Posts tagged with "OCD"

Do you have an addictive personality, or just a healthy enthusiasm?

February 24, 2020

Some people cannot stop tweeting; others stream endless episodes of a favorite TV series, drink gallons of coffee each week; bet on competitive sports;  cover themselves with tattoos, jockey for position on video games, or visit tanning salons. While they may not be taking opioids, they still might be “addicted.”

But is there such a thing as an addictive personality? The informal answer is yes, according to the American Addiction Centers—one of the largest networks of rehab facilities nationwide.

Indeed, the rehabilitation experts describe “addictive personality” as an informal term that links particular personality traits to a higher risk of addiction or other problematic behaviors—such as drug abuse, cigarette smoking, gambling, or even constant social media use—according to a report by MindyBodyGreen 

“The term is used colloquially to refer to people who have tendencies that appear to lead to addiction-like behaviors,” says George Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

“Addictive personality” is a term often used in association with alcoholism, but you can also feel addicted to other things, like certain activities, people, foods, or physical objects. According to J. Wesley Boyd, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Bioethics, behaviors like gambling, frequent social media use, or even video gaming can also be addictive.

“For people who are addicted to these behaviors—and even those who just derive intense enjoyment from them—engaging in these behaviors can result in the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is the final common pathway of basically every drug of abuse,” Dr. Boyd told MindyBodyGreen.

He also notes that you can even be addicted to another person in a dating relationship because of this neurochemical response. That said, an unhealthy addiction is very different from healthy enthusiasm.

“Being addicted to something means it has taken over your life and that you are sacrificing important things in your life in service of the addiction,” says Boyd. Koob describes addiction similarly as “being stuck in a cycle in which a person binges on a substance, feels discomfort when the substance wears off, and is preoccupied with procuring and using the substance again.” (And again, this doesn’t apply only to physical substances—it can also be behaviors or experiences.)

On the flip side, “enthusiasm means that you might love something and even that you might look forward to it much of the time, but you are not and will not compromise basic important elements in your life,” Boyd says. 

Some experts believe that the term “addicted” is used too loosely to explain behaviors that are closer to enthusiasm, so Boyd uses exercise as an example of this distinction: An enthusiastic exerciser will look forward to workouts but probably won’t work out when they’re sick, he says. An exercise “addict,” on the other hand, might continue exercising even when they have the flu, despite adverse outcomes. 

“There are definitely individuals who are prone to become addicted in various ways,” Boyd says, noting that addiction is often a combination of both genetics and the environment. “Some of this is based on personal history, but much of it is determined by having a family history of addiction.”

According to MindBodyGreen, people who are at a higher-than-average risk for addiction may have some of the following markers:

  • A close family member with an addiction. Boyd says individuals born to parents who have an addiction are more likely to become addicted themselves, and lots of research backs this up. Overall, it appears that genetic heritability affects addiction by between 40% and 70%—but Koob is careful to note that this genetic component comes from many different pathways, and the likelihood of developing an addiction is due to both the environment and your genetics.
  • An OCD diagnosis. Several other disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, are more likely to co-occur with addiction.
  • Impulsive tendencies and trouble self-regulating. A study about video game addiction found that impulsive people might be more prone to developing an addiction.
  • Low self-esteem. For certain people, low self-esteem also appears to be associated with a higher risk for developing an addiction, according to the study about video gamers.
  • ADHD. A sibling study conducted in 1997 found certain people with ADHD may be more likely to develop substance use disorders, and more recent studies have found that ADHD and substance use disorders tend to co-occur in the same patients.
  • Social anxiety. People who feel lonely and anxious during social events are more likely to develop problematic internet use tendencies, according to a 2007 study. This may be because scrolling the internet can feel soothing in the moment, which helps to reduce overall feelings of anxiety or discomfort.
  • A traumatic history. Koob says people who have a history of abuse or trauma may be more likely to initiate substance abuse in order to reduce their discomfort.

Again, Koob is careful to note, “While there are tendencies that increase the risk of a substance use disorder, they don’t comprise a specific personality type, such as an addictive personality.”

Research contact: @mindbodygreen

 

More than just a pretty face: ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’

August 9, 2018

Selfies are the “feature films” we take of ourselves. If we are happy with the original shot, that’s fine. But many of us have taken to “erasing” any imperfections—by using apps and filters such as Facetune to smooth out skin; and to give our eyes, nose, and lips a little tweak. We might even use Snapchat to produce an idealized version of our visage (as well as to add rainbows or puppy ears).

It’s all in good fun, right? Not so much. In fact, according to a study published on August 2 by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network, the demand for a certain type of plastic surgery has increased, due to a new disorder dubbed “Snapchat dysmorphia.”

The study—conducted by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology—notes a growing trend: People are bringing in their own selfies to plastic surgeons, usually edited with a smartphone application, and asking to look more like these glorified photos.

The phenomenon is causing widespread concern among experts, who are worried about its negative effect on people’s self-esteem and its potential to trigger body dysmorphic disorder, a mental illness classified on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum, The Washington Post reported on August 8.

“This is an alarming trend because those filtered selfies often present an unattainable look and are blurring the line of reality and fantasy for these patients,” the research has found.

The condition is a mental disorder that causes people to be “extremely preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance that to others can’t be seen or appears minor,” according to the Mayo Clinic. People who have body dysmorphic disorder tend to obsess over their appearance and body image—often checking the mirror, grooming or seeking reassurance for many hours a day, the clinic said. Treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy and medication

Neelam Vashi, M.D. ,an assistant professor of Dermatology at the school and one of the article’s authors, told the Post in an interview that Snapchat dysmorphia is a result of people now being able to edit away any imperfections with ease.

“It’s remarkable,” said Vashi, who is also a board-certified dermatologist. “What used to lie in the hands of … celebrities … people who were innately beautiful made to look more beautiful … now it’s in the hands of anyone.”

On Snapchat, for example, the picture messaging application features upward of 20 filters that users can toggle through by simply swiping across their phone screens. Aside from adding flower crowns or puppy ears, filters can give a person freckles, longer eyelashes, wider eyes and flawless skin, among other augmentations. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter also allow people to edit their photos in the application before uploading.

Other applications such as Facetune take things a step further. For $3.99, users have access to a host of editing tools such as teeth whitening and making a person’s forehead, nose or waist smaller. While people most often use filters or editing software for minor fixes such as clearing blemishes or plumping lips, Vashi said traditional cosmetic procedures largely can’t reproduce the “instant fix” people see in their edited photos.

Based on findings of an annual survey conducted by the  American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, selfies continue to be a driving force behind why people wish to get plastic surgery done. In 2017, the survey found that 55% of surgeons reported seeing patients who requested surgery to look better in selfies—a 13% increase from the previous year’s results.

Vashi told the Post that it is unlikely that people will change their behavior in the near future. “It sounds like people are still going to do it because they like it. They like the way they look,” she said. “I’m just one small person in a big world, I can’t change everything, but I can make people aware and recognize and know that it’s not the real world. It’s like living in a fantasy.”

Research contact: @NeelamVashi