Substance Abuse and Addiction Therapy

Addiction - You Can Be Addicted to Anything

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“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I built my life.”

- J. K. Rowling

At the root of all substance abuse and addiction is the avoidance of facing painful aspects of life, whether it be fears about oneself, past wounds, or present difficulties. 

Whether your addiction is to substances, food, sex, shopping, pornography, or relationships, exploring and facing the underlying issues through therapy can set you free from the compulsive need to engage in addictive behaviors that hurt you and the ones you love. 

When we’re addicted to something—whether it be a substance or a behavior—not having it in our reach can lead to anxiety, depression, emotional dysregulation, and severe withdrawal symptoms. 

These unpleasant, crawl-out-of-your skin feelings make it difficult to resist our addictions, only making our dependence even more severe over time.

This is called a self-reinforcing feedback loop. 

Addiction can be severely harmful to your health, work performance, and relationships. 

It can eventually have extreme psychological and physical effects, which can be difficult to overcome on our own. 

Addiction can often be brought on by genetic or environmental factors. And, some individuals may not even recognize that they are addicted in the first place. 

What once started out as just an unhealthy habit can sometimes morph into a completely different beast. 

This is a slippery slope and not all people are aware when it starts to shift into dangerous territory. 

Regardless of how unhealthy habits start, there is always a way to end them and make a positive change to your life.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

**Please note, only a mental health professional is qualified to diagnose these disorders, and diagnoses require a constellation of symptoms and other clinical thresholds to be valid. In other words, just because you experience some of these symptoms does not mean you have the disorder or meet criteria for a diagnosis. Please schedule an appointment with one of our experts if you have concerns.**

Here are some telltale symptoms of addiction and substance abuse:

  • Repeating something, regardless how it interferes with your life
  • Losing interested in everything else
  • Being continuously violent, angry, moody, or depressed
  • Continued use, despite health problems
  • Building up a tolerance
  • Negative impact on relationships with others
  • Cravings
  • Using in a dangerous or problematic situation
  • Seeing negative effects in eating habits, sleeping habits, and weight
  • Feelings of withdrawal—sickness or shakiness—when trying to quit

Regardless of your “drug” of choice—alcohol, shopping, drugs, sex, gambling, etc.—the brain chemistry and behavioral patterns behind addiction are the same. 

The common thread connecting a gambling addict to a drug addict is their avoidance of coming to terms with reality and processing difficult emotions. 

Drinking, going on a shopping spree, or having sex are quick and “easy” ways to escape and make the pain go away, which is why many people turn to these habits to cope with difficult situations. 

These behaviors can easily get out of hand and can cause significant damage to an addict’s relationships, work life, and mental and physical wellbeing.  

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Diagnosing Substance Abuse

Substance Abuse is diagnosed when a person displays one or more of the following in a 12-month period:

  • Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g. absences from work or poor work performance due to consistent substance use)
  • Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g. driving)
  • Recurrent substance-related legal problems
  • Continued substance use despite having persistently social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance (e.g. fights with partner)

Diagnosing Substance Dependence

Substance Dependence is diagnosed when a person displays three or more of the following in a 12-month period:

  1. Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than you’re meant to
  2. Feeling unable to cut down or stop substance use even if the desire to quit is there
  3. Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance.
  4. Cravings and urges to use the substance
  5. Not managing to do what you should at work, home, or school because of substance use
  6. Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships
  7. Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use
  8. Using substances again and again, even when it puts you in danger
  9. Continuing to use, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance
  10. Needing more of the substance to get the effect you want (tolerance)
  11. Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance

Our Substance Abuse Specialists

With extensive specialized training in evidence-based therapy for addiction, substance abuse/dependence, and recovery, our experienced therapists are here to help you face the pain you’ve been avoiding and break free from the chains of addiction.

Any addiction is difficult to overcome on your own, and most people who experience it need additional help and support.

Without therapy, addiction can be very difficult to manage, but here are some helpful tips by

  1. Avoid high-risk situations, such as people and places that may trigger a relapse. For example, people who may pressure you to use substances and places where you may want to use substances (such as bars) should be off limits.
  2. Create a recovery cycle by reaching out to those close to you such as family members, friends, health professionals, and recovery groups. By isolating yourself, you only increase the chances of a relapse.
  3. Be honest with yourself and everyone else. Addiction causes lying—lying to get the drug, lying about its consequences, and lying about using it. Honesty isn’t easy, but is absolutely necessary for recovery.
  4. Self-care is also crucial to recovery and mental health. It includes healthy eating and sleeping and making sure that you know how to relax without relying on drugs or alcohol. Yoga and meditation are good ways to help alleviate tension and therefore prevent relapse.
  5. Believe that it IS possible to change your life and recover. Keep in mind that relapse is rare once you’ve achieved 5 years of abstinence. Woo hoo! Perhaps that seems like a tall order, but it’s certainly achievable with the right kind of help when you go one day at a time.

Research-based, personalized therapy.

At My LA Therapy, our warm and experienced therapists specialize in anxiety, depression, trauma, & relationships.

Motivational Interviewing

Our team of exceptional therapists are trained in a technique called Motivational Interviewing (MI), which is an intervention that’s been empirically proven to decrease substance abuse and addictive behaviors.

If you have not heard about motivational interviewing before, then you’ll want to read up!

It’s an innovative technique we use to guide and motivate YOU to change yourself through your own willpower.

We do this by utilizing the RULE method.

We Resist trying to tell you what path to take, and instead guide you towards making your own decisions on your wellbeing.

We strive to Understand what needs and motivations you might have to change.

Then, we Listen and even identify any obstacles you might face in overcoming your addiction.

Finally, we Empower you by helping you set goals that you can easily achieve, so you can achieve recovery.

RULE is an extremely effective method because it provides you with the tools to recognize what needs to change within yourself.

It puts the power of change in your hands rather than imposing it on you from the outside.

By taking responsibility, you will see permanent results instead of falling back into old habits.

But don’t worry, we’ve got your back along the way.

Physical and Behavioral Changes of Addiction

There are many additional behavioral changes as well as side effects that can happen with substance abuse.

Think mood changes, such as feeling more irritable, depressed, or having extreme, violent mood swings.

It can even go as far as thoughts of suicide or self-harm. If you ever have these thoughts, please call 911 immediately.

These behavioral changes can be extremely harmful to others as well, such as stealing, lying to your friends, family, or loved ones about your drug use, engaging in reckless or impulsive behavior, and wanting to get high rather than hanging out with friends or family.

The physical changes are the ones that are easier to notice.

These can show up as constant coughing, extreme fatigue, muscle tremors, dark-colored urine, yellowing of the eyes, or pains and fevers.

It’s important to also watch out for more serious conditions that may arise from addiction such as seizures or strokes.

Substance abuse can also be fatal due to changes in your tolerance level.

You might take the same amount of a drug every day, but since you take the same, consistent dose, the effects slowly start to wear off.

That means after some time, you will start to need more and more of the same drug in order to feel the same “high” that you felt before.

This dangerous cycle can continue until the dose of the substance gets so high that it passes the lethal limit.

It is extremely important to get help before you reach that point.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please reach out to a therapist as soon as possible.

We are here to help you break free from addiction and reclaim your life.

Our Therapy Methods for Substance Abuse and Addiction

The good news is, therapy can successfully alleviate all of these disorders by helping you minimize the anxiety in your life, identify and change underlying thought and behavioral patterns that contribute to your addiction, and provide you with strategies to decrease discomfort while restoring an overall sense of peace.

To experience true and lasting joy in our life, we must face and conquer our pain by healing our underlying trauma and confronting our fears.

See the About Therapy page for a deeper look into this process.

We also offer group therapy for addiction, substance abuse, and substance dependence.

Our evidence-based, scientifically proven interventions are demonstrated by research to be effective for overcoming addiction, substance abuse, and substance dependence.

Learn more about our empirically based therapy modalities by visiting our Methods page.

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At My LA Therapy, our highly-vetted Substance Abuse and Addiction experts are selected not only for their clinical acumen but for who they are.

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