What do I do to stop my horrible emotional reaction to thinking about addiction?
April 28, 2010 11:53 AM   Subscribe

What do I do to stop my horrible emotional reaction to thinking about addiction?

Any time I think or read about addiction, I feel woozy and like I may throw up. This extends to any addictive-type behavior - for example, in middle school we were shown a video about anorexia/bulemia and about halfway through I turned white and passed out. Is this normal? Is there anything I can do to stop it?

I don't know what details to include, but the most disturbing thoughts to me involve loss of control, and the feeling of horrible destructive impulses being inside you that you can't get out.

I'm early-twenties, male, and have never had a drink or taken any type of drug in my life. I can't really think of anything that would have caused this reaction (trauma in childhood, etc.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well at least you've settled on something for which having a crippling fear isn't such a bad idea.

I don't have any suggestions about where this might have come from but it sounds like it might have some similarity to OCD type illnesses where one struggles to maintain a sense of control over their environment to the point that it interferes with life. Perhaps a therapist who specializes in those sorts of issues might be helpful.
posted by Babblesort at 12:04 PM on April 28, 2010

Cognitive behavioral therapy! It can be really, really helpful for thoughts and phobias like this. It's not typical to have this bad of a reaction to simply thinking about addictions, especially if they're not personally affecting you, and yes, therapy can help curb these types of reactions.

Really. Maybe some sort of exposure therapy as well. And, uh, no offense Oktober, but not exactly the route I'd take...
posted by rachaelfaith at 12:04 PM on April 28, 2010

I have that too!!! Except more about hallucinogens/mental alterations than about addiction. I fainted in middle school when the former drug addict came in to talk to our class about his experiences on LSD and again when a bunch of people I was eating dinner with kept talking about lobotomies even after I asked them several times to change the topic. I've also come close to fainting on a few similar occasions.

My experience is that it's mostly harmless and the best thing to do is just avoid stimuli that trigger it. In psych class when they talked about these topics I just left the room.
posted by phoenixy at 12:07 PM on April 28, 2010

I, too, have experienced this. Phoenixy, I had the SAME EXACT reaction in middle school. Except it was a reaction to the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" when our music teacher played it for us after explaining that the song was about using LSD. I got really lightheaded and almost fainted.

I've grown out of it to a great extent, but I still have problems. Specifically, I find movies like "Trainspotting" and "Requiem for a Dream" deeply, deeply disturbing. Regrettably, I've found it close to impossible to get through the HBO series "The Wire".

I guess the whole self destructive thing really bothers me. I don't have advice for how to cope with it, though, other than to know what your tolerance level is.

My issues haven't been so great that they've kept me from enjoying a drink now and then, though.
posted by cleverevans at 12:35 PM on April 28, 2010

That's really interesting, I thought I was the only one! Losing control over brain functions is pretty much my biggest fear, but it's gotten so much better since I've started reading up on mental health research. Once I realized how much utter bullshit gets written on addiction and how little we understand the concept, it got a lot less scary and more eye-rolly, like those "just say no" anti-drug scare tactics.
posted by Freyja at 12:43 PM on April 28, 2010

(Anecdata) I don't drink or do drugs at all. Drinking does not feel positive at all; at best I'll feel absolutely nothing, at worst I'll throw up and fall asleep. I tried pot a couple of times (felt nothing) and refuse to try anything harder. I have no desire to experiment with my mind, because I like it the way it is, but obviously other people feel differently; they have a need to self-medicate for whatever reason. I do not have that need.

But for me, it's not just indifference; it's downright hatred of drugs. I think that some of us are wired to want drugs, and some of us are wired to think they're the devil incarnate. I remember once my sister's friend wanting to smoke pot on a long drive home from college (he was the driver) and I felt some of the panic you describe. When I said that was an evil thing to do and how could he even think of such a thing, he looked at me like I had three heads and said, "but it's normal for me; I always do this on long drives. It helps me relax and focus better." And, he was probably right.

When people I knew in middle school started experimenting with pot and I told them they shouldn't break the law and what they were doing was creepy, they laughed at me, but I wasn't being a goody two-shoes, I really meant it. By coincidence in my twenties I got close to someone who did drugs (and died at 29) and now my fears have elevated even more, to the point where if someone even remotely is having a problem with drugs I sever all emotional ties with them and, on bad days, say that all people who do drugs are horrible human beings.

I think you have the right idea, it's the fear of loss of control, and the horror of what can happen with that loss of control. (Dying at 30 due to anorexia! Ouch!!) You sound like a good, sensitive person, and cognitive behavioral therapy can help with this. You're not alone.
posted by Melismata at 12:46 PM on April 28, 2010

have never had a drink or taken any type of drug in my life

Unless you're allergic, etc., maybe it would help you to try drinking alcohol: that's an activity that can become addictive for some people, but is harmless in moderation. I realize that your fear is of addiction itself, but it seems to extend to addictive activities as well, so experiencing such an activity in a harmless way might lessen your fear.

Along the same lines, are you addicted to caffeine? Many, or even most, people have some degree of caffeine addiction, but it's only mildly unhealthy (if at all) and it's pretty easy to quit. There might be other examples of addictions that don't cause any significant harm; some experience with any of them might help.
posted by k. at 12:58 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

While a healthy wariness of addictive things is useful it sounds like your fear is much much bigger than the actual likelihood of your becoming addicted. Maybe I'm reading that wrongly but it sounds like your fear of addiction and loss of control, of what you suspect deep down you are capable of, is stopping you from trying any addictive substance whatsoever. Like beer. This fear is not good because it is irrational (unless you have reason to suspect yourself, for instance if your parents were alcoholics). And the more you restrict your life out of fear, the bigger this fear will loom. If I were you I would try some alcohol or pot or whatever simply to gain a realistic feel for how my body actually reacts to them, and to
learn to handle them. To put my fears back into proportion. Fear is good when you control it. It is bad when it controls you.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:19 PM on April 28, 2010

I recommend doing the Work. Check out thework.com, fill out the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet (under resources) and skype a volunteer facilitator (list also under resources).

This method is incredibly efficient with issues based on obsessive thinking.
posted by andreinla at 4:10 PM on April 28, 2010

Alan Alda's show Scientific American Frontiers has a great piece about how our brains work and what really motivates us that illustrates how much we're not really in control of our decisions, no matter how conscious you think you are of those decisions. It's called Hidden Motives and can be viewed here on Hulu.

The fact of the matter is that in a very real sense we are "drugs" in the form of very complex chemical reactions. Our brains naturally produce a number of drugs, some of them psychedelic. We naturally produce endogenous morphine. It's been known for some time we also produce natural cannabinoids and complex chemicals like DMT, which is also known as a very powerful psychedelic.

The term "drugs" is a misnomer, really. Sure, you can apply it to any external chemical you ingest, but how do you define that apart from food, air, water? Coffee? Tea?

How about chocolate? No, seriously. It has way more than caffeine and sugar in it. Check out this wikipedia link for chocolate. There's a whole list of active chemicals - drugs - that are complex and quite interesting. Not only does it contain sugar and caffeine, but it also contains theobromine, dopamine, serotonin and phenethylamine - among many other chemicals considered "drugs" that also occur naturally in the body.

While addiction is a terrible thing - and I say that as someone who is physically addicted to nicotine, and it's not really so terrible as you would think it is - an irrational, unhealthy reaction to something that is more natural and less terrifying than you're allowing for in your world view isn't so great, either. You can't actually define addiction in such a cut-and-dry manner, and you're cutting yourself off from a vast portion of the world that includes everyone from artists to scientists over a phobia.

In a sense, you're already addicted to a big long list of complex chemicals that interact with each other in a very complicated way. It's called life.

You're addicted to life, aren't you? I am. If we weren't, none of us would be here. We wouldn't be biologically driven to reproduce, to eat, to sleep, to fall in love. You wouldn't dream, either.
posted by loquacious at 3:27 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

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