I wanted to share this post from Science Daily on how oxytocin (a hormone related to love and bonding) may affect one's likelihood of having a drug or alcohol abuse problem later in life, says researchers from the University of Adelaide:
Early childhood experiences impact our behavior, development, and sense of self and relationships in more ways than commonly realized.
Have you ever started eating something, with the intention to have just one piece or slice, and found that you couldn't stop? You might be surprised at how many other people have similar issues with food. Food addiction is real, and can wreak havoc on the lives of those affected. Fortunately, recovery is quite possible, and many people find that they can learn to lead sane and happy lives without excess or compulsive eating.
First off, How do you know if you have a problem?
You may be struggling with a food addiction and/or compulsive eating, if any of the following are true:
*you can't stop eating after being full, and sometimes eat to the point of discomfort.
*you never seem to know when you're hungry or when you're full
*you have regular bouts of guilt, shame, or self-loathing after eating
*you feel obsessed with what you will eat next, what you just ate, or how you will "work off" the effects of your eating
*you have strong food cravings
*certain foods seem to trigger more hunger, and you find yourself eating more than what seems reasonable
*you exercise excessively to "get rid of" (purge) the extra food. Note that this can be a form of bulimia.
*you have periods of restricting your diet, followed by periods of food free-for-alls. ("yo-yo dieting")
*you have become obsessed with different diet trends, including paleo, vegan, macrobiotic, or raw foods, and find these diet "rules" preoccupy you
There are certain foods that can trigger this type of behavior more readily. Many people have found that the following foods tend to lead them to overeat:
*bread products, including cereals and granolas
*chocolate or other desserts
*creamy, fatty foods, such as nut butters
*refined carbs, such as white rice
*sweet or salty foods that come in bulk servings in bags/boxes Example:chips, trail mix, loose nuts, french fries)
*foods with natural sweeteners, including energy bars
*alcohol consumption can also lead an otherwise normal drinker to overeating sugar or other foods
Food addiction appears to act as both a behavioral and a substance addiction. Some people find that if they ingest any amount of sugar, it serves as "an alcoholic food" for them, and triggers craving and obsession for more. While this is a contentious topic in the addiction field, many recovering food addicts swear by the reality of the substance addiction. For others, the behaviors around food have the most problematic effect.
Some common triggers for people to overeat, or eat compulsively, include:
*being too hungry
*being too tired, and thinking the food is necessary for energy
*being in a rush, and feeling anxious
*feeling anxious at a social event,such as a party or potluck
*social events where the focus is on eating triggering foods
*access to "novelty" foods, where it's easy to justify overeating
*having poor boundaries or ability to say "no" to offered food
Many issues around food are intimately connected with issues of body image, self-esteem, and exercise/movement. While more women than men appear for eating disorder treatment and self-help groups focusing on food, men can be plagued by the same issues.
If you think that you may have a problem with food, know that help is available to you. It's important to get to know what your triggers are, and what healthy coping skills you may need to cultivate. Evidence shows that people in recovery from any sort of addictive process do best with a healthy community of support, whether from friends, family, self-help groups, or professional assistance. Many people find that they need to engage their spiritual life to find meaning and strength in their recovery process; Overeaters Anonymous (OA), a 12-step program based on the AA program, has proved invaluable to many people who couldn't find relief through more traditional methods. OA is open to anyone who has a problem with food, no matter what the nature of the problem, or the body size of the person.
Many of the symptoms of food addiction are common in eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Some people's food addiction leads to a need for residential eating disorder treatment, to address the physical as well as the emotional aspects of healing. Others find that they can find significant recovery through outpatient treatment and/or self-help groups. If you feel you have a problem with food, it's important to get an assessment with someone trained in differentiating between these disorders, so they can point you toward proper treatment.
Certain health conditions also can predispose one toward eating certain foods in an addictive fashion; often a combination of treatment with a psychotherapist/counselor and nutritionist or dietician can provide the support needed for recovery.
You're not alone.
Most people feel some ambivalence about changing a long-standing behavior, no matter how much it could benefit them to do so. It doesn't matter if the behavior relates to alcohol, food, exercise, leisure time, or anything else; the change-making process works in predictable ways. It makes sense to want to explore the reasons for the change, the potential consequences, and likely outcome before committing. There's a good reason for this: the behavior is serving a purpose (or at least was at one point!)
Some reasons that people drink include:
*to connect more easily with others
*to have fun
Drinking for these reasons, for many people, are not necessarily a problem. Alcohol is used so commonly throughout time and across cultures because it's effects are predictable and usually enjoyable for most people. However, some people find that drinking becomes a way to deal with life's stresses or to forget pain. This type of drinking can bring more questionable consequences, especially when the pain or stress are not dealt with directly through healthier means. No matter the reason for drinking, some people find that it can lead to:
*risky behavior such as driving while intoxicated, or unsafe sex
*being loud, hurtful, or obnoxious with others
*losing sight of values such as self-care, healthy relationships, work goals, etc
*a lost opportunity to learn more direct and healthy coping skills
*increased tendency toward depression
*loss of self-respect
*negative impacts on important relationships
*health problems (present or future)
If you're considering changing your drinking behavior, but don't feel ready, that's no problem. Most people who successfully cut down or quit drinking entirely went through a period of questioning what it would mean for them, and the likely outcome of no longer having alcohol in their lives.
Many people have questions such as:
"How would I have fun without it?"
"How would I unwind without it?"
"What would my friends, colleagues, or family think?"
"What if it hurts my relstionships?"
"What if I don't know how?"
"What if I can't?"
I find it's helpful to explore in detail with my clients:
*what is helpful or enjoyable about the drinking
*what the potential reasons for quitting or cutting back might be--whether related to health, finances, relstionships, values, spirituality, work, or self-esteem.
*what the benefits might be
*what's gotten in the way of changing the behavior so far
*how life might be different in 5 or 10 years if they continue drinking at the current rate, and how it might be if they stopped
*how it might affect important relationships
*what else might be needed in place of the alcohol (alternative pain management techniques, grief or trauma work, healthy coping skills, different options for having fun, relaxing, and socializing, etc)
*treatment options that may be helpful
Usually, after these questions are explored in detail, those I work with have much more clarity about their relationship to alcohol, and whether or not it makes sense to take any further steps to pursue a change.
If you're interested in exploring your relationship to alcohol without feeling pressured to "hurry up and change", I'd be happy to talk more.
Teri Dillion, MA, LPC, LAC