What is addiction?

I’ve been reading Gabor Maté’s book “Beyond Drugs, the Universal Experience of Addiction”, and in this post I’d like to highlight some sections of the book I found very insightful, and which I’m hoping will help those of you reading this and struggling perhaps with addiction.

It might be your loved one that’s struggling with addiction, in which case this will help you understand what they might be going through.

An important question Maté asks is the following:

What did it offer you? What did you like about it? What, in the short term, did it give you that you craved or liked so much?

Gabor Maté

The client he’s speaking to replies with this, which lots of you will probably relate to (if not, let me know in the comments what the addiction helps/helped you with):

It helped me escape emotional pain; helped me deal with stress; gave me peace of mind, a sense of connection with others, a sense of control…

Maté’s client.

Finally I’ll leave you with a bit of an explanation, in the words of Gabor Maté, of what he thinks addiction is:

“Such responses illuminate that addiction is neither a choice nor primarily a disease.

It originates in a human being’s desperate attempt to solve a problem: the problem of emotional pain, of overwhelming stress, of lost connection, of loss of control, of a deep discomfort with the self.

In short, it is a forlorn attempt to solve the problem of human pain.

All drugs — and all behaviours of addiction, substance-dependent or not, whether gambling, sex, the internet or cocaine– either soothe pain directly or distract from it.

Hence my mantra: the first questions is not “why the addiction?” but “why the pain?”.


What do you think?

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Published by Dilnia

I have over 10 years experience working in a variety of social and health care settings. I worked in community care and NHS setting. I have done a lot of work with couple and individual relationships. I have a passion for working with mindfulness, self-esteem, confidence, CBT and believe strongly in reaching outcomes desired by my clients using the therapeutic relationship. I welcome any new clients, and any questions. Please do ask anything else you would wish to know. Details on contacts page.

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