, that can also be a warning sign.

Symptoms of withdrawal include mood swings – anxiety, irritability, depression, insomnia, headaches and feeling shaky. While the discomfort from stress or pain can be covered up with alcohol, as soon as the buzz wears off, the feelings of stress and any physical pain that you had will come rushing back.

Plus, you’ll have the after effects of health problems. Your liver can’t metabolize great quantities of alcohol. When you drink too much, your body’s immune system is affected.

RX Pill Addiction Can Happen to Anyone

Stress Addictions - Medication and Pills

Stress Addictions – Medication and Pills – Photo by freestock.org

There are so many ways to get medications. You can get them over the counter and you can get them via a prescription. Though prescription medications are more closely monitored than they have been before, it can still be easy to develop an addiction to medication.

Often, a pill addiction starts out because the medications are needed. After an injury, a doctor will often prescribe a narcotic. Narcotics are extremely addictive. They not only block out the body’s pain receptors and make the user feel relaxed, but they also ease stress so you feel happy.

Other than alcohol, this is one of the quickest ways to become addicted to a substance. Some people may find it easier to become addicted than others will. This factor depends on whether or not there is a genetic inheritance toward addiction.

Once the pill is taken, there can be a mass release of endorphins stimulated by the taking of the drug. These endorphins are what give the user the high feeling. But as the person continues to take the drug, what happens is that the brain ceases to perform its normal function with endorphin release.

So when the person who is addicted doesn’t take the pill, he or she doesn’t feel as good and his or her emotions swing downward. Once they take the pill again, it creates that endorphin effect and this effect is massive.

The brain doesn’t naturally produce the quantity of endorphins that are created by the drugs. Stopping a pill addiction can lead to stress, insomnia, depression and suicidal thoughts. Treatment programs can break a pill addiction if you recognize that you have one. Some of these treatment methods include taking medication such as methadone.

Sexual Addictions Are Still Under-Diagnosed

Stress Addictions - Sexual Addiction

Stress Addictions – Sexual Addictions – Photo by Stas Svechnikov on Unsplash

Because there’s more of a stigma around a sexual addiction, most people who are addicted to sex are reluctant to seek help to free them from this addiction. Having a sexual addiction occurs because of the same reasons that any other type of addiction happens.

The brain has a reward pathway that occurs with addictions. It’s the same type of chemical release that happens when someone drinks, smokes, overuses food or takes drugs.

The behavior leads to the release of chemicals in the brain that make a person feel good. This chemical high is what leads people back to the very same actions time after time because the brain grows accustomed to that reward system.

Your brain can be retrained to accept thoughts and behaviors that a person wouldn’t normally act upon. The same reasons that people use other addictions are the reasons that a sexual addiction is used.

When someone has a sexual addiction, they use it to find relief from the stress they haven’t learned how to cope with, from physical and emotional pain – and because they become addicted to the high they get from the brain’s chemical release.

Like with other addictions, there can be a genetic link to sexual addictions. If this issue runs in your family (which you are likely not to know about), then it can get passed down to you.

Food Addiction Is the Most Common Addiction

Stress Addictions - Food Addiction

Stress Addictions – Food Addiction – Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

While it can be easy to think that alcohol, cigarettes and pills are the most common addiction, it’s actually food that tops the list. It’s the most widely accepted addiction as well as the one that’s sometimes hidden until the weight starts to pile on.

A food addiction can be just as bad for your health as any other addiction due to the long-term health problems it can cause. While some people will gain weight due to a food addiction, not everyone does.

Some people hide a food addiction by eating small portions in front of other people and then binge eating at home. With others, it can lead to an eating disorder such as bulimia or anorexia.

The reason for this is because the food is used as a means of treating stress, physical pain and emotional wounds or traumas. A food addiction also gives the same high that other substances do – and it, too is followed by feelings of disgust, remorse and depression just like other addictions can bring on.

There Is Hope for Stress Addiction Recovery

The first step toward recovery is always the most difficult because it means acknowledging the problem. Recovery doesn’t happen just because family or friends want it to – it has to come from the person with the addiction.

Some people avoid even the thought of seeking help because they assume this means going to some kind of recovery center. But some addictions can be treated with self-help materials, with private support that doesn’t involve public meetings, with medications, with counseling and more.

An addiction can happen to anyone at any time – from any walk of life. No one is immune or above it happening to them. The best reason to seek help for any kind of addiction is that you deserve to live an authentic life and addictions rob you of that.

Instead of an authentic life, you end up with a synthetic one because the emotions and experiences aren’t real. They’re being governed by the addiction. You’re worth whatever tools you need to buy – whatever avenues you need to take to be free of the control of an addiction.

Stress Addictions Cover

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