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Addictions and What They Do to Our Emotional Health

Updated on February 18, 2020
denise.w.anderson profile image

An Education Specialist, Denise teaches the principles of Emotional Health for the establishment and maintenance of high quality families.

When addictions take over our lives, we are jeopardizing our own future.
When addictions take over our lives, we are jeopardizing our own future.

How has addiction affected your life?

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No one decides as a young child that they will be an addict when they grow up, it just happens. One day we wake up and realize that we no longer have control over our own lives. Loved ones express their concern that things are not working like they should, and they think it has something to do with the substances we are using, or the activities with which we are involved.

They gather around us and let us know that what we are doing is causing them grief and pain. There may even be an ultimatum given that we get help. If we don't choose it ourselves, they will make sure that we get it! We hit bottom, and there is no place to go but up.

How does this happen? How do our lives get to the point where we lose control of our ability to make positive choices? Why is it that we are unable to change, in spite of our continued efforts to do so? Is addiction an accident or is it a choice we make? There are no easy answers.

According to Medical News Today, we can become addicted to substances, such as drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, as well as behaviors; i.e. gambling, Internet use, excessive exercise, and sexual activity. Any time we become dependent to the point that we loose our ability to choose, we have fallen into an addiction. "When a person is addicted to something they cannot control how they use it, and become dependent on it to cope with daily life."

This article discusses how addiction happens, how it affects our emotional health, and what we can do to prevent it.

Addiction takes away from us the power to make choices for ourselves.
Addiction takes away from us the power to make choices for ourselves.

How does addiction happen?

Addiction can happen to anyone. There are basically three ways that it becomes a part of our lives:

  1. By Accident - addictions can come into our lives without us even being aware that it is happening. Prescription drugs given for legitimate reasons have the potential of becoming habit forming crutches that we cannot live without. This is especially true with pain medication following surgery, sleeping pills taken for insomnia during a difficult time, or anxiety medications to "get us over the hump." Other ways that addiction can come by accident include date rape drugs, punch laced with alcohol at the company party, or candy that has been injected prior to being handed out.
  2. By Default - the things we do on a daily basis, the behaviors that we engage in, the people with whom we associate, and the business dealings we get involved in determine the possibility that we will fall into addictions by default. Lifestyle is largely made up of habits, or things that we do over and over again. Our thought patterns, the foods we eat, the ways we react when we are faced with difficult circumstances, all have the potential to lead us into addictions.
  3. By Choice - there are those who choose the route of addiction in spite of warnings that it is not in their best interest. We all have a little bit of pride or rebellion within us, wanting to do things our own way, fit in with the crowd, or look "cool." It starts with curiosity. We think that one time won't hurt, and before we know it, we are pulled into a downward spiral and cannot find our way out.

Our habits from the basis of our ability to recognize and determine our emotional health.
Our habits from the basis of our ability to recognize and determine our emotional health.

How does addiction affect our emotional health?

Addiction blinds our minds by taking away our ability to be sensitive to the needs of others.

According to NIDA for Teens, "When drugs enter the brain, they interfere with its normal processing and can eventually lead to changes in how well it works."

Our brains govern our thoughts, feelings, and actions. The various parts of the brain work in concert with one another, just like the instruments in a symphony orchestra. Each depends upon the actions of the other to make sense of its own functioning. When these parts are out of tune or out of sync with one another due to the introduction of foreign substances, the entire brain is affected, natural processes are interrupted, mimicked, and even changed, leaving the person without vital communication capacity within the nervous system. Reaction times are delayed, emotional sensitivity is marred, and the person only thinks about meeting their own needs. The needs of others are seen as a mere annoyance and easily brushed aside.

Addiction binds our hearts by removing our power of choice.

According to the National Institute of Health, "The rewarding effects of drugs of abuse come from large and rapid upsurges in dopamine, a neurochemical critical to stimulating feelings of pleasure and to motivating behavior. The rapid dopamine “rush” from drugs of abuse mimics but greatly exceeds in intensity and duration the feelings that occur in response to such pleasurable stimuli as the sight or smell of food, for example. Repeated exposure to large, drug-induced dopamine surges has the insidious consequence of ultimately blunting the response of the dopamine system to everyday stimuli. Thus the drug disturbs a person’s normal hierarchy of needs and desires and substitutes new priorities concerned with procuring and using the drug."

Addiction ties up our pleasure centers to the point that is all that we seek. The desire for the "high" that accompanies addiction leaves us without the ability to choose other worthwhile activities. The heart becomes bound to seeking out and using the addictive substance or behavior, to the exclusion of other activities. We remain powerless, unable to change our behavior, in spite of repeated efforts to do so.

Addiction breaks our spirit by reducing our feelings of self-worth. tells us that addiction increases our feelings of self-worth initially. This false sense of self-worth does not last, however, as the "individual begins to rely on these substances in order to cope with life. Addiction means that the person’s life begins to fall apart as their self-esteem hits an all-time low. In AA, they describe the situation as, alcohol gave me wings but then it took away the sky. Lack of self-worth can then keep people trapped in addiction."

Low feelings of self-worth often lead to hopelessness and helplessness, leaving the addicted person open to problems with further destructive behaviors such as self-harm, the abuse of others, and illegal behavior. Addiction further dulls the spiritual senses, leading to a loss of the sense of moral responsibility or obligation, and the loss of personal spirituality.

Fortunately, it is possible to get help for addictions. Although they are considered to be a disease without a self-cure, professional help from addiction counselors, spiritual advisors, and addiction support groups will assist the person who has a desire to change this self-destructive lifestyle. Far better, however, is the prevention of addictions in the first place.

Addictions lead us on a stairway down, without a way back out.
Addictions lead us on a stairway down, without a way back out.

Key elements of prevention

  • Proper nutrition and exercise - eat right, keep fit, and get enough sleep.
  • Support networking - build a support network of people that can be contacted at a moment's notice, both for fun and for assistance.
  • Communication - talk to others about what is happening in life to facilitate problem solving.
  • Covenants - make promises with God and others to stay clean from addictions and destructive behaviors.
  • Time - allow time to heal wounds from the past. Share when ready, then move on.
  • Music - use music to lift the spirits, enjoy work, be inspired, and learn.
  • Journaling - write feelings to bring them to resolution.
  • Thought Stopping - put up a stop sign in the mind to stop difficult thoughts from taking over.
  • Visualization - visualize your problems and fears to figure out what to do with them.
  • Shift of Focus - do something different for a few minutes. Take a walk, ride a bike, go up and down the stairs, or read something aloud.
  • Deep Breathing and Relaxation - close your eyes, breathe deeply, and relax your body.

How can we prevent addiction?

Prevention is a three-fold responsibility:

Set specific boundaries.

Life is made up of choices. It is up to us to make the decision to stay away from addiction. If we allow ourselves to play with fire, one day we will get burned. It is in the setting of boundaries that we build protections for our emotional health. Choosing not to engage in addictive behavior means choosing to have a plan in place for when we are emotionally distraught. Our emotions play a big part in our habitual behavior. We do not make rational decisions in the heat of the moment, rather we go into automatic mode. Whatever we have done, we will continue to do unless we have made plans otherwise.

Focus on physical health.

We are busy people, surrounded by hectic schedules, time constraints, the need for convenience, and easy access to low quality foods and activities. It takes time and extra planning to keep us and our families physically healthy. Check to see that nutrition is high on the priority list of things to do. That means fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and non-processed meats are a regular part of the diet. The value of these foods comes out in our emotional health. Our bodies require high quality fuel to run properly.

Establish effective emotional habits.

Our emotional habits are the result of our ability to use the vital life skills of problem solving, communication, conflict resolution, recognizing and expressing our emotions, and preparing for the future. We are able to live life to its fullest and help our family members do the same as we establish those habits that will help us be emotionally healthy. We become free to explore higher levels of spirituality as our roots are deep in the soil of high quality living.

There will always be circumstances that work to undermine our emotional health. Our lives are surrounded with detours, crises, and circumstances that zap us of our ability to live life to its fullest. As we work to prevent addictions, we are also giving ourselves the tools needed to deal with life's inconveniences.

There will always be things happening in our lives that can lead down the road to addiction.
There will always be things happening in our lives that can lead down the road to addiction.

The Mormon Message

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the Mormons, herein referred to as the Church), are known for their abstinence from tea, coffee, tobacco, and alcohol. The origins of these practices date back to the days of the Church's beginnings with the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Revelations given during the formation of the Church are contained in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) and are included in the Standard Words, along with the Holy Bible (King James Version) and The Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ). Principles taught in the D&C include what is known as the "Word of Wisdom," found in Section 89. Abstinence from these substances is recommended, along with the use of healthy, life-giving foods.

Modern revelation through the Church's prophets and apostles have also warned against addiction to pornography, gambling, excessive use of social media, and other modern ills of society, indicating that these rob us of our ability to make wise choices and use our ability to receive inspiration from the Spirit.

Knowing the power that addictions have, the author penned the "Temptation Rap." It is performed below by the young single adults from the Church at a conference in Bismarck during September of 2014. The video was produced by the author.

The Temptation Rap*

I don't drink coffee and I don't drink tea, and I won't get high on a gambling spree. I don't smoke and I don't swear, and modest clothing is what I wear. I don't do sex and I don't do drugs, no alcohol, man, I won't budge. For I am a Mormon through and through, and I'd be happy to share it with you!

No matter what their source, addictions have the power to destroy our lives. Allowing them to continue is to write a sure ticket to the loss of our self-respect and emotional health. We jeopardize our future, and that of our loved ones.

*Temptation Rap written and produced by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Denise W Anderson


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    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      It is awesome that you have recognized the problem, Tiffany, and been able to take steps to correct it. Adopting the attitude of food being fuel is a great way to break the chains of habit that lead to being overweight as well as being both physically and emotionally unhealthy. Yes, it is difficult but the journey is worth the struggle!

    • tiffany delite profile image

      Tiffany Delite 

      2 years ago from Wichita, KS

      One of my addictions is food. I have turned to emotional eating for a very long time. I am learning to use food as fuel for my body rather than a crutch to bring me momentary pleasure. It is a difficult journey, for sure, but one that has been well worth the effort!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      4 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are right, Claire! Having a support group of people around us with similar beliefs is a great deterrent to negative addictive behaviors. When we get together, the love and strength we feel from one another gives us a natural high that is so much more healthy! Thanks for your comments!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      As much as I am not a person of faith, it must be nice to have the support of a community of people like that.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      4 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks, Audrey! I think that music is one of the best addictions there is! The best way to conquer a negative addiction is to replace it with a positive one. I have found that service is another good one. Lifting others through service provides us with one of the best spiritual highs available! I appreciate your comments!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 years ago from Pahrump NV

      I'm one of the lucky ones - I'm not addicted to anything except for music and people. I've never had an addictive personality and oh, how grateful I am for that. The word of wisdom as lived by Mormon members proves to be true when it's lived honestly and fully.

      Great hub Denise.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are right, lady. When someone is addicted, they are the only ones who can make the choices necessary to get away from it. If someone we love is addicted, however, there are things we can do to help them make the choice to change. Our love and encouragement are very helpful. Sometimes, we even have to stop enabling their behavior as well.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 

      6 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Hi denise.w. anderson, you have written a very useful and interesting hub. I will be reading your hubs as they have very good information. The only thing I can say about addiction is that person is the only one that can change things.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I appreciate the compliment, Kate, and am glad that I could be of help. Addiction is a tough bear to fight. We all have addictions to a certain extent. The key is to replace harmful ones with those that help us to make our lives better.

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 

      6 years ago from Donegal Ireland


      Your own photo of Habits and your quotation on Addictions are so wise & true. It is always a pleasure to read your hubs-so well thought out & helpful too.Thanks again for your recent email support and have a great weekend.


    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks, Sean. Gambling is a tough addiction to break. The intermittent reinforcement that is an integral part of the game gives such a high of hope that people think "Just one more time and I will make it big!" It keeps them coming back for more time and again. I hope that your friend is able to replace this detrimental addiction with other habits that lead to greater peace and happiness. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

    • Sean Gorman profile image

      Sean Gorman 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      A close friend of mine is struggling with a gambling addiction. He recently had a relapse and is trying to get back on track. I really enjoyed reading your piece and think it could be very helpful to him. Thank you.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks, ChitrangadaSharan. You are right that addiction by choice is the worst, as a person is less likely to come to the conclusion that their life would be better without it. In these cases, remediation usually comes by court order in lieu of imprisonment or as the result of severe medical issues. I appreciate the positive vote!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      6 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Great hub about how people get trapped in addictions and how badly it affects them, their families and their emotional health.

      Addiction by choice is probably the worst addiction.

      Thanks for sharing this insightful hub! Voted up!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks, teaches. It has been my experience, especially in working with those on the reservations, that it is entirely possible, and very probable, given some circumstances.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Great message on how people develop addictions. It is hard to believe some come by it by accident, but it does happen.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I appreciate your comment, DDE. Addiction affects our ability to choose far more than we realize!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are so right, Sue. I have only touched the surface of a far-reaching and complex problem. You have brought up some very important points that need to be addressed. Thanks for the challenge to engage in further research and dialogue on the subject!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are right Mathira. Parental guidance is critical in the prevention of addiction. What we do in the home has a profound and lasting affect on those within our care. Thanks for your comments.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      The choices one makes depends on their life decisions and addiction is one of that choice. Greatly written.

    • Sue Bailey profile image

      Susan Bailey 

      6 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

      Nice piece Denise but I'm afraid it isn't as easy as you make it sound. All the suggestions you make may well work when addiction doesn't really have a hold and mental health hasn't become affected. How can a seriously addicted person choose to eat healthily, communicate with anyone, work or have any spiritual beliefs when they are so depressed they cannot get out of bed to even make a claim for benefits so they have money to feed themselves? Journaling? When life feels so hopeless for them that they cannot see their child because they feel they are of no use to them? Build a support network? When they have become virtually reclusive? The one's whose addictions have already ruined their lives are powerless to do anything even when they are threatened with homelessness, loss of family, partner and friends. Interventions unfortunately are not possible in some parts of the world unless you have a great deal of money. A high proportion of addicts have dual diagnosis and are in denial or unaware of their mental health issues. These people will resist or refuse all help except financial handouts to feed their addiction. What is the answer for them? Maybe you could write a hub about a solution for them with suggestions of how the families and friends can protect themselves and cope when nothing they try ever helps. Once again, excellent hub but I feel it didn't cover the whole spectrum of problems associated with addiction.

    • mathira profile image


      6 years ago from chennai

      denise, addiction can be prevented early in your life through proper parental guidance. Good family relationship is a top most priority for us to avoid addictions. When there are tension and oppression in family life such life consuming habits come to the foray.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks, Eric. I appreciate your comment. There is hope when we see our young people making those choices that lead to their better future. I enjoyed working with them in making the video. It was amazing to see them grab hold of the Rap and make it their own! There are many who misunderstand the Mormons because they don't know where they are coming from.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are right, MsDora. Addiction by choice is probably the most difficult one to overcome, as we don't see the end from the beginning. Unfortunately, our choices affect those around us, and have the most detrimental affects in the long run. That is why prevention is critical, it emphasizes that we have the power to choose, and addiction can be prevented. Thanks for your feedback. I appreciate the compliment!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks, Billy! That is a high compliment! I appreciate your feedback!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      6 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      An excellent piece. Addiction is everywhere we look. You did a great job of laying it out and your part on how Mormon's deal with it was quite enlightening. Thank you.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Great article, tracing how addictions happen and how we can prevent them. In the end, addiction by choice maybe the worst culprit, because it seems willful. The Temptation Rap gets at the heart of choices. Very well done, and thank you for a great presentation.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are singing my own personal song, and you sang it on key. :)


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