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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

Rise and social tolerance of non-substance addictions

Sat, 20 Jul 2019 08:24:00 +0000 Published in El Diario Montañés

Psychologists and psychiatrists are warning us lately of the B increase of patients with new addictions that are not related to substances and that, moreover, develop unnoticed, so that those affected do not feel identified with them. These are habitual daily actions that, at a certain point, begin to develop compulsively. They are known as process or behavioral addictions.

Any activity that causes satisfaction in our daily life may become addictive behavior if control over its use is lost. The eminent psychologist Hilda Tévez has recently referred to this phenomenon with these words: "The notion of addiction cannot be limited only to behaviors generated by chemical substances, since there are apparently harmless behavioral habits that, under certain circumstances, can become addictive and seriously interfere in people's daily lives".

It is surprising that while there is growing social awareness of the negative effects of the consumption of chemical substances -which leads to the establishment of preventive campaigns- the same does not occur with psychosocial or behavioral addictions, despite the fact that they also create dependence and seriously deteriorate health and family, social and working life. I am referring above all to pathological gambling (pathological gambling addiction) and its variants (online gambling and video games); also to those related to new technologies: abuse of cell phones and Internet browsing.

According to the World Health Organization, one in four people suffer from behavioral disorders related to non-substance addictions.

Many behaviors that are in principle inconsequential can develop into addiction if the frequency and intensity with which they are performed increases. In this case, patients cannot avoid repeating a certain behavior over and over again, for example, using mobile unnecessarily and in inappropriate situations. It is not uncommon for two people, who have met for lunch and conversation, to spend most of that time checking the emails they are receiving from each other. The few moments of dialogue are likely to be of this subject: "And what did your son say first, Dad Mom? Mine said Google".

Addictive behaviors can become "disguised" under an apparent hobby to which a lot of time is devoted. However, at some point this "disguise" may be insufficient, exposing the lack of control of the affected person over his or her own behavior and the damage that the addictive behavior is causing in his or her life.

A behavior or activity becomes addictive when the person is no longer able to decide freely about the use he/she will make of that activity; as a consequence, other activities are relegated or abandoned. For example, a student who becomes addicted to surfing the Internet will study less hours and will probably see his school performance decrease.

Behind the abuse of new technologies there is a new mentality: technology is no longer seen as an instrument to subdue the world; it is now presented as a paradigm for man, to the point of granting it a "saving" dimension. It is forgotten that the true function of technology is to free man from some material activities that bind him, in order to facilitate his spiritual development ; it is to put one's hand on things in order to possess them by the spirit.

Experts agree in pointing out several very specific stages, from use to abuse and finally to addiction. At first the behavior is pleasurable; in a second stage it becomes more and more frequent; it is followed by a strong desire to carry it out; finally, the behavior is maintained, despite its negative effects.

Some people are particularly vulnerable to process addictions, due to certain deficiencies: deficits in their maturity development , problematic personality traits such as impulsivity, intolerance to frustration, lack of self-control and difficulty in postponing the satisfaction of desires.

To detect a processual addiction in a person, it is advisable to observe certain novelties in his or her way of life, such as, for example, behavioral changes (restlessness, impatience and irritability), especially when access to the addictive environment is not available; isolation and a significant decrease in communication; lies-deception to carry out addictive activities.

A possible recovery requires the addict to follow the following treatment: self-control of impulses; learning to detect and cope with cravings; achieving an improvement of priorities and lifestyle; acquiring self-discipline for the achievement of new goals; replacing the behavior based on what "I feel like" by what "suits me". It is a whole process of Education of the will.