Sunday, February 28, 2010

What Causes Addiction

An article by Jann Gumbiner, Ph.D. explores what causes people to be addicted to substances in Freud's psychoanalytic view.

The author's friend teenage brother was addicted to drinking; getting trashed on school days and crashing the family car. The problem was so severe that the boy's whole family had to go to therapy. After a number of sessions, the therapist concluded that the mother was the cause of the boy's addiction.

As we've learned in class, there are three components in Freud's psychoanalytic theory: the id (natural, impulsive urges), the superego (the parent of urges), and the ego (the adult who conciliates with both the id and superego). In the boy's case, his id was the urge to drink and his superego was not doing its job to control his urges.

Anxiety is the main mechanism in Freud's psychoanalytic theory. When a person experiences anxiety, he/she will rely on the various types of defense mechanism. Denial is the most common one among people who abuse substances.
In the teenage's case, substance abuse is a defense against anxiety. Often times people abuse substances to numb themselves again painful emotions, pressure, and worries. Instead of going out, facing the real world and everyday struggles, the person chooses instead to drink away his conscious. As a result, the person never develops appropriate coping methods.

So in this case, anxiety causes addiction. To the boy's therapist, his mother who was over-protective of him and indulged in id caused him to indulge in excessive drinking. Many sessions later, he still did not stop drinking, and all the family could do was blame the mother. She could not stop feeling guilty. This shows that we all tend to believe the 'person in authority,' just as in Stanley Milgram's Obedience test. We tend to believe everything they say and forget to think rationally. I personally have never heard of a person who abuses alcohol because his parents are too loving and protective. Instead it is always the ones with abusive parents that end up abusing substances. Instead of blaming the mother, the family should also have considered other factors. Was it his stress and general unhappiness? Is the dad a drinker himself? Or was the boy's alcoholic abuse a result of peer influences? It could have been a number of different reasons that contributed to the boy's issue, and certainly not just because his mother was 'too-protective' of him.

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