Has Your Brain Been Hijacked?

Has Your Brain Been Hijacked?

The word “addiction” is derived from a Latin term for “enslaved by” or “bound to.” Anyone who has struggled to overcome an addiction—or has tried to help someone else to do so—understands why.

Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain that manifests in three distinct ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over it and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences.

For many years, experts believed that only alcohol, prescription medications and illegal drugs could cause addiction. Neuroimaging technologies and more recent research, however, have shown that many activities can also take over the brain and become an addiction.

These activities can include:

•    Gambling

•    Shopping

•    Emotional Eating

•    Pornography

•    Relationships

•    Smoking

•    Sex

•    Work


Do I have an addiction?

Determining whether you have an addiction isn’t completely straightforward. And admitting it isn’t easy, largely because of the stigma and shame associated with addiction. But acknowledging the problem is the first step toward recovery.

Answering “yes” to any of the following three questions suggests you might have a problem with addiction and should—at the very least—consult a mental health counselor for further evaluation and guidance.

1.    Do you use more of the substance or engage in the behavior more often than in the past?

2.    Do you have withdrawal symptoms when you don’t have the substance or engage in the behavior?

3.    Have you ever lied to anyone about your use of the substance or extent of your behavior?


Steps to Make a Change:

1. Face your reality & tell yourself the truth

Are you experiencing any of these feelings related to your behaviors: shame, guilt, fear, hopelessness, regret, powerlessness, sadness, depression or anxiety?  If you have a little voice inside you saying, “there’s a problem” or people in your life are telling you that — it is time to listen.

2. Be Curious about the possibility of change

Are you curious about the underlying cause of your addictive behavior?  Ask yourself, “Do I want my life to be better?” Ponder the possibility of change.

3. Befriend your Inner Critic

The Inner Critic is that critical or shaming voice inside of your head that evaluates, criticizes, pushes, or critiques you.  “Making friends” with that self-critical voice does not mean accepting what it tells you as the truth. What it does mean is that you must learn to both hear the message and explore it to understand what is behind those messages. That Critic actually has a positive intent for you – even though its messages are negative, shaming and maybe even cruel.  Finding its positive intent will unlock the door to stop the self-loathing.

4. Make a choice and take an action

Do you know what you want for your life — personally, professionally, spiritually, physically and emotionally?  You are the only one who can decide the direction to take. When it feels like you have no choices — you are likely choosing to “do nothing.”


Consider getting the help of a counselor, spiritual advisor or joining a 12-step program for ongoing support, guidance and aide.  You don’t have to do it alone.



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Elizabeth Galanti, LMHC is a Licensed Counselor in the Buffalo area of upstate New York.  She provides therapy for individuals and couples who are experiencing emotional, mental and/or spiritual distress.  She specializes in relationship difficulties, anger management, stress management, addictions, grief, depression, anxiety, life transitions, self-esteem, post-divorce issues and career counseling.  View her Profile for more information about her counseling services.

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