Are all addictions rooted in trauma/pain?

Here's a great quote by a well-known addictions specialist Gabor Mate.... I thought it would make for interesting conversation. Would love to know your thoughts...  

My personal opinion is many, if not most addictions are a response to some kind of human suffering...or an attempt to avoid suffering... or escape...  as such, treatment needs to address the underlying pain/trauma...  
“Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to painful experience. A hurt is at the centre of all addictive behaviours. It is present in the gambler, the Internet addict, the compulsive shopper and the workaholic. The wound may not be as deep and the ache not as excruciating, and it may even be entirely hidden—but it’s there. As we’ll see, the effects of early stress or adverse experiences directly shape both the psychology and the neurobiology of addiction in the brain.” 
― Gabor MatéIn the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction
  • 5 Commentsby Likes|Date
  • I can see the logic behind this thinking. I think most addictive behavior is a form of escape, and I think people tend to seek a way to escape when they are going through something painful. That said, I don't know if this can be applied to ALL addictions, like Gabor Maté says. I would be pretty comfortable in saying that there are likely exceptions. 
  • I do believe emotional pain is at the root of all addictions,but don't quite agree that pain is not related to trauma or abuse.For me all pain and hurt stem from abuse and trauma.Why else will we feel pain or hurt if we haven't been abused or traumatized?Our primary state is not pain and hurt,it stems from somewhere.These are negative emotions that we didn't allow ourselves to express or experience or were denied expressing or experiencing,didn't deal with or resolve them in a healthy way, disconnected from them,but they remain within us and surface in the form of an addiction.
  • @changeyourself ; i think human nature in general, regardless of the where, who, what... will experience some sore of painful feelings... could be abuse, trauma, neglect, illness, and a host of other things... our defense mechanisms or coping skills just may not be there at the younger ages... so we do begin to think thoughts/feel emotions that are painful.

    i do feel at some point, those surface... sort of begging to be expressed, and transmuted or integrated... it's just not easy to feel them, and if one is not aware of what's going on, they are very likely to reach for something outside of them to relieve the feelings...or escape them.... 

    i know we all agree there is an addiction epidemic... and i feel it stems from an emotional pain epidemic...so how do we treat THAT? 

    @DeanD i do believe there are exceptions too. it's not all about the "why" anyway (though that helps)...sometimes it's simply about treatment, whether that's a rehab, therapy, vision quest, medicine, community, meditation, etc. or a mix of it all....
  • Always and never are two very dangerous words, so I concur with @deand that there are certainly exceptions.

    I will also use the standard statistical warning that correlation does not equal causation. Even if there is a statistically significant number of people who suffered abuse or trauma and are addicted, that doesn't mean the trauma caused the addiction, or set in motion the seeds for addiction. On the contrary side, there are plenty of people that are abused and hurt that don't develop an addiction. Though, based on the author's wide net of addiction, it could be argued that everyone is addicted to something.

    I think it is possible to feel pain and hurt without being traumatized or abused. If I arrive too late to see a movie, I will feel hurt, but that isn't trauma or abuse. It's just life. Maybe I'll go have a smoke (just notional, I never picked up smoking as a vice/addiction). It wouldn't be feeding the addiction due to trauma, but boredom or the physical desire for nicotine.

    That said, I concur with @changeyourself and @dominica that being unwilling or unable to deal with negative emotions can lead to a desire to "escape". Rather than face the emotional pain in a healthy way, one tries to bury it, or outrun it. But, that pain is a fact of life, unless one lives in a completely sheltered and isolated state, which doesn't sound like a very good human experience.

    I think treatment without getting to the root of the why is treating a symptom rather than the disease. Eventually, for a self-sustaining recovery, the "why" needs to be addressed. Maybe at the start treat the symptoms, if only to allow one to focus on getting to the root of the problem. 
  • << I think treatment without getting to the root of the why is treating a symptom rather than the disease. Eventually, for a self-sustaining recovery, the "why" needs to be addressed. >>

    This is sooooo true, @Leaker! Thanks for those words of wisdom!
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