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Combating Four Drivers of Addictive Behaviors

Addiction is complex. How is that for an understatement?

For those trapped in addiction and their loved ones, this world is unpredictable, unsettling, and relentless. Although numerous treatments are available, relapse from all addictions is often part of the process. But if we looked at the basics of addiction, what would we find? In my practice, I have seen four common factors influencing my clients' addictions. They are:

· Unresolved childhood pain points

· Anxiety

· Inability to sit and process emotional discomfort

· Being emotionally undeveloped

Each of these factors makes it challenging to maintain sobriety because they deal with emotions many individuals do not wish to explore. Doing this type of treatment work, at times, seems similar to touching the third rail of a subway track. It is going to hurt – a lot. But the benefit of this exploration can be enormous.

Unresolved Childhood Pain Points and Processing Emotional Discomfort

Numerous studies have demonstrated a correlation between trauma and an increased risk of addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are two to four times more likely to abuse substances than those without PTSD. Unresolved childhood wounds can silently haunt adults, increasing their anxiety and sending them running off to seek comfort by utilizing addictive substances and behaviors.

This happens partly because, as children, they were never taught to sit with and process emotional discomfort. Instead, they utilized distractions to escape their emotional distress. Over time, addictions could develop if these distractions impact neurochemicals in the brain, such as dopamine.

Discovering your unresolved childhood pain points will assist you in being more aware of the core emotional triggers that can activate your desire to engage in addictive behaviors. Some of the most common core emotional triggers are:

· I do not measure up

· I am not noticed

· I do not belong

· I am always wrong

There are hundreds of core emotional triggers, and all of them feed you a steady source of negative energy you cannot tolerate. Instead, engaging in your addiction seems like a much better option.

Anxiety and Compulsiveness

Did you know anxiety is the number one medical disorder in the world, affecting millions of individuals? According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, individuals who experience anxiety are more likely to develop addictive behaviors and utilize substances to mask their symptoms.

As part of an overall treatment program, those struggling with addiction should proactively address their anxiety daily through activities such as meditation, breathing techniques, imagery exercises, and journaling. The key word in that sentence is proactively.

Anxiety should be aggressively treated by those struggling with addiction because it leads to compulsive behaviors. These behaviors are designed to reduce or stop anxiety. However, it is always short-lived, and shortly after, individuals find themselves once again seeking to numb the pain.

Bad Decision-Making

The next driver of addiction is the never-ending array of bad decisions addicts make to reduce their anxiety and emotional discomfort. These decisions yield a range of consequences for addicts and those around them. The compulsiveness to engage in their addiction far outweighs the possibility their actions will be destructive to themselves and others. Bad decision-making will not stop until the other drivers are dealt with in a manner that reduces emotional pain, anxiety, and compulsiveness.

Emotionally Undeveloped

This brings us to the final driver, which is being emotionally undeveloped. This is not a subject discussed often in the recovery world. However, in my practice, nine out of 10 clients are emotionally undeveloped. This means they are inwardly focused, lack mindfulness, have a low emotional IQ, struggle to bond with others emotionally, lack contentment, hide & lie, and are fearful, to name a few of their characteristics.

Being emotionally undeveloped exacerbates addiction because it plays into bad decision-making. These individuals are self-absorbed, with the majority of their focus dedicated to feeding their addiction. There is little room for anyone or anything else.

Moving Forward

As you consider the steps you are taking to gain sobriety, be sure to include these four drivers into the mix. And you may find yourself feeling less emotional pain and anxiety, which may put you on the road to long-lasting sobriety.


Dr. Eddie Capparucci is a counselor licensed by the states of North Carolina and Georgia and is certified in treating Problematic Sexual Behaviors. He has worked with professional athletes and television personalities among his many clients. He is the creator of the Inner Child Model™ for treating Problematic Sexual Behaviors. This unique approach focuses on identifying unresolved childhood pain points and teaching individuals how to process emotional distress healthily. Many leaders in this field have endorsed his treatment method.

Dr. Capparucci is the author of several books, including Going Deeper: How the Inner Child Impacts Your Sexual Addiction, Why Men Struggle to Love: Overcoming Relational Blind Spots, and Removing Your Shame Label: Breaking From Shame and Feeling God's Love. He is the administrator of two blog sites: and, and he is the host of the monthly webinar Getting to the Other Side.

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1 Comment

Frank Sterle
Frank Sterle
Sep 23, 2023

Serious PTSD trauma is very often behind a substance abuser’s debilitating addiction. With lead-ball-and-chain self-medicating, the greater the drug-induced euphoria or escape one attains from its use, the more one wants to repeat the experience; and the more intolerable one finds their sober reality, the more pleasurable that escape should be perceived. By extension, the greater one’s mental pain or trauma while sober, the greater the need for escape from reality, thus the more addictive the euphoric escape-form will likely be.

The lasting mental pain resulting from trauma is very formidable yet invisibly confined to inside one's head. It is solitarily suffered, unlike an openly visible physical disability or condition, which tends to elicit sympathy/empathy from others. It can make…

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