Uk & Ireland
I am a recovering alcoholic/addict and researcher into the neuropsychology of addictive behaviours. My own experience of recovery, coupled with my research over several years, led me to question why the way alcoholics talk about their condition as an “emotional disease” or “emotional cancer” is rarely countenanced in theories of addiction, which rely on impaired neurobiological explanation and not on how these impairments are mediated by stress/emotion dysregulation and resultant cognitive distortions.
These affective difficulties by prompting distress based impulsivity, heighten reward sensitivity to certain behaviours, and shape the decision making impairments that set in motion and sustain the addiction cycle.
I also incorporate both psychological and psycho-analytic views of addiction such as those which suggest addiction is partly caused by insecure attachment to primary caregivers and environmental issues such as child maltreatment in families into a bio-psycho-social approach.
I believe societal/cultural factors also play an important role (and in recovery too).
I combine these models into a unified model of addiction which posits that impaired genetic expression in the fertile ground of maltreatment creates deleterious effects on the stress/emotional circuitry of the brain, emotion processing and regulation, which result in persistent errors of thinking.
Initially the majority of people with addictive behaviours use substances/behaviour to regulate emotion, distorted thinking and to escape negative self schemata.
This perpetuates the addiction cycle via substance abuse, to cope with increasingly negative emotions and thoughts, to the endpoint of addiction, characterized by chronic emotional dysregulation whereby emotional distress acts as a stimulus to automatic responding of compulsive addictive behaviours; to relieve chronic distress not to induce pleasure.
This definition explains a disorder from genetic inheritance via neurobiological and cognitive-affective mechanisms to manifest behaviour.
Long term recovery is attained via secure attachment of recovery communities which model more adaptive behavior by regulated emotions and adopting more reasoned thinking.