Using EMDR, CBT and Mindfulness to Beat Your Addiction
Addiction takes many forms and has a range of underlying causes. Drug and drink addiction is both psychological and biological in their hold on people. Gambling addiction is damaging in other ways, not least the pressure it puts on relationships and the huge amounts of debt that is often involved.
At our Positive Mind Practice in London, we know that coping with addiction is hugely challenging for the individual concerned. The good news is that a range of approaches can be used and have been proven to be highly effective in treating different forms of addiction.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is a complex problem which is characterised by persistent behaviours that are repeated despite the individual understanding the damage that is being done. While we mostly associate this with substance abuse (alcohol or drugs), it is a much broader social problem in today’s society than many of us realise.
People can become addicted to food, gambling, sex, video games and the internet to name just a few things.
Addiction becomes a problem when someone is unable to function without their fix. A drug addict, for example, may be so focused on their habit that they are willing to steal to feed it. A gambler may take money from friends and family. Someone who is addicted to gaming may be unable to hold down a job.
Addiction doesn’t have to be life-changing, however. Many people live with addiction and can function quite adequately. That includes people who are addicted to cigarettes or individuals that have an unhealthy relationship with food.
CBT and Addiction: Does it Work?
CBT is a therapeutic approach that looks at ingrained thoughts and behaviours and finds practical ways to change them. Negative thoughts can act as a barrier to anyone wanting to shake off an addiction.
- Also known as talking therapy, CBT can help individuals develop more positive approaches to their addiction, interrupting negative thought processes that can get in the way.
- Some negative thoughts stem from childhood events or memories, especially in problems such as drug or alcohol addiction.
- Other problems come from a mistaken belief that an individual doesn’t possess the right coping skills to deal with the world sober.
Many beliefs that we have in respect of addiction are wrong, and the role of the CBT therapist is to help identify these and discover new approaches.
While CBT acknowledges that the past might have a significant role to play in someone’s addiction, it’s a practical process that is always looking to the future. It isn’t merely sitting down with a therapist and talking things through. Action needs to be taken, and individuals will be given ‘homework’ to do that helps them further understand their behaviour and help find new ways to change the status quo.
A lot will depend on the extent of a person’s addiction; it’s root cause and how they approach their therapy sessions. Undertaken with the right focus, however, it can have remarkable results. Research, for example, has shown that CBT is a highly effective treatment for problem gambling, whether it’s delivered on a one to one basis or in a group.
EMDR and Addiction
EMDR or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing is another therapeutic approach that can also help with conditions such as addiction. It was developed back in the late 1980s and has proved particularly effective in treating PTSD and anxiety disorders.
In this respect, it may help with an addiction if there is an underlying trauma from the past involved. For example, if someone drinks or takes drugs because they were abused in childhood, using EMDR to explore this trauma can help someone come to terms with their addiction.
EMDR uses a bilateral stimulus to help the brain process traumatic experiences better. On the surface, this can look quite simple. For example, as an individual recalls the pain of a traumatic experience, the therapist gets them to follow a simple light movement from side to side. This can also be achieved with a sound cue alternately appearing in one ear and then the other.
What this does is help reduce the impact of the traumatic memory while it is being recalled, enabling the individual to process things more clearly. It’s thought that this approach gives people the tools they need to develop strategies that then enable them to recover from their addiction.
This approach does not suit everyone, but it is often used in conjunction with CBT and mindfulness when a past traumatic event is indicated.
Using Mindfulness to Cope with Addiction
Anyone who has suffered from an addiction, even a relatively simple one such as smoking, will understand the power that cravings can have on the individual.
Learning to cope with those moments when you are at most risk of falling off the wagon, retaking drugs or placing that bet is probably one of the biggest challenges addicts face.
One method that has proven to help many people is using a mindfulness approach. This is a meditative therapy that helps reshape your thoughts and feelings in more positive ways. It is about focusing on the present moment and observing our fears and emotions in a non-judgemental. Done properly, we can look at cravings and understand them for what they are. We can disassociate from them and better cope when those feelings start to get too much for us.
Like any meditative practice, mindfulness can take a while to learn. Over time, however, you will have a more compassionate view of your addiction and have the tools to bypass negative thoughts and attitudes.
Finding an Addiction Therapist in London
Any addiction is a challenge, and it takes a lot of effort to overcome one. Therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive behaviour therapy have proven effective. It’s essential, however, to work with a qualified therapist who will be able to support you in finding the approach that works for you.
At Positive Mind Practice in London, we are experienced in a number of different therapeutic treatments designed to help with addiction. If you would like to find out how we can help, book an appointment today.