Image retrieved from Pixabay.
Have you ever felt that your attempts to quit a bad habit or overcome your addiction simply are not good enough? Has this made you feel that you are not good enough or strong enough? Or perhaps that you don’t deserve any more chances, nor your loved ones’ support? This may come as a surprise to you, but this is completely normal! If these feelings resonate with you, you are one of the many who could benefit from understanding how addictions affect the brain.
The human brain is an amazing organ! Aside from controlling “thought, memory, emotion, touch, motor skills, vision, breathing, temperature, hunger and every process that regulates our body” (Hopkins Medicine, 2021), it is also constantly rewiring itself. This ability of the brain changing itself is known as neuroplasticity. “When we engage in an activity—particularly a pleasurable activity, and particularly if it involves repetition and intense focus—our brains alter themselves so that they’ll be better and more efficient at doing that activity next time. Our brains create what are known as “neural pathways.” The more we engage in an activity, the stronger the pathways associated with that activity become” (Fight the New Drug). This becomes a problem when these neural pathways are associated with unhealthy behaviors, such as viewing pornography, overeating, doing drugs, gaming, or scrolling on social media.
Now, one cannot expect to overcome an addiction by simply stopping their addictive behavior. Rather, people struggling with addictions need to help their brains create new neural pathways associated with healthy habits. There is a common misconception that once one has developed healthy habits to help replace the addiction, the addiction has come to end. Sadly, what often follows this misconception is a lot of disappointment, shattered hope, and harmful thoughts and behaviors directed to oneself. It is crucial to keep in mind that “once formed, those pathways [associated with healthy or non-healthy habits] can become remarkably long-lasting and resilient. Pathways neglected or ignored, even for years, are still there, ready to be revitalized” (Fight the New Drug). This is why overcoming an addiction requires lifelong, constant efforts to strengthen the neural pathways associated with healthy behaviors. Healing is possible! Are you willing to put forth the constant efforts?
At the following websites, you can find some resources that will aid you in this lifelong process:
· Citizens for Decency- Addiction Recovery
Fight the New Drug. (n.d.). How porn can change the brain. https://fightthenewdrug.org/how-porn-can-change-the-brain/
Hopkins Medicine, J. (2021, July 14). Brain anatomy and how the brain works. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/anatomy-of-the-brain#:~:text=The%20brain%20is%20a%20complex,central%20nervous%20system%2C%20or%20CNS.