An addiction by definition is a physical and sometimes psychological dependence on substances or activities which lead to momentary pleasure or an alteration of a physical and mental state.
It is an abnormality because addicts need to feed their addiction to function as normal and for all intents and purposes addicts are dependent upon the substance or activity to fully function. A compulsion on the other hand is a repetitive, excessive exercise that is performed by an individual without a rational explanation.
Both are psychological orders and almost every member of the human race at one time or the other has been in the grip of a compulsion or an addiction. In the course of our existence, we often develop negative coping mechanisms that make us feel we are in control somewhat of our reality. The sad truth is that when we are in that mindset we are anything but in control as the symptoms; the addictions and compulsions are treated without an investigation of the root causes.
Most people may not fully understand where I am going with this and may not even agree that they have ever been addicted or compulsive so let me break it down. We all know that over eating and favouring fatty foods and sugar are not great for our health but 58 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women over 40 carry excess weight around the stomach area as a result of poor diet and eating late at night.
It is not as if we all don’t have any sense; it is just that those foods have become a comfort and eating late usually creates a feeling of fullness and satisfaction that sends us into sleep without effort. At the end of a hard day’s work, we feel entitled to some pampering; sadly the late night meals that are often heavy and unhealthy have become our drug of choice; it is an addiction that is as dangerous and dependence on Valium and other mind altering drugs.
For some people, it is a lifetime addiction which has become a part of daily life while for the rest of us, the cravings are a symptom that something is just not right in our hearts or even mind. When the mind is disturbed the body will show the signs by compulsions or addictions
My normal self is very health conscious, prudent with money and mild mannered; my disturbed self is anything but. I was being complimented by a lady who thought I had enormous will power to exercise and eat well. She, on the other hand, had been given strict orders by a few doctors to shed the excess weight for a few years, but she just could not seem to.
When she sought my counsel, I said she had to get in touch with the reality she was running from to calm her disturbed mind. She initially took offence as most people do when they think you are implying that they are losing their mind but I implored her to listen.
Her eating, in my opinion, was not only an addiction it had become a compulsion. She ate what she liked and ate what she didn’t like; her hand seemed to be caught in a frenetic movement of plate to mouth repetitively. I asked her a question which seemed to get through to her.
“Do you ever feel full?” I asked. “No,” she had quickly replied.
“Are you hungry from your stomach or your mind?” This last one she didn’t understand. Natural hunger pangs are actually painful, as stomach cramps and excess acidity will actually cause pain. So, I repeated my question again.
“Are you hungry from your stomach or your mind?”
After a long pause and careful recollection, she admitted she hadn’t really felt painful hunger pangs physically in a long while but she still believed herself to be hungry all the time. At this time, I asked her if all was well and she answered me in the affirmative.
“Of course, all is well. I am happily married, with three wonderful children and blessed with all that money can buy; so what could be wrong?”.
It is my experience that all that glitters is not gold and while I sensed that beneath the surface a storm was brewing I didn’t want to intrude, so I said I was there if she ever needed to talk. Little did I know the size of the storm that was brewing and, as providence would have it, I was a part of the little audience that witnessed the avalanche.
At a birthday party for a five-year-old, she had driven in with some friends in a retinue of flashy cars. I had nodded a hello and continued the conversation I was having with someone. Her table was at the back and I noticed it was very lively and raucous! The reason was not far-fetched; alcohol in assorted bottles was in abundance and they seemed to drink it like water; they looked to be having fun.
The storm broke without warning and it all seemed to happen within seconds and before anyone could do more than gasp, a commotion had erupted from the fun table. Emboldened by alcohol, the lady in question had provoked her husband into a shouting match and though we had shepherded them indoors to keep the children’s party going; I heard enough to know that all was far from well. If I had a husband who thought I was disgusting and had not been intimate in years, I guess I would eat compulsively too.
To be continued…