According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the majority of teens have tried drugs or alcohol by the time they graduate from high school. People who use drugs before they reach adulthood are more likely to become addicted than those who start using substances when they’re older. Addiction psychology is complex, though. It helps to understand what is involved in drug addiction so that you know when you or a loved one needs to seek help.

Helplessness Is In Addiction Psychology

two men discussing addiction psychologyExperts who study addiction psychology say that a feeling of helplessness is almost always involved in substance abuse disorders. People often take part in addictive behavior to exert control over a situation. For some, the emotional numbness that occurs when they take drugs soothes anxiety or fear and makes them feel like they can handle the intensity of their feelings.

For others, the decision to use drugs feels empowering. It can make individuals feel like they can do something to change the negative emotions that they experience.

Learned Helplessness Can Take Over

Over time, the feeling that life is no longer in your hands can become overwhelming. Instead of trying to stop the harmful behaviors associated with drug abuse, you might surrender to the mindset that there is nothing you can do to change things.

In some cases, addiction causes learned helplessness. In other situations, learned helplessness leads to addiction.

Addiction Can Be A Substitute Behavior For Expression

When you’re feeling intense emotions, whether they stem from helplessness or another feeling, you need to express yourself. However, many people are never taught to express themselves. In fact, children often grow up learning to suppress strong emotions because they make other people feel uncomfortable.

If you don’t have the skills that are necessary for coping with triggers, you could turn to compulsive behaviors, such as using drugs, to help you manage your feelings. The more you use drugs in response to a particular impulse, the more you solidify the pattern that tells your brain that that’s the norm. You begin to crave drugs whenever you have a particular thought, emotion or experience.

Addiction Psychology: Biological Links

Separating addiction psychology from the biology of the brain is hard. The brain operates by secreting and balancing certain chemicals. Using drugs changes the way that your brain functions.

There is a substantial reward effect associated with using drugs. When you consume certain substances, the levels of mood-enhancing chemicals in your brain increase. This reinforces the behavior. On the most basic level, it teaches your brain to repeat the behavior to get the same reward.

Even when the negative consequences of drug use outweigh the benefits, your brain becomes stuck on the fact that the drug-seeking behavior once made you feel good. Plus, many drugs change the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, making you physically dependent on the chemicals just to feel normal.

According to the psychology of addiction, substance abuse affects cognitive executive function. This can make people unaware that the behavior is causing adverse outcomes.

There Are Different Schools Of Thought Regarding Addiction Psychology

Psychologists and researchers have come up with many theories to explain addiction. Although some models of addiction differ from one another, most experts agree that addiction is incredibly complex.

Because substance abuse affects so many aspects of your life, it should have a multifaceted approach. Young adult rehab programs should offer individualized treatment that addresses personal triggers and behavior cycles. Other psychological disorders may need treatment alongside the substance use disorder.

At Red Oak Recovery®, we offer co-occurring disorder treatment for young adults. Our programs focus on the specific needs of each client. We combine adventure therapy with traditional psychotherapy to address a wide range of needs. Call us at 866-457-7590 to learn more about addiction psychology and how we can help you and your family.