Weapons of Mass Distraction: "Lite" Addictions

fast-foodWe stressed, anxious people love our “weapons of mass distraction*” which are the escapes, comforts and zone-outs we use to cope with stress or make ourselves feel temporarily better. Nothing really wrong with this except these behaviors don’t really solve the problem of stress or upset and can create problems of their own.

A young man I’ll name Brad called to make a counseling appointment by announcing that he was addicted to fast food, shopping and internet porn.  I thought, “Wow, he sounds so American.” Brad was a college student, came from a family background of alcoholism and was stressed and anxious because of school and relationship problems.

Brad wasn’t a full-blown addict in that his behaviors weren’t causing money, job or relationship problems – YET – and he didn’t want them to escalate. What Brad was strugging with was what I call “lite” addictions, which are defined as:  quick fix habits that temporarily smoothe the stress, anxiety and strain of modern life, but don’t lead to the satisfaction, joy or freedom we’re longing for.

Here are some stats on the most prevalent “lite” addictions:

Fast Food: In 1970 Americans spent 6 billion on fast food and in 2001 110 billion (Today about 30% of adults in US are obese)

shopping-addictionShopping – Lane Benson, Ph.d, editor of I Shop Therefore I am states that about 5% of the population are full fledged compulsive shoppers.  A merck family fund poll found that 72% of Americans say people buy things as a substitue for something missing in their lives.

Internet Porn:  Robert Wise, of Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles, says 40 million Americans watch porn during a year and 10 –15% of those are clearly addicted. Porn is a $10 billion industry in US alone.

What I’ve learned from 25 years of working in the addiction field is that most with addictive concerns are trying to reduce pain or increase pleasure. There isn’t any quick fix for addictive concerns. But dealing with the stress, anxiety or upsets of life with bodymind (Candace Pert’s reframe of mindbody – See Molecules of Emotion) strategies such as conscious breathing, dealing with upset feelings regularly rather than avoiding or stuffing makes you feel better, increases your natural feel good chemicals and don't produce harmful side effects.

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(*Swami Beyondononda or Steve Bharai)