addictions continued

about the layer down under that experience....
looking within: thoughts & thinking
looking within: am i an abuser or abusive?
looking within: are you the one who abandons others?
consistency.... learn about it & use it
about suicide..... it's a shame...
coping mechanisms
communication continued
temperment & personality
family dysfunction

have you recognized that you have a problem?

 From 2004 to 2005: Teens who attend middle schools where drugs are used, kept or sold are at 3 times the substance-abuse risk of those attending drug-free middle schools (0.90 vs. 0.31). Teens who attend high schools where drugs are used, kept or sold are at 60% greater risk than those attending drug-free high schools (1.67 vs. 1.06).

if you're visiting the layer down under because teenscene wasn't what you were searching for..... scroll down to the bottom of the page! i'm glad to see you here!


other addictions


When a loved one becomes an addict, we can become so focused on trying to help & support that person that we lose track of our own feelings & needs. When we support  addicts or protect them from the problems they create, we "enable" them to continue their addiction.
Although you may mean well, protecting an addict from the consequences of dependency makes maintaining the dependency easier for the addict to accomplish. This form of taking responsibility for another's behavior is called codependency.


Fantasies of Rescue

The codependent person stakes personal self-esteem on being able to help or please another person. The codependent may think,


"If I were a better husband / wife / partner / friend, he / she wouldn't keep drinking / using."


A fantasy that you can rescue the addict or alcoholic is one of the warning signs of codependency. The more codependent you become, the less you're in touch with the distortions of reality caused by the addictive behavior.


You may eventually lose your own identity as you attempt to rescue or protect the addict.

Codependency is common among the family & friends of addicts. Many substance abuse treatment centers offer treatment for codependency.

can't cope?
codependency allows you to give up all your choices to be totally dependent on someone else... it forces someone else to be responsible for you... it's a negative coping mechanism!
try finding productive & positive coping mechanims instead of becoming addicted!

workaholics... they don't  think about it...

Workaholism is an addiction to work; it's been called the least recognized & therefore, one of the more dangerous addictions because it often looks like wholesome hard work which is praised & rewarded.

How can you tell the difference?

Workaholism as a word should probably be limited to an unhealthy over-involvement with work that results in:

  • neglect of the family

  • poor relations at work

  • absenteeism 

  • unproductiveity

  • eventual burnout at work 

  • health problems due to stress

In such cases, it's obviously a disorder.

There are probably several kinds of workaholics (Killinger, 1997), including the people happily & highly invested in their work ("I love it but the wife doesn't like it & I miss being with my kids") & employees driven to overwork by fears, threats, perfectionism, compulsiveity, or competition.

The happy 10-hour-a-day person who feels his / her life work is important & has a good family life, meaningful relations at work & with friends, wouldn't be seriously labeled a workaholic. Robinson (1998) describes the unhealthy workaholic personality but in this book mostly discusses dealing with it in Cognitive therapy.

In an earlier book, Robinson (1992) suggests self-help methods for slowing down, deciding what's important in life & re-building strained relationships (see other books below).


 Certainly liking your work is better than hating it, but few jobs are worthy of all your time even if you love it. If you work more than 50 hours a week, you need a honest understanding of why you're driven.
Do you really enjoy your work that much or is it:

Are you driven by some need - power, control, status, money, success, compulsive perfectionism, or a guilty conscience?

If your motivation isn't clear, talk with your family or even your colleagues or see a therapist. Try to find the right job, relax, exercise & don't neglect your family (Fassel, 1993; Morris & Charney, 1983; Oates, 1979).

Often greater efficiency is more important than long hours. Although it's just getting started, Workaholics Anonymous may provide some information & WA group locations.

When to seek professional help

A wise self-helper will, of course, realize his/her limitations. Professional help is needed if the problems are too severe for self-help, this includes behaviors beyond one's control:

Professional help is also appropriate if you have made a couple of genuine attempts to help yourself without success. Don't be ashamed of your self-help efforts & don't hesitate to seek expert help. It's just smart.

what do smoking mothers think about?

  Nicotine: From 2004 to 2005: Teens who believe smoking cigarettes by someone their age is "not morally wrong" are more than 7 times likelier to smoke than those who believe teen smoking is "seriously morally wrong."

Nicotine, which is a stimulant drug, is one of the leading causes of death in the US.

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) declared nicotine a drug on July 12, 1996, despite increasing protests by tobacco companies. Of all deaths in the US, 20% can be attributed to the effects of smoking.


  • Cigarettes  
  • Cigars  
  • Pipes  
  • Chewing tobacco

Methods of Use


Tobacco can be smoked in a rolled cigarette or cigar or in a pipe. It can also be chewed.


Effects on the Central Nervous System
Nicotine is a stimulant that has a very rapid effect on the central nervous system. It can reach the brain within 8 seconds of smoking a cigarette.


Structurally, nicotine resembles a naturally occurring chemical messenger in the brain: a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine governs many essential body functions such as heart rate, circulation, learning & memory.


Because nicotine is so similar to acetylcholine, it's able to mimic acetylcholine actions in the brain, leading to stimulating effects on all of those body functions.


At the same time, nicotine stimulates increases in another neurotransmitter called dopamine, which stimulates the dopamine receptors in the brain's pleasure center to create a feeling of pleasure or euphoria.

it's amazingly easy to become addicted to cigarettes... feelings of pleasure help to remove anxieties, thoughts of overwhelming problems, life circumstances & so many life dysfunctions.
a personal note: I've quit several times, sometimes for years at a time, but always seem to go back to it. When things are difficult for me to cope with - it's very easy to reach out for just a few puffs - thinking "geez it'll be nice to relax a few minutes!" It's not. I've developed asthma & that doesn't make me very happy!

smoking teen.... got one?

Nicotine Intoxication
Nicotine intoxication generally happens quickly because smoking is a highly effective delivery process. Nicotine goes straight to the lungs, where it's absorbed by the blood, sent to the heart & pumped into the arteries & brain.
Its effects on the body may include:

  • Muscle twitchin 
  • Weaknes 
  • Rapid breathin 
  • Rapid heartbeat  
  • Abdominal cramp 
  • Elevated blood pressure  



Life Risks
About 45% of all smokers will die of a tobacco-related health problem (
Petro, Lopez, Boreham, Thun & Heath, 1992). Nicotine use has decreased among adult Americans, but it's been increasing among teenagers & children.


Nicotine is an addictive drug that can cause tolerance, dependence & symptoms of withdrawal. The tars in tobacco, not the nicotine, cause the cancers that frequently develop in the lungs, throat & other organs of chronic smokers.


Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide, which prevents oxygen from attaching to red blood cells that carry it thru the body. Chronic smoking causes carbon monoxide poisoning, which can damage the heart & brain.


Physical withdrawal symptoms include:

  • irregular heartbeat

  • digestive problems

  • irregular body temperature 

  • intense cravings

Psychological symptoms include:

Cravings for nicotine can last for days, weeks or years after a person stops smoking.

Peto R, Lopez AD, Boreham J, Thun M, Heath C Jr: Mortality from tobacco in developed countries: indirect estimation from national vital statistics. Lancet 1992; 339:1268-1278.

Cigarettes & Other Nicotine Products

Nicotine is one of the most heavily used addictive drugs in the US. In 2002, 30% of the US population 12 & older or 71.5 million people used tobacco at least once in the month prior to being interviewed.

This figure includes:

  • 3.8 million young people age 12 to 17

  • 14 million people age 18 to 25

  • 53.7 million age 26 & older *

Most of them smoked cigarettes.

Cigarette smoking has been the most popular method of taking nicotine since the beginning of the 20th century. In 1989, the US Surgeon General issued a report that concluded that cigarettes & other forms of tobacco, such as cigars, pipe tobacco & chewing tobacco, are addictive & that nicotine is the drug in tobacco that causes addiction.

The report also determined that smoking was a major cause of stroke & the 3rd leading cause of death in the US. Statistics from the CDC indicate that tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the US, causing more than 440,000 deaths each year & resulting in an annual cost of more than $75 billion in direct medical costs. (See

My own experience with quitting smoking has traveled down many avenues & side tracks like most smokers. I quit smoking every time I got pregnant & continued to "not smoke" while nursing, which was 5 times.
I quit smoking a few times for religious reasons. It was against the fundamental rules of whatever religion I was participating in at the time, so I can count at least 4-5 years of clean breathing due to religion.
About 3 years ago...
I broke both my tibia & fibula. It was a nasty break about 1 inch above my ankle of my right leg. I went thru a very difficult time of healing with this break & it might have been because I was smoking.
Smoking causes less oxygen to go thru the red blood cells...
Your lower leg has very poor circulation to begin with...
My break wouldn't heal & the doctor told me before my 2nd bone graft that if I didn't quit smoking, he wouldn't perform the surgery. He said that there was no reason to do it, if I wasn't going to let my leg have the circulation it needed, as well as letting my blood get the oxygen it needed.
I quit smoking as ordered. Cold Turkey, that's how I always have quit smoking, about one year later, my leg began to heal. It took that long for my body to get back to normal! I ended up spending almost 2 entire years in a wheel chair because I was a smoker.
I started smoking again after my leg healed. My husband, a smoker, made it just too difficult to keep from smoking. I know, I had it beat & I went & started smoking again. Then I got asthma.
Asthma isn't very fun to have. Recently I watched my brother in law die from emphyazema. Not being able to breathe is very distressing both physically & mentally. But still I didn't quit smoking. I just stopped smoking as much or stopped smoking totally while being hospitalized twice for my asthma. 
Now I'm about to become a grandmother. That's right, any day now in fact. The baby is due March 6th, 2006. My daughter told me that she won't let the baby come over to my house if we're smoking in the house.
That's a really good reason to quit smoking, don't you think? Back to the beginning, baby reasons to quit smoking... but I had to think about some other things this time....
I have three kids at home breathing in cigarette smoke. I have three dogs breathing in our cigarette smoke. Both my husband & I have asthma. Our house & clothes all smell like cigarette smoke. When my kids go somewhere, people make comments about how they can smell the cigarette smoke on them. I can imagine that their lungs are looking pretty bad as well as my own.
Another thing, I've mentioned throughout the sites, I have post traumatic stress disorder. I have horrible sleep habits as well. Nicotine is a stimulant and it doesn't help my anxiety or my sleep habits. In fact, I know that it is bad for me - all around - period - no ifs - ands - or buts! I do hate the smell. My hair smells like cigarettes no matter how much I wash it.
My attitude is irritable when I'm smoking. It's also more negative, depressed & apathetic.
This time I've made a choice to quit smoking for me. I will succeed, cold turkey & I'll never smoke again.
This time while quitting smoking, I've been overcome physically. My body has felt like I've had the flu. Every inch of my body has been aching. My head hurts, I feel like I've got a severe hangover.
have been really tired. I know this is because I've cut down on my coffee consumption as well, hoping that it will be just another good health move on my part. But also, drinking coffee all day goes well with smoking, so I just decided I'd miss it that much less without the coffee. Why persecute myself any more than I have to?
I've been cleaning my house thru the anxious moments. Whenever I get a nicotine urge that I can't deal with thru relaxation breathing & deep concentration, I get the bucket I set up with ammonia & water in it, grab some paper towels, and start wiping something in my house down with it. I mean the walls, the ceiling, the wood work - the windows, everything has a layer of yellow crud on it from the cigarette smoke.
I showed my kids the yellow crud. They were really concerned that thier lungs had yellow crud in them. I told them that I was very sorry if their lungs have been clogged up with cigarette crud. I told them they would get better with time hopefully, like mine will. (feeling Justifiably Guilty on my part)
I've been having the most extremely horrible nightmares. It's almost like I've been exorcising all my demons from my life. Dream after dream, even waking up for awhile & then going back to sleep doesn't stop the progressions. I'll go right back to the dream I was having. The dreams are all horrible experiences I've actually had or similar to the ones I've had & also concern some of the main traumatizing people in my life. I've been screaming, crying and tossing & turning thru all my sleeping hours. I was afraid to go to sleep last night because these dreams have been so disturbing.
It's amazing what nicotine can do to your body & your mind. I'm feeling better, alittle anyway. I don't miss the cigarette smell in the house.
My husband hasn't quit and claims he's not going to, but I've asked him to smoke outside. He'll go along with that. I made the right choice this time... I quit smoking for me, not any other reason, I want to smell better, feel better, look better, and be healthier than ever, I deserve it. My kids deserve it. My new grandchild, Charlotte, deserves it!
update: september 2006
my husband quit smoking. he had a heart attack on september 17th. he had 2 arteries that were 90% blocked and a few others that were 30-40% blocked.
since he is active, healthy otherwise with no high blood pressure & has no family history - smoking & diet are the reasons for his heart attack.
he had another heart attack 2 weeks later, even after having 2 stents put into those two blocked arteries...
he is on several types of medication now that cost hundreds of dollars a month. he is on that medication indefinetly. good thing we have insurance, but still - what if we lost that insurance? how would be pay for those drugs?

 Health Hazards

Nicotine is highly addictive. Nicotine provides an almost immediate “kick” because it causes a discharge of epinephrine from the adrenal cortex. This stimulates the central nervous system & other endocrine glands, which causes a sudden release of glucose.

Stimulation is then followed by depression & fatigue, leading the abuser to seek more nicotine.

Nicotine is absorbed readily from tobacco smoke in the lungs & it doesn't matter whether the tobacco smoke is from cigarettes, cigars or pipes. Nicotine also is absorbed readily when tobacco is chewed. With regular use of tobacco, levels of nicotine accumulate in the body during the day & persist overnight. Thus, daily smokers or chewers are exposed to the effects of nicotine for 24 hours each day.

Addiction to nicotine results in withdrawal symptoms when a person tries to stop smoking.
i.e., a study found that when chronic smokers were deprived of cigarettes for 24 hours, they had increased anger, hostility & aggression & loss of social cooperation.

Persons suffering from withdrawal also take longer to regain emotional equilibrium following stress. During periods of abstinence &/or craving, smokers have shown impairment across a wide range of psychomotor & cognitive functions, such as language comprehension.

Adolescent smokeless tobacco users are more likely than nonusers to become cigarette smokers. Behavioral research is beginning to explain how social influences, such as observing adults or other peers smoking, affect whether adolescents begin to smoke cigarettes.

Research has shown that teens are generally resistant to anti-smoking messages.

In addition to nicotine, cigarette smoke is primarily composed of a dozen gases (
mainly carbon monoxide) & tar. The tar in a cigarette, which varies from about 15 mg for a regular cigarette to 7 mg in a low-tar cigarette, exposes the user to an increased risk of lung cancer, emphysema & bronchial disorders.

The carbon monoxide in the smoke increases the chance of cardiovascular diseases. The EPA has concluded that 2nd hand smoke causes lung cancer in adults & greatly increases the risk of respiratory illnesses in children & sudden infant death.

 Promising Research

Research has shown that nicotine, like cocaine, heroin & marijuana  increases the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which affects the brain pathways that control reward & pleasure.

Scientists now have pinpointed a particular molecule (the beta 2 (b2) subunit of the nicotine cholinergic receptor) as a critical component in nicotine addiction.

Mice that lack this subunit fail to self-administer nicotine, implying that without the b2 subunit, the mice don't experience the positive reinforcing properties of nicotine. This new finding identifies a potential site for targeting the development of nicotine addiction medications.

Other new research found that individuals have greater resistance to nicotine addiction if they have a genetic variant that decreases the function of the enzyme CYP2A6. The decrease in CYP2A6 slows the breakdown of nicotine & protects individuals against nicotine addiction.

Understanding the role of this enzyme in nicotine addiction gives a new target for developing more effective medications to help people stop smoking. Medications might be developed that can inhibit the function of CYP2A6, thus providing a new approach to preventing & treating nicotine addiction.

Another study found dramatic changes in the brain’s pleasure circuits during withdrawal from chronic nicotine use. These changes are comparable in magnitude & duration to similar changes observed during the withdrawal from other abused drugs such as cocaine, opiates, amphetamines & alcohol.

Scientists found significant decreases in the sensitivity of the brains of laboratory rats to pleasurable stimulation after nicotine administration was abruptly stopped. These changes lasted several days & may correspond to the anxiety & depression experienced by humans for several days after quitting smoking “cold turkey.”

The results of this research may help in the development of better treatments for the withdrawal symptoms that may interfere with individuals’ attempts to quit smoking.

do you drink every day?

Do you think you may have a problem?

The World Health Organization defines having over 28 (men) or 18 (women) drinks per week as "hazardous drinking."

15 drinks are more than consumed by 80% of Americans; 40 drinks per week are more than 95% of Americans drink. If you only occasionally binge but have 6-8 or more drinks at a time, you may have a problem.

Mayfield, McLeod & Hall (1974) used 4 brief questions, called the CAGE questionnaire:

  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?

  • Have people ever annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?

  • Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?

  • Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover (Eye-opener)?

Two "yes" answers are considered a sign of possible problems (2 yeses accurately identifies 80% of alcoholics).

Peele (1998) suggests asking yourself "How much do I get out of drinking?" & compare this to "How much is drinking hurting me?"

If you conclude "I'd be better off if I drank less," then you have a self-improvement project to work on. Westermeyer offers a Self-scoring Alcohol Check-up on his HabitSmart Site.

One of the nice features of this questionnaire is that it'll help you identify some of your reasons for drinking. That information may help you know where to focus your self-help efforts to reduce your need to drink.

Another evaluation of the seriousness of drinking is used by the World Health Organization. A very similar test is at Screening Test but it also provides a quick interpretation & some information about changing.

Watson & Sher (1998) reviewed all previous studies of people who changed their drinking habits by themselves, without treatment.

Note: they say 75% of the people who successfully resolve their alcohol problems do so without treatment (others give a much lower estimate). It's important to study the self-help methods they used.

The researchers found 8 useful self-change processes:

  • Consciousness raising: learning more about alcoholism, being confronted by friends, spouse, or employer, being warned by a physician, etc.

  • Self-evaluation: realizing "I have a problem," weighing pros & cons of drinking, "hitting bottom," etc.

  • Situation-evaluation: seeing effects of drinking on the environment, work, or relationships, etc.

  • Committing to making a change: "I've got to quit," "That's the last time I get drunk," deciding to tough it out, etc.

  • Replacing drinking with another activity: drinking soft drinks, playing sports instead of stopping at the bar, becoming a good student, etc.

  • Changing the environment: getting beer out of the house, refusing invitations to "go out," avoiding drinking friends, etc.

  • Rewarding quitting: taking pride in accomplishments, accepting praise from others, using saved money & time in enjoyable ways, etc.

  • Getting support from others: building contacts with spouse & children, getting appreciation from co-workers, etc.

Note: self-treatment doesn't have to be complex. e.g., Linda Sobell & her colleagues at Nova Southeastern Univ. (June, 2002) studied the effects of bibliotherapy, much like the information given here, on drinking behavior.


These researchers merely sent:

  • written material about the effects of alcohol

  • suggestions concerning self-monitoring

  • ideas about lowering the risks of drinking

  • motivational material to people who answered an ad saying "I want to do something on my own about a drinking problem."

Following up 1 year later, they found these subjects were consuming 20% fewer drinks, binging 33% less often & having 58% fewer negative consequences from drinking.

By the way, some of these subjects, who'd never sought treatment before, did after trying to change themselves. The implications are that a public health / psychosocial educational approach could economically help many problem drinkers who wouldn't seek the usual "clinical" approach, namely, waiting in denial until you deteriorate to the point of needing expensive residential treatment for alcoholism followed by a life-time of AA groups. (Note: this study didn't measure how much self-change would have occurred if no information at all had been sent these subjects.)

If you're very addicted, however, you may need to go to detox, then get into a residential treatment program, followed up by individual talking therapy & also an AA, Rational Recovery, or other support group listed below.

You'd be wise, even though some stop drinking on their own, to be in both therapy & a group because you may need the group to stop or curtail your drinking & you may need the therapy to learn new constructive behaviors, attitudes, emotions, relationships & self-concepts.

Keep your motivation high. Constantly remind yourself of your reasons for drinking less - health, money, greater effectiveness, better relationships, etc. Keep a record of your behavior.

Specifically use role playing to rehearse how to handle invitations to "have a beer" or "come party with us." Practice handling tempting situations, e.g. when someone you're with orders a drink.

Practice repeatedly exposing yourself to a favorite drink for 30 minutes without drinking any of it, learning you can control this habit, then throw it away (Sitharthan, Sitharthan, Hough & Kavanagh, 1997). Most importantly, prepare carefully & in detail for possible lapses.

Always reward your progress & be proud of your developing self-control, it's a tough undertaking.

It's important to realize that relapse rates are quite high even among addicts who have completed a professional treatment program (remember 6 out of 7 drop out of such programs) & have received Relapse Prevention Treatment (plus perhaps attending AA).

It's very hard to maintain your gains (as w/weight, once "clean" we may "slack off" too much). However, Dimeff & Marlatt (1998) found that relapse prevention training doesn't prevent "slips" but reduces the harmful consequences of relapsing, enabling the addict to get back on his / her feet faster.

They also recommend 2 more things to help prevent relapse:

  • maintain occasional contact with your addiction therapist

  • take very seriously the idea that other mental health problems may need to be dealt with in order to maintain your therapeutic or self-help produced gains

For hundreds of books about alcoholism & 12-step (AA) programs write or link to Hazelden, Box 11, Center City, MN 55012. Yoder (1990) lists many recovery resources. Even the almost 60-year-old AA "bible," which has helped millions, has been updated (J, 1996).

Most of the Hazelton books focus on chronic drinkers, but actually more people are "problem drinkers," i.e. have some problems due to drinking (arguments w/spouse or friends, late to work, hangovers, etc.) but aren't totally dependent on alcohol, yet.

With that idea in the air, there's now an impressive stack of learning or cognitive-behavioral based self-help books on the market.

Sobell & Sobell (1993), Fanning & O'Neill (1996), Miller & Berg (1995), Trimpey (1996), Dorsman (1998), Kishline (1995), Sanchez-Craig (1995) & Miller (1998) have developed self-management programs (sometimes administered in cooperation w/therapists) for problem drinkers who haven't become addicted, yet.

Other researchers (Hester & Delaney, 1997) have developed & tested a Program for Windows, a computer program which teaches self-control methods for problem drinkers. Although research is rare in self-help, the effectiveness of some of these books & programs have actually been published, e.g. Sobell & Sobell, Sanchez-Craig, Miller & Hester.

If anger seems to be an important part of your addiction & precedes your relapses, see Clancy (1997) or Santoro & Cohen (1997). The books above are your best sources of advice if you're hoping to curtail your own drinking.


Some of the treatment manuals might serve as excellent guides for the self-helper,


  • Higgins & Silverman (1999), Motivating Behavior Change Among Illicit-Drug Abusers, Kadden, et al. (nd), Cognitive-Behavioral Coping Skills Therapy Manual, from the NIAAA & also Monti, Abrams, Kadden & Cooney (1989).

Alan Marlatt (1998) has recently coined a phrase, Harm Reduction, describing a therapy that helps the user understand the risks involved in his/her habit & then helps them make the health & mental health changes they want to make.

A group of psychologists at the Univ. of Washington has produced a manual for applying the Harm Reduction approach (Dimeff, Baer, Kivlahan & Marlott, 1999).

In a well controlled study of college students, this method, using questionnaires & 45-minute interviews every 6 months, reduced drinking & associated behavior (fighting, DUI, missing class, unprotected sex) substancially.

Recently, a couple of studies have combined several sessions of cognitive-behavioral treatment (aimed at controlling drinking) with a new drug, naltrexone, which supposedly reduces the craving for alcohol.

One investigator, (Raymond Anton at Medical Univ. of South Carolina), reported the initial results as being more abstinence, fewer drinks & fewer relapses (American Journal of Psychiatry, 1999, 156, 1758-1764). Even a cable TV network in California, Recovery Network, has been devoted to education & overcoming addictions. Things are changing (in response to the huge anticipated drug & alcohol problems).

Everyone seems to agree that support from an understanding group is helpful (although Trimpey says it's not good to hang out with former drunks). Kishline (1995) has started a self-help group for problem-but-not-chronic drinkers; the emphasis is on moderation, not on life-long disease & total abstinence (see her book for help in finding a non-AA group).

Several other alternatives groups, quite different from AA, have sprung up in the last 15-20 years. They can be found at:

On LISTSERV@MAELSTROM.STJOHNS.EDU one can subscribe to a Controlled-drinking/drug use discussion group (just type SUBSCRIBE CD then your name as the message).

In the last couple of years many big alcohol & drug abuse Web sites have blossomed, including:

Professional psychologists (Santrock, Minnett, & Campbell, 1994) in the early 90's considered Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (1990) by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services to be one of the best self-help books available, although the AA approach was considered highly religious & almost "cultish" by many. (AA still helps far more than any other single method.)

Psychologists also approve of approaches very critical of AA, such as The Truth about Addiction and Recovery (1991) by Stanton Peele & Archie Brodsky, When AA Doesn't Work for You: Rational Steps to Quitting Alcohol (1992) by Albert Ellis & Emmett Velton & Alcohol: How to Give It Up and Be Glad You Did (1994) by Philip Tate.

For personal help & treatment, call your local Drug & Alcohol Abuse Treatment Center or seek individual therapy (see white & Yellow Pages). Remember: if addicted, you may need detox first, then treatment. For referrals to 12-step programs, call Alcoholics Anonymous (212-647-1680).

For general information, local treatment programs & referral to AA call the Nat. Inst. on Drug Abuse & Alcoholism (800-662-HELP or 800-622-2255 or 301-468-2600).

Social support clearly helps prevent relapse. However, even if you are in AA, it's important to think in terms of going beyond abstinence into learning better self-esteem, control of emotions, ways of thinking, interpersonal skills & new areas of interest (O., 1998).

Spouses & children of alcoholics should know about Al-Anon & Alateen which help relatives of alcoholics (also see White or Yellow Pages for local numbers). Children of alcoholics should also know about NACoA.

For parents of alcoholics, see Our Children are Alcoholics, from Islewest Press. There are many kinds of reactions to living in an addictive family; thus, in addition to behavioral approaches, there are personal growth & insight approaches (see Black, 1987; Bradshaw, 1988, 1989; Gravitz & Bowen, 1986; Woititz, 1983).

Professional psychologists consider Claudia Black's (1981) It Will Never Happen to Me to be the best self-help book for children & spouses of alcoholics (Santrock, Minnett, & Campbell, 1994). Obviously, there's an enormous amount of information & helpful resources for dealing with addictions & potential addictions.


Becoming Whole Again

Yes, there's a cure for drug addiction.

Your basic goal: to change your metabolism & your brain chemistry for greater health. This means that you need to eliminate drugs, toxins & some addictive foods from your diet & change some other parts of your diet as well.

It also means that you need to find ways to reduce stress, to accept life's routine suffering & to begin enjoying yourself without using drugs.

Then wait.

Why wait? Because once the healing process begins, it takes time to recover.

  • Your body needs time to repair the damage.
  • Your nervous system needs time to repair the damage.
  • It'll take a while for your mind to settle.  

But the best news is that you begin healing right away. In fact, the healthier your new lifestyle, the faster you’ll heal. You can heal most of your cells that have been damaged, at least to some degree. But the biggest thing you have going for you is your body’s replacement policy.

Your body creates new cells every day, about 300 to 400 million per day! These new cells replace old & dying cells. When you stop using drugs, the new cells your body creates will not be “drug-addicted cells.

They’ll never have experienced drugs. These new cells will be healthy, especially if you continue to follow a healthy diet & lifestyle.

Scientists say that every 7 years the body replaces every cell (except nerve cells) at least once. That means that the body renews itself & becomes a new conglomeration of cells, a new you, every 7 years!

This new you begins every day. If you pay attention, you can feel it. 

Internet Addiction

More & more people are finding themselves spending excessive time on the Internet. This becomes a problem when it interferes with relationships or other areas of everyday life.


i.e., Internet addiction may be a problem when it interferes with  important work or with family activities.

Some research suggests that Internet addiction may actually involve several, more specific addictions, such as:

  • addiction to online relationships
  • to cybersex (online sex)
  • to online gaming.


Internet addiction & the various problems related to it often have damaging effects on intimate relationships, as evidence by increased incidence of cyber-affairs (online affairs).

As with other types of addiction, Internet addiction is best defined by an inability to cut down on use despite
costly negative consequences.

Warning Signs


Neglecting jobs, family or friends to spend time on the Internet

Increased defensiveness about the Internet, or lying about amounts of time spent on the Internet

Feeling restless, irritable or moody when not on the Internet

Difficulty cutting down the amount of time spent on the Internet

Internet addiction is a new affliction for human-kind. With millions of people around the world, including 60 million Americans, logging onto the Internet, there's bound to be some addiction.


Like workaholism, Internet “addiction” isn't using the Internet for many hours of work & pleasure. To be an addict, as I'm using the term, the logging on has to cause problems, such as in the 5% to 8% who become so “hooked” that they spend almost all their spare time online, even going without sleep.


Other Internet users (about 15% of total Internet users & far more men than women) become attracted to pornography online, some of them spend a lot of time & money being a voyeur & avoiding real relationships. (Keep in mind that about 80% of Internet users are married, committed, or dating someone.)


Still others, twice as many women as men, spend inordinate hours seeking friendships, support, emotional exchanges, and/or flirtatious-sexual interactions in newsgroups, forums & chat rooms.


Some young people spend hours with interactive computer games. All this time spent online reduces the time available for face to face relationships, for productive work & learning & for recreation / leisure / physical activities.


Therapists working in this area observe that addicts frequently deny any problem until confronted with a personal crisis, like doing poorly in school, getting caught misusing a computer at work, or facing criticism from a partner.


If you spend more than a couple of hours per day on the Internet playing games, flirting, or seeking sexual-pleasure, you should ask yourself if this is the best use of your time.

Probably thousands of married people have had emotionally involved “affairs” online, some even sneaked out to rendezvous. When caught, these online relationships can devastate a marriage.

Other examples of problems:

  • parents have been charged with child neglect caused by this addiction
  • One study found that people judged to be Internet addicts averaged (in excess of work hours) 30 hours per week online (for a few it was 100 hours per week).
  • Students have flunked out of college because they were online so much.

Contrary to what you might believe, the average Internet addict isn't a teenager, but:

  • 30 to 40 years old
  • 40% are women 
  • 1/3 earn over $40,000 a year

A surprisingly high percentage of Internet addicts have:

Another survey of Internet users (Cooper, Scherer, Boies & Gordon, 1999) also found that the people who frequently logged onto sex-oriented sites often have psychological problems & stress, including running risks to real relationships.

However, these authors believe occasional visits to sex or flirtation sites may be harmless entertainment for most people. Yet, they say that the 8% of heaviest users of such sites (11+ hours/week) may be harmed, primarily by exacerbating their sexual compulsions.

The study also noted that about 60% of the respondents using sex related sites didn’t tell the truth about their age, almost 40% had pretended to be a different race & 75% kept secret how much time they spent on such sites while denying any guilt about the activity.

For those of you interested in more information about the connection between pornography & sexual activities or acting-out, see Dr. Cline's powerful statement. The Surgeon General's Office has also produced an unclear report on the effects of pornography (the scientists on the commission disagreed with each other).

Not all researchers believe that pornography is a consistant cause of sexual aggression. Often aggressive tendencies are seen before the offender started looking an pornography (Seto, Maric & Barbaree, 2001, in Aggression & Violent Behavior, 35-53); likewise, the offender had often been abused himself as a child before he got access to pornography, so we don't know for sure what the primary causes are.

Keep in mind, too, that many writers of the material cited in this section are therapists or evaluators working with addicts who've gotten into deep psychological, interpersonal or legal trouble because of sexual addiction.

These writers have found & report that people who cheat on their spouses, who abuse children, who rape don't restrain themselves from looking at pornography. No surprise there. What we don't know for sure, yet, is if there are avid viewers of pornography who never mistreat or abuse anyone... & who have good healthy sex lives & loving relationships. If such people exist, we don't have professional experts writing about that group yet.

A psychiatrist, Dr. Kimberly Young (1998; 2001), has done a 3 year study of Internet addiction, written 2 or more books & developed a Web site, Center for On-line Addiction. The Web site is mostly ads for her books & services but there's a test for Internet addiction there.

Her focus in her first book is on who gets hooked, why & how & what can be done about various kinds of addiction. She, like other investigators, believes that persons with psychiatric histories seek out newsgroups, forums, chat rooms, or interactive games hoping for relief, but the old emotional problems lead to Internet addiction.

Her more recent book is about cybersex & provides more specific steps to extricate oneself from porn & affairs. Another book (Gwinnell, 1999) focuses more specifically on the seductive falling-in-love experience of some Net addicts.

Both of the above authors & Dr. Orzack at the Internet Addiction Services recommend keeping careful records of your time online, setting time limits for the pornography or in chat groups, cutting back on email lists, rewarding keeping to the schedule & so on.

Success is reported in 6 to 8 therapy sessions, but some ex-addicts state that total abstinence from their online temptations were necessary for them; otherwise, like the ex-smoker, one brief experience hooks them again.

As one relapsing addict commented, “...I thought I had broken the compulsive habit, but once I returned to my favorite sites, I immediately experienced the same “buzz” and “high” that had lead me into difficulty...” Some people will just have to stay completely away from parts of the Internet.

I would caution you, however, that even some of the writers in this area, including Young (1998), seem to feel negative about online relationships, implying that trustworthy, intimate, devoted friends must be face to face (what about letter writers & phone callers?).
Dr. John Grohol writes about this bias in his (MHN Internet Addiction) review of Dr. Young’s book. To the contrary, one reason why people are attracted to the Internet is so they can get & give:

Sometimes it's easier to “open up,” perhaps anonymously, on the Internet than in person. It's true that one has to guard against getting excessively “hooked,” just as we need to keep under control:

  • watching TV
  • talking on the phone
  • listening to music
  • socializing instead of working/studying, etc.

Mentalhelp Net lists several web sites about this addiction in MHN Internet Addiction & Dr. Grohol does in Psych Central. For several more articles go to Self-Help and Psychology Magazine & type in “Internet addiction.” For many good Web sites go to Yahoo Internet Addiction Sites.

pornography... how are you hurting with it?

Is Pornography Addictive?
Psychologists debate whether people can have an addiction to pornography.

In November 2004, a panel of experts testified before a Senate subcommittee that a product which millions of Americans consume is dangerously addictive. They were talking about pornography.

The effects of porn on the brain were called "toxic" and compared to cocaine. One psychologist claimed "prolonged exposure to pornography stimulates a preference for depictions of group sex, sadomasochistic practices, and sexual contact with animals."

It used to be that if you wanted to see pornography, you had to go out and buy a magazine or rent a video. Store hours and available space under the mattress placed some limits on people's porn habits.

Now there are an estimated 420 million adult web pages online. "For the person who has difficulty stopping, more is only one click away," says sex therapist Louanne Cole Weston, PhD.

There's no doubt that some people's porn consumption gets them in trouble -- in the form of maxed-out credit cards, lost sleep, neglected responsibilities, or neglected loved ones. But Weston is one who takes issue with calling problem behavior involving porn an addiction. "'Compulsive' is more appropriate," she tells WebMD.

Compulsion or Addiction

The difference between describing the behavior as a compulsion or an addiction is subtle, but important.

Erick Janssen, PhD, a researcher at the Kinsey Institute, criticizes the use of the term addiction when talking about porn because he says it merely describes certain people's behavior as being addiction-like, but treating them as addicts may not help them.

Many people may diagnose themselves as porn addicts after reading popular books on the subject, he says. But mental health professionals have no standard criteria to diagnose porn addiction.

Mary Anne Layden, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, was one of the witnesses at the Senate hearing on pornography addiction. She says the same criteria used to diagnose problems like pathological gambling and substance abuse can be applied to problematic porn use.

"The therapists who treat pornography addicts say they behave just like any other addicts," she tells WebMD.

One of the key features of addiction, she says, is the development of a tolerance to the addictive substance. In the way that drug addicts need increasingly larger doses to get high, she thinks porn addicts need to see more and more extreme material to feel the same level of excitement they first experienced.

"Most of the addicts will say, well, here's the stuff I would never look at, it's so disgusting I would never look at it, whatever that is -- sex with kids, sex with animals, sex involving feces," she says. "At some point they often cross over."

Janssen disputes that people who look at porn typically progress in such a way. "There is absolutely no evidence to support that," he tells WebMD.

Porn in the USA: thanks to the nerds who created the Internet, you no longer need to visit the adult bookstore incognito to get your smut on. But is easily accessible porn a good thing?
Men's Fitness,  Nov, 2004  by Greg Melville

"BOB" 31, DIDN'T REALIZE he had a porn problem. Until it cost him his wife.

His fixation began with softcore magazines when he was a teenager & grew slowly. But it didn't become a full-blown addiction until he discovered Internet pornography, by which time he had already gotten married & had a young daughter. "I started isolating myself-because I wanted to spend time on the computer," he recalls. "My waking hours were ruled by it. Porn dominated my life:

Sometimes he'd pull exhausting all-nighters surfing the Web for raunchy material, leaving him bleary-eyed the next day & barely able to accomplish anything at his job as an Internet marketing specialist in California.

Soon Bob became distant from his spouse & communication started breaking down, putting a strain on his marriage. His wife told him he had a sexual addiction. But he paid no attention & she eventually left him.

Bob's case may be extreme, but it's not altogether uncommon. Today, nearly 75% of U.S. households have Internet access. Translation: 3/4 of American homes can download porn. Roughly 1/4 of all Web searches are porn-related & porn sites (of which 1,000 new ones are created daily) receive millions of hits each day. Porn itself has become a multibillion-dollar industry.

"Now you can get [porn] in the privacy, of your own home, without sanction;' says Julie Albright, Ph.D., a researcher on Internet sex & a sociologist at the University of Southern California. "Imagine a schoolteacher being seen walking into the town's triple-X bookstore-- the ultimate taboo. Now he doesn't have to."

This easy access is making sex addiction much more common, some psychologists say. They claim that adult entertainment can impact society negatively by hindering men's relationships with women & leading to obsessive, self-destructive behavior. A study published in Professional Psychology found that as many as 7.1% of men now say they spend up to 30 hours a week surfing for porn.

Porn-industry sources counter that the rapid growth of porn is merely the result of meeting demand. They also claim that pornography can serve as a healthy release & provide greater intimacy, between men & women.

Both are probably right - which is why the issue can be so confusing.


People have craved sexually explicit distractions practically since cave dwellers first took charcoal to a rock wall. In ancient Greek times, they turned to pornographos - "writing about prostitutes: These days, Webster's defines pornography as "sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal."

The current boom in adult entertainment can be traced to the late 1960s and early '70s, when porn was legalized in Denmark & stag movies motivated American men to buy home projectors & hang sheets in their basements. Breakthrough films such as Deep Throat (1972) & Debbie Does Dallas (1978) put X-rated awareness on the mainstream map - & drew the ire of the feminist movement, which argued that adult films objectified women.

During the '80s, the advent of video made producing adult movies cheaper and allowed people to watch them discreetly at home. And now, since the popularization of the Web in the mid-'90s, access has never been easier. Broadband Internet and on-demand video have practically made porn an upstanding member of pop culture. Today Jenna Jameson can share talk-show couch time with Jennifer Aniston.

Adam Glasser, a porn star/director known professionally as Seymore Butts, says the reason adult entertainment hit the mainstream is simple: Sex sells. Producers of the stuff are simply feeding demand. "Even on broadcast TV, people are trying to find creative ways to titillate the audience; he notes. "Now you can see Dennis Franz's ass or, on Joe Millionaire, captions like 'slurp, slurp:"

Glasser is regarded as a trailblazer in the "gonzo porn" genre - adult movies with almost zero plot (meaning millions of men no longer have to wear down their fast-forward button). He also stars in Family Business, the Showtime reality show that chronicles his life in the porn biz. "Sex wouldn't be so available if people didn't want it," he adds.


But it was just such easy availability that ultimately did Bob in. "The Internet was really the downfall for me," he says. "My senses dulled, & I stopped focusing on my day-to-day life. I gave up my interests, my friendships: With his marriage over, "All of a sudden, I woke up & saw my life in ruins."

"Weston, who runs, a Web discussion board for sex addicts that receives more than 1,000 visitors daily, says he, too, found the Internet irresistible. "I even downloaded porn at work," he recalls, "which is professional suicide. I was never fired, or even accused of using porn, but I wasn't as valuable to my company as I could have been."

His situation at home also deteriorated. "I felt like I was living a secret life; he says. "As a father, I was distant & demanding. The irony is I thought I was a great husband & father. I've learned that I was mistaken."

These experiences follow an almost textbook story line for sexual addiction. What begins with mild curiosity snowballs into such an obsession that addicts start isolating themselves, falling deeper into their dependency.

Sex addiction typically begins when the individual has specific sexual experiences that form his sexual-arousal template. "They create a life based around secrecy & shame" says Charlie Walker, Ph.D., vice president of operations at the CompassPoint Addiction Foundation, a research center which specializes in treating various addictions, in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"They don't need anyone else for gratification." Addicts also constantly try to up the ante each time they indulge. Sexual compulsivity is typically a disease that escalates over time. "It's like when someone starts off needing a beer a days adds Walker, "then works up to a whole case: They experience a continuing escalation in their behaviors, becoming desensitized to images that were once stimulating.

The sex addict requires increasingly more provocative pictures in the same way the alcoholic needs to increase his intake to get the same feeling.

Walker says porn becomes an addiction when someone begins ordering his life around it, often to the exclusion of everything else. He can't resist sexual impulses & easily loses track of time when surfing adult content. Porn can also hinder relationships, segregate addicts from friends, colleagues & especially significant others & create unrealistic sexual expectations of women.


This isn't to say that everyone who enjoys porn is destined to become an addict. "There are people who use pornography as part of their arousals says Walker, "but it doesn't become an organizing principle of their sexuality - just like there are people who can drink responsibly:

Glasser claims his movies can actually be sexual aids for couples. "People can learn not only about technique, but they learn about their bodies in general," he says. "I get letters from people all the time thanking me for helping open their eyes about their sexuality." He cites one such letter from a woman married 27 years, whose husband, after watching a Seymore Butts film, "finally found her G-spot?"

James, a 33-year-old from D.C., says he uses adult movies - on video & downloaded from the Internet - as foreplay; "On occasion, my wife & I like to watch porn to intensify our sexual experience;" he says. "It's a quick way to get aroused, or even get us back on track for round two."

Glasser argues that there's a problem when guys watch adult videos & don't tell their significant others - a sign of relationship issues that run deeper than an interest in porn.

"You've got to ask, Why does this guy feel like he's forced to watch it behind closed doors? That's a problem right there. Communicating about sex & sexuality is almost as important as having sex regularly with someone you love."

True, but the reality is that porn is mostly a guy thing. According to the Web resource Internet Filter Review, 72% of" all visitors to porn sites are male. And if a guy does communicate with his girlfriend or wife about porn & she wants no part of it, he may very well continue to watch in secret.


For guys whose obsessions become too difficult to manage, new sex-addiction treatment groups are more widely available. I. David Marcus, a psychotherapist in San Jose, Calif., says anyone who spends several hours a week pornicating should question whether he's becoming dependent.

Take away the temptation by installing SPA-M-blockers for your e-mail, he says & software that'll log you off the Web after an hour or two. If the problem spirals out of control, talk to a friend, seek help, or attend a group session like Sex Addicts Anonymous ( However you do it, get away from that computer & take back your life.

Bob finally reds like he has come to terms with his addiction. "I realized pornography wasn't my friend anymore," he says.

He sought counseling & joined a 12-step group for sex addicts. Now he has a new job & a "zero-tolerance policy" for himself regarding porn. "I'm just more focused on my goals in life," he says. "I have far more self-respect. I have the shame of the past, but I don't carry the shame & guilt of that lifestyle any longer."


Are you a porn addict? Find out: Close that issue of Happy Mammaries, get your right hand off the mouse, your left hand out of your pants & take this quiz (adapted from "The Sex Addiction Screening Test" by Patrick Carnes. Ph.D.).

This test isn't a substitute for a complete assessment from a professional therapist versed in treating sexually compulsive behaviors. For the original test. visit

Which of the following applies to you & porn?

1. I often can't resist my impulse to view it.

2. I often spend more money, or time, on it than planned.

3. Many times I've tried - without success - to reduce or step altogether my porn usage.

4. I spend excessive time looking for it, viewing sexual materials, or being engaged in sexual activities.

5. I'm constantly preoccupied with it.

6. Sometimes, instead of meeting family, work, or social obligations. I'm using it.

7. I continue using porn, even though I'm aware my habit is taking a personal, financial & maybe even physical toll on my life.

8. The more I use it, the more I need to up the thrill or risk level to get the same satisfaction.

9. I'm passing up potential work & social opportunities for porn's sake.

10. I become upset, stressed, or irritable when I'm unable to access it.


If you answered "yes" to 4 or more of these statements, consider seeking professional treatment from a therapist trained in treating sexually compulsive behaviors. For a national database of these therapists & a variety of other addiction resources, visit

Contributor Greg Melville teaches journalism at St. Michael's College in Burlington. Vt.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Weider Publications
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

Addiction to porn destroying lives, Senate told

Connie Cass, Associated Press Writer / Thursday, November 18, 2004

Comparing pornography to heroin, researchers on Thursday called on Congress to finance studies on "porn addiction" & launch a public health campaign about the dangers.

"We're so afraid to talk about sex in our society that we really give carte blanche to the people who are producing this kind of material," said James B. Weaver, a Virginia Tech professor who studies the impact of pornography.

Internet pornography is corrupting children & hooking adults into an addiction that threatens their jobs & families, a panel of anti-porn advocates told the hearing organized by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., chairman of the Commerce subcommittee on science.

Brownback, a father of 5, said when he was a boy, the typical kid's exposure was limited to occasional peeks at dirty magazines illicitly obtained by a buddy.

Now, he said, pornography seems pervasive. Children run across it while researching homework on the Internet. Vulgar ads arrive unexpectedly by e-mail. Some of his middle-age male friends limit their time alone in hotel rooms to avoid the temptation of graphic pay-per-view movies, Brownback said.

Mary Anne Layden, co-director of a sexual trauma program at the Univ. of Pennsylvania, said pornography's effect on the brain mirrors addiction to heroin or crack cocaine. She told of one patient, a business executive, who arrived at his office at 9 a.m. each day, logged onto Internet porn sites & didn't log off until 5 p.m.

Layden called for billboards & bus ads warning people to avoid pornography, strip clubs & prostitutes.

The panel discussion ranged from hardcore, violent pornography to audience complaints about a sexually suggestive promo that aired prior to this week's "Monday Night Football" game.

Brownback, an outspoken Christian conservative who has championed efforts to curb indecency on television & the Internet, said the public is beginning to realize "they don't just have to take it."

But he acknowledged the First Amendment right to free speech has limited congressional efforts.

In June, the Supreme Court blocked a law designed to shield Web-surfing children from pornography, ruling that requiring adults to register or use access codes before viewing objectionable material would infringe on their rights.

Brownback said scientific data is needed to help his cause.

Weaver acknowledged that research "directly assessing the impact of pornography addiction on families & communities is rather limited."

But he pointed to studies that show prolonged use of pornography leads to "sexual callousness, the erosion of family values & diminished sexual satisfaction."

Judith Reisman, a vocal critic of the Kinsey Institute & the field of sexology, suggested Congress require police officers to gather evidence of pornography at crime scenes to further research.

Pornography Is A Left Issue

by Gail Dines & Robert Jensen / December 06, 2005

Anti-pornography feminists get used to insults from the left. Over & over we're told that we're anti-sex, prudish, simplistic, politically na´ve, diversionary & narrow-minded. The cruder critics don't hesitate to suggest that the cure for these ailments lies in, how shall we say, a robust sexual experience.

In addition to the slurs, we constantly face a question:

Why do we "waste" our time on the pornography issue?

Since we're anti-capitalist & anti-empire leftists as well as feminists, shouldn't we focus on the many political, economic & ecological crises (war, poverty, global warming, etc.)? Why would we spend part of our intellectual & organizing energies over the past 2 decades pursuing the feminist critique of pornography & the sexual exploitation industry?

The answer is simple:

We're anti-pornography precisely because we're leftists as well as feminists.

As leftists, we reject the sexism & racism that saturates contemporary mass-marketed pornography.

  • As leftists, we reject the capitalist commodification of one of the most basic aspects of our humanity.
  • As leftists, we reject corporate domination of media & culture.

Anti-pornography feminists aren't asking the left to accept a new way of looking at the world but instead are arguing for consistency in analysis & application of principles.

It'as always seemed strange to us that so many on the left consistently refuse to engage in a sustained & thoughtful critique of pornography. All this is particularly unfortunate at a time when the left is flailing to find traction with the public; a critique of pornography, grounded in a radical feminist & left analysis that counters right-wing moralizing, could be part of an effective organizing strategy.

Left media analysis

Leftists examine mass media as one site where the dominant class attempts to create & impose definitions & explanations of the world. We know news isn't neutral, that entertainment programs are more than just fun & games. These are places where ideology is reinforced, where the point of view of the powerful is articulated. That process is always a struggle; attempts to define the world by dominant classes can be & are, resisted.

The term "hegemony" is typically used to describe that always-contested process, the way in which the dominant class attempts to secure control over the construction of meaning.

The feminist critique of pornography is consistent with & for many of us, grows out of - a widely accepted analysis on the left of ideology, hegemony & media, leading to the observation that pornography is to patriarchy what commercial television is to capitalism.

Yet when pornography is the topic, many on the left seem to forget Gramsci's theory of hegemony & accept the pornographer's self-serving argument that pornography is mere fantasy.

Apparently the commonplace left insight that mediated images can be tools for legitimizing inequality holds true for an analysis of CBS or CNN, but evaporates when the image is of a woman having a penis thrust into her throat with such force that she gags.

In that case, for unexplained reasons, we aren't supposed to take pornographic representations seriously or view them as carefully constructed products within a wider system of gender, race & class inequality.

The valuable work conducted by media critics on the politics of production apparently holds no weight for pornography.

Pornography is fantasy, of a sort. Just as television cop shows that assert the inherent nobility of police & prosecutors as protectors of the people are fantasy. Just as the Horatio Alger stories about hard work's rewards in capitalism are fantasy. Just as films that cast Arabs only as terrorists are fantasy.

All those media products are critiqued by leftists precisely because the fantasy world they create is a distortion of the actual world in which we live. Police & prosecutors do sometimes seek justice, but they also enforce the rule of the powerful.

Individuals in capitalism do sometimes prosper as a result of their hard work, but the system doesn't provide everyone who works hard with a decent living. Some tiny number of Arabs are terrorists, but that obscures both the terrorism of the powerful in white America & the humanity of the vast majority of Arabs.

Such fantasies also reflect how those in power want subordinated people to feel. Images of happy blacks on the plantations made whites feels more secure & self-righteous in their oppression of slaves.

Images of contented workers allay capitalists' fears of revolution. And men deal with their complex feelings about contemporary masculinity's toxic mix of sex & aggression by seeking images of women who enjoy pain & humiliation.

Why do so many on the left seem to assume that pornographers operate in a different universe than other capitalists?

Why would pornography be the only form of representation produced & distributed by corporations that wouldn't be a vehicle to legitimize inequality?

Why would the pornographers be the only media capitalists who are rebels seeking to subvert hegemonic systems?

Why do the pornographers get a free ride from so much of the left?

After years of facing the left's hostility in public & print, we believe the answer is obvious:

Sexual desire can constrain people's capacity for critical reason - especially in men in patriarchy, where sex isn't only about pleasure but about power.

Leftists - especially left men - need to get over the obsession with getting off.

Let's analyze pornography not as sex, but as media. Where would that lead?

Corporate media

Critiques of the power of commercial corporate media are ubiquitous on the left. Leftists with vastly different political projects can come together to decry conglomerates' control over news & entertainment programming. Because of the structure of the system, it's a given that these corporations create programming that meets the needs of advertisers & elites, not ordinary people.

Yet when discussing pornography, this analysis flies out the window. Listening to many on the left defend pornography, one would think the material is being made by struggling artists tirelessly working in lonely garrets to help us understand the mysteries of sexuality. Nothing could be further from the truth; the pornography industry is just that - an industry, dominated by the pornography production companies that create the material, with mainstream corporations profiting from its distribution.

It's easy to listen in on pornographers' conversations - they have a trade magazine, Adult Video News. The discussions there don't tend to focus on the transgressive potential of pornography or the polysemic nature of sexually explicit texts. It's about - what a surprise! - profits. The magazine's stories don't reflect a critical consciousness about much of anything, especially gender, race & sex.

Andrew Edmond - president & CEO of Flying Crocodile, a $20 million pornography internet company - put it bluntly:

"A lot of people get distracted from the business model by [the sex]. It's just as sophisticated & multilayered as any other market place. We operate just like any Fortune 500 company."

The production companies - from big players such as Larry Flynt Productions to small fly-by-night operators - act predictably as corporations in capitalism, seeking to maximize market-share & profit. They don't consider the needs of people or the effects of their products, any more than other capitalists. Romanticizing the pornographers makes as much sense as romanticizing the executives at Viacom or Disney.

Increasingly, mainstream media corporations profit as well. Hugh Hefner & Flynt had to fight to gain respectability within the halls of capitalism, but today many of the pornography profiteers are big corporations. Thru ownership of cable distribution companies & Internet services, the large companies that distribute pornography also distribute mainstream media. One example is News Corp. owned by Rupert Murdoch.

News Corp. is a major owner of DirecTV, which sells more pornographic films than Flynt. In 2000, the New York Times reported that nearly $200 million a year is spent by the 8.7 million subscribers to DirecTV. Among News Corp.'s other media holdings are the Fox broadcasting & cable TV networks, Twentieth Century Fox, the New York Post & TV Guide.

Welcome to synergy: Murdoch also owns HarperCollins, which published pornography star Jenna Jameson's best-selling book How To Make Love Like A Porn Star.

When Paul Thomas accepted his best-director award at the pornography industry's 2005 awards ceremony, he commented on the corporatization of the industry by joking: "I used to get paid in cash by Italians. Now I get paid with a check by a Jew." Ignoring the crude ethnic references (Thomas works primarily for Vivid, whose head is Jewish), his point was that what was once largely a mob-financed business is now just another corporate enterprise.

How do leftists feel about corporate enterprises? Do we want profit-hungry corporative executives constructing our culture?


It's long been understood on the left that one of the most insidious aspects of capitalism is the commodification of everything. There is nothing that can't be sold in the capitalist game of endless accumulation.

In pornography, the stakes are even higher; what is being commodified is crucial to our sense of self. Whatever a person's sexuality or views on sexuality, virtually everyone agrees it's an important aspect of our identity. In pornography & in the sex industry more generally, sexuality is one more product to be packaged & sold.

When these concerns are raised, pro-pornography leftists often rush to explain that the women in pornography have chosen that work. Although any discussion of choice must take into consideration the conditions under which one chooses, we don't dispute that women do choose & as feminists we respect that choice & try to understand it.

But, to the best of our knowledge, no one on the left defends capitalist media - or any other capitalist enterprise - by pointing out workers consented to do their jobs. The people who produce media content, or any other product, consent to work in such enterprises, under varying constraints & opportunities. So what?

The critique isn't of the workers, but of the owners & structure.

Look at the industry's biggest star, Jenna Jameson, who appears to control her business life. However in her book she reports that she was raped as a teenager & describes the ways in which men in her life pimped her. Her desperation for money also comes thru when she tried to get a job as a stripper but looked too young - she went into a bathroom & pulled off her braces with pliers. She also describes drug abuse & laments the many friends in the industry she lost to drugs.

And this is the woman said to have the most power in the pornography industry.

As we understand left analysis, the focus isn't on individual decisions about how to survive in a system that commodifies everything & takes from us meaningful opportunities to control our lives. It's about fighting a system.


As the most blatant & ugly forms of racism have disappeared from mainstream media, leftists have continued to point out that subtler forms of racism endure & that their constant reproduction thru media is a problem.

Race matters & media depictions of race matter.

Pornography is the one media genre in which overt racism is still acceptable. Not subtle, coded racism, but old-fashioned U.S. racism - stereotypical representations of the black male stud, the animalistic black woman, the hot Latina, the demure Asian geisha. Pornography vendors have a special category, "interracial," which allows consumers to pursue the various combinations of racialized characters & racist scenarios.

The racism of the industry is so pervasive that it goes largely unnoticed. In an interview with the producer of the DVD "Black Bros & Asian Ho's," one of us asked if he ever was criticized for the racism of such films. He said, "No, they are very popular." We repeated the question: Popular, yes, but do people ever criticize the racism? He looked incredulous; the question apparently had never entered his mind.

Yet take a tour of a pornography shop & it's clear that racial justice isn't central to the industry. Typical is the claim of "Black Attack Gang Bang" films:

"My mission is to find the cutest white honeys to get Gang Banged by some hard pipe hitting niggas straight outta compton!"

It would be interesting to see a pro-pornography leftist argue to a non-white audience that such films are unrelated to the politics of race & white supremacy.

Up-market producers such as Vivid use mainly white women; the official face of pornography is overwhelmingly white. However, alongside this genre there exists more aggressive material in which women of color appear more frequently. As one black woman in the industry told us, "This is a racist business," from how she is treated by producers to pay differentials to the day-to-day conversations she overhears on the set.


Contemporary mass-marketed heterosexual pornography - the bulk of the market for sexually explicit material - is one site where a particular meaning of sex & gender is created & circulated. Pornography's central ideological message isn't hard to discern: Women exist for the sexual pleasure of men, in whatever form men want that pleasure, no matter what the consequences for women. It's not just that women exist for sex, but that they exist for the sex that men want.

Despite na´ve (or disingenuous) claims about pornography as a vehicle for women's sexual liberation, the bulk of mass-marketed pornography is incredibly sexist. From the ugly language used to describe women, to the positions of subordination, to the actual sexual practices themselves - pornography is relentlessly misogynistic. As the industry "matures" the most popular genre of films, called "gonzo," continues to push the limits of degradation of & cruelty toward, women. Directors acknowledge they aren't sure where to take it from the current level.

This misogyny isn't an idiosyncratic feature of a few fringe films. Based on 3 studies of the content of mainstream video/DVD pornography over the past decade, we conclude that woman-hating is central to contemporary pornography.

Take away every video in which a woman is called a bitch, a cunt, a slut, or a whore & the shelves would be nearly bare. Take away every DVD in which a woman becomes the target of a man's contempt & there wouldn't be much left. Mass-marketed pornography doesn't celebrate women & their sexuality, but instead expresses contempt for women & celebrates the charge of expressing that contempt sexually.

Leftists typically reject crude biological explanations for inequality. But the story of gender in pornography is the story of biological determinism. A major theme in pornography is that women are different from men & enjoy pain, humiliation, degradation; they don't deserve the same humanity as men because they're a different kind of creature.

In pornography, it's not just that women want to get *&%@_( in degrading fashion, but that they need it. Pornography ultimately tells stories about where women belong - underneath men.

Most leftists critique patriarchy & resist the system of male dominance. Gender is one of those arenas of struggle against domination & hence an arena of ideological struggle. Put an understanding of media together with feminist arguments for sexual equality & you get the anti-pornography argument.

The need for a consistent analysis of power

Leftists who otherwise pride themselves on analyzing systems & structures of power, can turn into extreme libertarian individualists on the subject of pornography. The sophisticated, critical thinking that underlies the best of left politics can give way to simplistic, politically na´ve & diversionary analysis that leaves far too many leftists playing cheerleader for an exploitive industry.

In those analyses, we aren't supposed to examine the culture's ideology & how it shapes people's perceptions of their choices & we must ignore the conditions under which people live; it's all about an individual's choice.

A critique of pornography doesn't imply that freedom rooted in an individual's ability to choose isn't important, but argues instead that these issues can't be reduced to that single moment of choice of an individual. Instead, we have to ask: What is meaningful freedom within a capitalist system that is racist & sexist?

Leftists have always challenged the contention of the powerful that freedom comes in accepting one's place in a hierarchy. Feminists have highlighted that one of the systems of power that constrains us is gender.

We contend that leftists who take feminism seriously must come to see that pornography, along with other forms of sexualized exploitation - primarily of women, girls & boys, by men - in capitalism is inconsistent with a world in which ordinary people can take control of their own destinies.

That is the promise of the left, of feminism, of critical race theory, of radical humanism - of every liberatory movement in modern history.

Gail Dines is a professor of American Studies at Wheelock College in Boston. She can be reached at Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the Univ. of Texas at Austin. He can be reached at They're co-authors with Ann Russo of Pornography: The Production & Consumption of Inequality. Both also are members of the interim organizing committee of the National Feminist Antipornography Movement. For more info, contact or go to

Are you Addicted to Bad Relationships? - by Alina Ruigrok

Do you often find that you involve yourself in relationships that disappoint you?

Are you not getting what you need & desire from the people you choose to date?

Does there always seem to be something missing? If you answered yes to one or all of those questions, you could very well be addicted to disappointing & bad relationships, setting yourself up for failure without even knowing it.

There are ways you can determine whether you're addicted or not & ways you can break the addiction & start getting what you have always wanted from a relationship.

Before we cover the symptoms of addiction, it is important that we cover the dangers of staying in a bad relationship. Since bad relationships lack what one or both partners’ need, stress becomes a regular part of your life, as well a gradual lowering of your self-esteem, which will make you unable to focus on your career and personal life with the concentration and care needed, in order for you to be happy. The constant stress will produce chemical changes in your body that drain your energy and make you more eligible for physical illnesses. Physical abuse in a relationship is obvious to cause a lot of physical harm, along with great psychological damage, but in spite of these facts, many people still choose to proceed with such relationships, finding themselves trapped and incapable of leaving. They find themselves depressed, on a search for some relief and unfortunately becoming depressed and possibly turning to drugs and alcohol.

So what are the symptoms of this addiction? Ignoring the truth would be one. If you truly know that the relationship you are in is making you unhappy but make no effort to exit from it, then you are in denial and are holding yourself hostage in a situation you do not have to be in. Making excuses for your partner’s disappointing and bad behavior will keep you trapped and is another huge symptom of bad relationship addiction, especially if the excuses you produce do not back up the facts and are unrealistic. If you do finally build up the courage to confront your partner to leave him or her but are overcome with fear and therefore back off from the confrontation, you are a high and sure victim of addiction because no matter what you attempt, you find yourself always giving in and holding on to what you know is bad for you. Suffering from both physical and mental discomfort once broken up, unless you get back together, is yet another symptom of addiction and should not be denied or ignored.

What causes addiction to bad relationships? There are several levels & everyone’s addiction is different & varies. One common reason is the feeling & belief that if you end the relationship, you'll never find anyone else who could possibly be interested in you or love you.

You grow so attached to your partner that you forgot your life before him or her, making you feel fearful of being on your own and taking care of yourself. Fear of criticism is another reason many people remain in bad relationships. They are afraid of what people will say, believing that ending a relationship means that they are a failure and being alone is unacceptable and terrifying. Other reasons may be financial support that you are receiving from a partner, making you feel that you should tolerate bad behavior from your lover, since they are supporting you. Having a child together can also blind you or cause you to deny a bad relationship, making you feel guilty for leaving your child’s mother or father. On a deeper level, you could be addicted to disappointing and bad relationships due to your upbringing or experiences as a child yourself. Perhaps you were not nurtured or loved enough and you now think it is normal to be neglected from love, care and understanding.

What should you do and how can you break a bad relationship addiction? Since this addiction is difficult and basically impossible for you to end on your own, counseling would be the best assistance for you. Find a counselor or service in which experts provide their services through, and take that first step in accepting the fact that you have an addiction and that you need and want help to conquer it. Start being a best friend to yourself and open the door to all the feelings you have kept locked up for so long. Stay focused and encourage yourself frequently by setting a goal, and picturing yourself away from all the disappointment and closer to all the happiness and good health you need, desire and deserve as a person. Never give up and know that you are not alone. There are people who can help you, know how to help and will help you. Mainly, keep in mind that there will always be a person who will be by your side and never leave you, always giving you the strength, love and support you need…and that person is YOU.


Sex Addiction

People who become involved in excessive sexual activity or who have a constant preoccupation w/sex may have a sex addiction. Addicted individuals make getting sex or sexual stimulation the center of their lives, at the cost of relationships, career or health.


As w/any addiction, sex addiction becomes a problem when it interferes with important areas of life. Sex addicts may be in total denial that they have a problem, even if addiction is ruining their lives.

Risk Factors
Sex addicts usually lead lives filled w/shame & secrecy. The shame comes from inability to control a harmful behavior. The secrecy is necessary to hide the behavior in the interest of staying out of trouble.

Warning Signs

A person who has a sex addiction may:


Engage in sexual activities that involve taking risks the person wouldn't consider under other circumstances


Conceal sexual behavior from family & close friends


Increase the frequency of sexual activities to more intense levels in order to achieve previous levels of excitement & relief

Sexual addiction: is very hard to define. There's a thin line between the normal & the abnormal. For example, thinking about sex a lot, say many times every day, isn't ordinarily considered an addiction (maybe an obsession) but spending several hours a week looking at pictures of nudes may well be an addiction. Is the average young male who masturbates 3 or 4 times a week addicted?


Probably not; if he had an alternative, the masturbation would stop. If a loving couple have good sex twice a day, morning & night, is that an addiction? Probably not, but if that's their only way of being reassured that they're sexy &/or loved & then one decides he/she doesn't want it so often but the other can't stop, then he or she is addicted.


If someone masturbates twice a day, is that an addiction? Maybe not, but if that's their only way of imagining or gaining intimacy with another human being, then they might be considered addicted.


Addiction isn't just a matter of frequency or amount. My 300 pound football-playing grandson eats a lot but is he addicted to food? No. Addiction, in addition to frequency or amount, is an inability to stop a behavior even though it's doing harm - physical risk or harm to your body, legal difficulties, or emotional harm to the addict, to others, or to his/her relationships with others. The behavior is so needed the addict can't quit.

Carnes (1983, 1992), a major writer in this area, classifies different levels of sexual addiction. His level 1 includes:

  • excessive masturbation
  • repeated affairs destroying loving relationships
  • unusual demands for intercourse
  • nymphomania
  • promiscuity
  • obsession with pornography
  • frequent use of prostitutes
  • strong homosexual interests, etc.

His level 2 might involve:

  • exhibitionism
  • voyeurism
  • stalking to seek a relationship
  • indecent phone calls, etc.

His level 3 is:

These levels make it clear that a wide variety of behaviors are considered sexual addictions. The harm done to others is obvious. After getting caught, the addict's self-respect plummets, 75% have thought of suicide. Surely there are a myriad of causes behind these diverse behaviors.

The books by Carnes provide numerous descriptions of sex addiction cases & some discussion of the common background shared by many addicts. For instance, he found that 81% of sex addicts were themselves abused in some way.

Many come from unemotional, morally rigid & authoritarian families. 83% have additional addictions - alcohol, food, gambling, antisocial behavior - & in general, poor mental health & limited impulse control.

He reports that many addicts have unusually negative self-concepts (& so do many of their mates): "I am bad," "No one could love me" & so on. Unfortunately, Carnes's recommendations about addiction treatment reflect primarily the usual medical / psychiatric endorsement of 12-Step programs.

Unquestionably, being in a good 12-Step group is a good aid to self-control. But many addicts won't go & won't stay in groups. They also need:

Carnes does provide a Sex Addiction Screening Test, a Betrayal Bond test & a book for escaping the bonds that sometimes bind a significant other tightly to an addict or to an abuser / betrayer.

Carnes also edits Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, which has articles about sexual offenders, women addicts, adolescent addicts, recovery for couples, etc. So, he is a major contributor to this area.

Patricia Fargason, board member of the National Council on Sexual Addiction & Compulsion, says sexual addicts often come from oversexualized homes where the adult's sexual interests intrude to include the children in subtle ways.

Or, sometimes, the addict-to-be learns to soothe his/her childhood anxiety, fears, sexual urges & anger by masturbating & fantasizing; thus, creating a very strong habit. Some psychoanalytic psychiatrists, like Goodman (1998), explore the psychodynamic (& the cognitive-behavioral) aspects of treatment while trying to integrate the currently popular biochemical thinking as well.

There is, of course, some reason to believe that sexual activity is influenced by innate sexual drives but much stronger evidence that our daily thoughts influence our sexual drives.

The sexual development area is one in which we know very little; for instance, we know very little about the development of ordinary sexual attractions to breasts or behinds or penises or hairy bodies or pornography or promiscuous sex, etc., etc. The attraction to pornography is mentioned in the section above about Internet Addiction.

As Stanton Peele points out, an obsessive over-emphasis on sex can be seen in many teens, during early dating, when "feeling our oats" after a divorce, when a "hunk" or a "hot number" comes into our mundane lives (like Monica into Bill's) & so on.

These aren't purely biological addictions or some sudden gush of neurotransmitters; they're mental / psychological / emotional / physiological events in ordinary lives, not all lives but some. We get over these sexual obsessions in time & in natural ways.

Our culture even idolizes some romantic / sexual obsessions; they too can be nearly impossible to stop. These normal sexual over-reactions must not blind us to the enormous hurt involved in & caused by out-of-control sexual addictions mentioned above in Carnes's levels.

It's estimated that about 6% of the American population has a problem of some kind with compulsive sex. The fastest growing group is young professionals. Treatment programs are developing, costing $800 to $1000 per day!

There are also 12-Step programs available in most major metropolitan areas. Besides Carnes & Goodman, Weiss (1996) is another major player & has a Website, Sex Addiction Recovery Resources which advertises several of his books, including Women Who Love Sex Addicts & 101 Practical Exercises for Sexual Addiction Recovery.

The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity also provides articles, including an article on the "Consequences of Sex Addiction & Compulsivity" & referrals to treatment (phone 770-989-9754 or email ncsac@telesyscom/com).

Other outstanding authors are Kasl (1990), who writes about women coping with a sexual addiction & Anderson & Struckman-Johnson, who describe the life & motives of sexually aggressive (not necessarily addicted) women.

There are several Web sites focusing on sexual addictions:

provides a sex addiction test, some literature & a listing of local 12-Step meetings.

Similar sites exist for Sexaholics Anonymous & Sexual Compulsive Anonymous, the latter provides some self-control suggestions (relapse prevention). A couple of other sites include sex addictions &/or 12-Step programs - PsychCentral, Sobriety and Recovery Resources and Recovery Zone. Still another site deals primarily with blocking access to Online Sexual Addictions.

There are, of course, several books for therapists treating sexual addicts & their partners (see Goodman above for a scholarly overview). There seems to be a special interest in sexual addiction by religion oriented writers (& 12-Step groups) but I haven't cited most of those books.

There are also books & numerous articles about President Clinton & his possible sexual addiction. I'm not citing them either because relatively little is actually known, in spite of our obsession for months, about the president's sexual thoughts & life.

In the main, these speculative writings seem to be for an easy publication &/or financial profit, not sound unbiased research nor a quest for knowledge in this scientifically neglected area. In terms of the application of science-based knowledge, there's a belief among professionals that compulsive sex, shopping, gambling & Internet use are related to each other & to drug & alcohol addiction, but that the addictions are different from the anxiety-based obsessive-compulsive disorders dealt with in chapter 5.

The treatment is different but perhaps it doesn't need to be.

In case you're thinking that being a sex addict sounds like an exciting idea, you should become familiar with an addict's life - his or her internal & external worlds.

The consequences of sex addiction may include:

Of course, sex addicts embarrass their relatives & friends, get & pass on sexually transmitted diseases, have financial & legal troubles & they hurt almost everyone they have sex with, in some cases very seriously disrupting lives. It's usually an inconsiderate, morally corrupt life.

What can an addict do? Get therapy! Get into a support group! Sexual reactions that are inappropriate & dangerous, such as:

  • attractions to children
  • stalking or assault
  • exhibitionism
  • voyeurism
  • sexual violence, etc.

need immediate professional treatment.

Abnormal sexual attractions, for instance, have been extinguished by pairing pictures of children with electric shock & by using covert sensitization (Rachman & Teasdale, 1970; Barlow, 1974). Is there any self-help available? No well evaluated methods that I know about. Yet, there are some possibilities:

(1) Work to avoid temptations. We all know the situations we get into, the way we act & the feelings we have when we attempt to contact & attract someone. Moreover, we know the conditions that trigger our seductive behavior, the lines we use & the thoughts & intentions we have.

As discussed in chapter 10 about avoiding affairs, we can identify the initial steps taken towards unwanted temptations. Perhaps discussing the urges with our significant other &/or getting marital counseling would improve the primary relationship &/or improve one's self-control. Joining a self-help group is important.

(2) Self-punish or de-condition the sexual urges. Covert sensitization was mentioned above & you might reduce your urges by pairing the experiencing of the sexual urge or an image of the typical sexual target with very noxious thoughts (having very shaming self-critical thoughts or fantasies of getting caught & divorced or arrested or severely punished).

The Methods #18 & #19 in chapter 11 provide some guidelines for this self-punishment procedure. Essentially, this is the opposite of desensitization which reduces your fear of a situation, i.e. you want to increase your fear & avoidance of a situation.

By pairing the unwanted-but-tempting behavior (or imagined behavior) with an unpleasant or self-critical thought or with pain, the tendency to think about or to approach a tempting stimulus should decline.

(3) Modify one's attitudes towards the opposite sex. See the section on Turn ons for Men & Women in chapter 10 (or just look up Centerfold Syndrome in this book's search engine).

Many of the sexual addictions involve a dehumanization of the target person or group. The addict sees the attractive woman as a physical object made up of sexual parts, referred to as the Centerfold Syndrome.

But, in spite of fashions, our sex-ladden culture & the entertainment industry, men can learn to control their disrespectful lustful responses simply by recognizing them as demeaning & offensive. If you can't restrain yourself from "making a pass" at every attractive person in your environment, you need therapeutic help.

it's in the news....

Addicted to Love


"Love is all you need." For the person addicted to love, this becomes more than a popular lyric. It becomes literal truth. What is love addiction & why are some men & women addicted to love? How can the problem be identified & how can those addicted be helped?


A Psychological Addiction

Love addiction is a psychological addiction, a result of unfulfilled childhood needs. Children whose needs remain unrecognized may adjust by learning to limit their expectations. This limitation process may take the form of harmful ideas such as:

Such ideas don't satisfy childhood needs, leaving them still to be met later in life. As adults, addictive lovers remain dependent upon others to care for them, protect them & solve their problems.

Love addicts are characteristically familiar w/desperate hopes & seemingly unending fears. Fearing rejection, fearing pain, fearing unfamiliar experiences & having no faith in their ability or even their right to inspire love, they wait, wish & hope for love, perhaps their least familiar experience.

Characteristics of Addictive Love

For addicts, love:

Effects of Love Addiction

Addictive love is obsessed w/finding the world in one lover. Their own growth & development having been thwarted earlier in life, addicted lovers attach themselves to their lover’s identity.


Often, this dependency results in their drawing unearned pride from their lover’s accomplishments. Sometimes it leads to their demanding, for themselves, undeserved recognition for their lover’s achievements.

Fearful of change, addictive lovers will stifle development of their own self, finding the ultimate security in believing they can become indistinguishable from their mate. Sometimes the fear of change is so great all individual development of abilities, interests & desires is suppressed. Stagnation is a common characteristic of addictive love relationships.

The desperate need for security leads to emotional scheming. Addictive lovers are inclined to think that doing things for their mate will secure their love. The resulting opportunities for disappointment & resentment are sufficient to make such scheming futile.

But addictive lovers are obsessed w/impossible needs & unrealistic expectations. Love demands honesty & self-integrity. And it is a dynamic relationship, itself cultivating growth & change in lovers. The dependent, frightened attachments of love addicts are destructive to love.

Freedom from Love Addiction

If you discover you are in an addictive relationship, you may want to seek professional assistance. Specialized counseling is available for those dealing directly or indirectly w/this form of addiction.

addicted to food

Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders are severe emotional disorders of self-esteem that are focused on food. For persons with an eating disorder, food becomes an obsession. Although compulsive overeating is a form of eating disorder, the most common forms are anorexia & bulimia. Eating Disorders can be fatal when malnutrition becomes severe.

Risk Factors for Anorexia
Persons with anorexia often
have a terrible fear of being overweight. They fear that they're too fat & place themselves on extreme diets that lead to severe & dangerous weight loss. Convincing anorexics that they're actually dangerously thin or malnourished is difficult or impossible.

Risk Factors for Anorexia
Anorexics in particular seem to be particularly sensitive to being perceived as too fat. They may also fear losing control of their eating habits & may have a strong desire to control or contain powerful emotions. Anorexics may compulsively exercise, count calories, starve or severely restrict food, self-induce vomiting & irresponsibly use diet pills, laxatives or diuretics.

Some personality characteristics, behaviors & physical attributes are also warning signs of anorexia.

Personality Characteristics


Low self-esteem











Eats alone


Fights with family


Becomes isolated from friends & family

Physical Attributes




Increased body & facial hair


Weight loss


Cessation of menstrual cycle


Joint pain


Emaciated appearance (in later stages)

Warning Signs of Bulimia
Bulimics tend to eat large amounts of food at one time (
usually sweets) & then they induce vomiting or take laxatives to get rid of the food. This pattern is called "binging & purging."

Personality Characteristics


Low self-esteem




Depressed or anxious







Eats alone


Self-induces vomiting


Experiments w/laxatives or diuretics


Becomes isolated from friends & family




Steals food or money


Abuses drugs


Has suicidal behavior

Physical Attributes


Normal body weight


Stomach problems


Tooth damage


Abnormal potassium & electrolyte levels


Chronic sore throat


Heartbeat arrhythmia

Bulimia & anorexia may overlap in some persons, so it's possible to have both eating disorders at the same time.

Eating disorders or just overeating: see examples of 20 Methods for Controlling Behavior (mostly for overeating).


It's estimated that 55% to 70% of us Americans are overweight, about 25%-35% of us are just plain obese (20% or more over-weight), while another 12% are classified severely overweight.


An estimated 44% of us go on a diet sometime during each year, explaining the enormous amount spent on diet books. Fat, especially in our upper body, endangers our health.


In women, the risk of heart disease increases w/the addition of only 10 - 12 lbs. above your ideal weight or your weight at 18. The obese have 3 to 5 times the risk of heart disease, 4 to 5 times the risk of diabetes, more back trouble & in general, a lower quality of life for a shorter while.


Note: being obese or even just a little over-weight is regarded negatively in our culture (Moyer calls it "demonized"). Remember, being over-weight may have physiological causes & over-eating often becomes a powerful habit that is almost impossible to conquer. Large people deserve our sympathy, not our disdain & rejection.

Just a brief note about the prejudice against fat people: It's one of our culture's more unfair discriminations.

About 16% of American parents-to-be would abort an untreatably fat child if it could be predicted, that's about the same as a retarded child. Fat people scare many children by age 3 or 4 because they look different.

In grade school, children often describe their over-weight peers as dirty, lazy, ugly, stupid, sloppy, etc. Teenagers sometimes cruelly tease & insult them, often avoiding them.

One study showed that college students would rather marry an embezzler, a drug user, a shoplifter, or a blind person than a obese person.

The very over-weight are often denied jobs & health insurance; they earn 24% less than others; they frequently have few friends. Obesity (& the way other people react to them) often leads to low self-esteem & deep depression. (Most of this information comes from Carey Goldberg's New York Times article on 11/5/00.) As a culture, we need to find ways to control our weight & ways to curb our prejudice.

There's clear evidence that obesity is correlated w/many more medical problems & expenses than smoking or drinking, but this relationship may not be causal or as simple as it seems. Dr. Glen Gaesser (2002) reports that today's popular health literature implies that being over-weight is responsible for 300,000 deaths a year.

He believes fat may not be the main villain because several other unhealthy characteristics are often associated w/being over-weight, such as:

  • poor diet
  • lack of exercise
  • poor fitness
  • bad dieting habits
  • inadequate health care & so on

Providing some confirmation of this notion, Dallas's Cooper Institute has found that the high mortality rates among the obese was explained by activity levels, not weight.

Those researchers suggest that a brisk 1/2 hour walk every day will result in the same mortality rates as thin people have. Books for weight-control may be over-emphasized while books about exercise are under-emphasized. See exercise.

Ordinary, simple overeating is very common but there are several types of quite serious eating disorders. Overeating can develop into frequent recurrent overeating episodes called Binge Eating Disorder.

There's a chance that bingeing &/or very strict dieting can develop into Bulimia or Anorexia. Bulimia involves impulsive binge eating followed by harmful self-induced vomiting, laxative or diuretics use & compulsive exercise.

Anorexia involves seeing one's self as fat when in reality you're very thin; this is a dangerous disorder because anorexics may refuse to eat, eventually starving themselves to death (1 in 10 die from a related cause).

About 10 million American women have an eating disorder, although it's adolescent & young women who account for 90% of the disorders - 50,000 will die as a result.

About 15% of teenage girls have some kind of eating disorder but only 1/3 seek help (some are embarrassed, others don't realize they have a serious problem). Bulimics often remain normal in weight, so no one else knows, but between 1% & 3% of young women suffer this disorder. Men are as over-weight as women but they don't have anorexia & bulimia nearly as often.

Although often left untreated, eating disorders can devastate the body & the mind (depression, anxiety, addictions). I won't give details, but believe me, this is a serious matter. Eating disorders &/or being obese (say, 50+ pounds overweight) should usually be treated by professionals - these are deeply ingrained addictions & often not responsive to self-help.

Ideally a team is needed: psychologist, physician & nutritionist. Ordinary overeating or moderate overweight may be a self-help problem. But when your weight creates a physical problem or a serious psychological problem or if your self-help efforts just aren't working any more, get professional help.

Some sources of information & professional treatment for eating disorders are given below, but the self-help methods & references mentioned here are for toning up & shedding up to 20-30 lbs. over many weeks or months.

Losing weight requires either taking in less or burning off more. The research strongly suggests that both a restricted diet (fewer calories, less fat, more fruit & vegetables, less snacking, avoiding rich foods) & an exercise program (burning 1000+ calories per week) are necessary for most overweight people.

Indeed, some studies have indicated that for some people weight loss may only come w/ vigorous (90% of maximum) exercise for months, not light exercise.

Hard exercise seldom makes you feel tired, to the contrary, exercise usually gives you energy (although you may go to sleep earlier). There are people, however, who find hard exercise so unpleasant that they'd stop trying to lose weight if they had to exercise. So, adjust to your needs.

Feeling tired is often actually caused by the lack of exercise, called "sedentary inertia." So, a demanding exercise program is for some a must, for others moderate exercise & a restricted diet will work. Several Web sites discuss exercise: APA Help Center & CNET: Downloads contain 50 or more software programs to aid weight loss via exercise. Many search engines will generate a few thousand weight loss & exercise sites.

It has been demonstrated that many women are in a bad mood (more depression, insecurity & anger) after viewing pictures of fashion models. Some therapists think the combination of envying thin models & a negative self-critical mood prompts women to binge & then purge.

Note: eating disorders increased 5 fold in teenaged girls soon after TV came to Fiji. There can be no doubt that Americans are unhappy w/how they look, about 65% of women are dissatisfied w/ their weight. How dissatisfied?

Psychology Today (Jan, 1997) did a survey that showed that 24% of women & 17% of men would sacrifice 3 years of their life to be their desired weight. It becomes an unhealthy cycle: body loathing causes emotional distress which increases the disgust w/the body.

Psychology Today's suggestions for accepting & feeling better about your body are: Stop looking at fashion magazines or ads anywhere. Realize your self-concept must be much broader than looks; weight isn't what makes you a good or bad person.

Appreciate all the uses, abilities & uniqueness of your body just as it is. Do things that make you feel good about your body - exercise, dress well, have good sex, etc. Change or get out of negative relationships.

Develop positive self-talk about your looks to replace the criticism. Learn people skills, especially empathy, "I" statements & assertiveness (ch. 13), so you're more caring & likeable (counterbalancing the prejudices people have against over-weight people).

Clearly one of the questions facing every overweight person is this: Is the problem my habitual overeating or some underlying emotions that drive me to eat? The answer isn't easy. Being over-weight may upset us & emotions may cause over-eating.

i.e., over-weight 9 & 10-year-olds don't suffer low-esteem but by 13 or 14 they do! On the other hand, people dieting, who have a history of depression, are at risk of becoming depressed again (the same is true of people stopping smoking).

So, the answer is "well, for some people it's just family customs or habits of loving beer & pizza" & for other people the answer is worry about body image, depression, marital stress, conflicts at work, workaholism, or hundreds of other possibilities. You may need to figure it out in your case.

Capaldi (1996) tries to help us understand how eating patterns are based on life experiences & how to change those patterns. Thompson (1996) explains more about the connections between body image & eating.

A good book to help you start exploring the emotional possibilities underlying eating is Abramson (1998). To consider the more psychoanalytic reasons for overeating, such as an unconscious desire to be fat or a fear of being thin & sexy, read Levine (1997).

There's probably no way to determine w/any certainty the role of motions in driving your food/drink intake except by

(a) keeping a diary of the events in your life, your emotional reactions & your food intake

(b) openmindedly reading therapy cases & asking yourself "Could this be true of me?" 

(c) getting therapy

Keep in mind that although a lot of research is being done & much is thought to be known, we're still pretty ignornant about all 3 - weight, emotions & changing our bodies. Many studies are small, say w/20 subjects or so & result in conflicting "findings," other studies are suspect because they were supported by companies selling a product or people pushing a diet & some pronouncements just aren't true.

i.e., a recent study (Anderson, 1999) reported that very over-weight dieters who went on a very low calorie diet (500-800 calories per day) & lost weight quickly had kept more pounds off 7 years later compared to slow losers.

That's in conflict w/the standard expert recommendations, like Weight Watchers, of a slow loss of weight by learning new eating habits. Likewise, it's popular to pronounce that losing weight (e.g. 5% or 10% of your weight) doesn't prolong life but exercising does.

Yet, there are new findings (Scientific American Frontiers, Public Television, Jan 25, 1999) suggesting that a very low calorie but nutritious diet improves health & prolongs life by a very significant amount, at least in mice. Let's not get too certain of what we "know." One thing everyone agrees on however: consult w/a doctor if you're considering an extreme diet (which may cause gallstones & perhaps other problems).

Important health concerns & our excessive obsession w/thinness result in the brisk sale of diet, cook & weight loss books. The hundreds of new diet books every year mainly repeat each other.

And nutritional theory changes like fashions from a high carbohydrate diet to high protein diet to low fat, back to a Mediterranean diet (w/olive oil) & we will go to something new next year.

Pritikin (1998) says there are 3 ways to lose weight:

(1) a restricted diet (but many are always hungry)

(2) high protein, low carbohydrate diet (not healthy & still hungry)

(3) low fat, high fiber diet (his diet=veggies, fruit, grain, low-fat animal foods)

In any case, the food intake has to be well controlled to lose weight, so it's important to be nutritionally well informed. See Wills (1999), The Food Bible & Food and Drug Administration, NIDDK Health Information, or Dietary Guidelines.

Another critical skill is behavioral self-control as spelled out in the Methods for Controlling Behavior section of this chapter. Several books, some fairly old, also spell out techniques for controlling eating over the long haul.

Keeping in mind that calming the emotions that trigger eating-for-comfort & using diet/exercise methods that you can enjoy for a long lifetime are important, try some of these books:

Kirschenbaum, 1994; Virtue, 1989; Mahoney & Mahoney, 1976; Fanning, 1990; Jeffery & Katz, 1977; Stuart,1978; & a diet program by Marston & Marston, 1982.

Now mushrooming weight loss Web sites have joined books. Here are some of the better ones: American Dietetic Assoc.,, S-H & PSY, Cyberguide to Stop Overeating, Healthtouch--Weight-Control & Dieting, National Eating Disorders, Overeaters Recovery, Growth Central ,which offers individual & group programs & Obesity & Weight Control which is mostly about drugs for losing weight. Like the weight loss books, the Web sites are very redundant. Two or three should be enough.

Local diet & exercise centers are also available almost everywhere. Remember before investing money that most diet programs produce weight loss but 95% fail eventually, usually within 1 to 5 years.

However, the better your general coping skills, as described in the Methods section of this book or in the books cited above, the more likely you will take it off. And if you focus on relapse prevention & maintenance, you can keep the weight off.

It's probably fair to say that the people who maintain their weight loss also exercise for life, have social support, understand behavioral self-control methods & confront their personal-emotional-interpersonal problems directly.

The strength & tenacity of bad eating habits is shown by Perri's (1998) review of the effectiveness of weight loss programs w/obese patients. Most programs take off some weight & some programs continue the maintenance of weight loss by extending the treatment & using phone calls as follow up.

But, as Perri says, maintenance effectiveness tends to dissolve after termination. That means that you have to pay as much attention to relapse prevention as to weight loss. See Relapse Prevention in chapter 11 to control your impulse eating & re-start the weight loss plan as soon as you regain two pounds!

Opinions differ about dieting. The professionals who work with anorexics & bulimics caution against diets because severe dieting is seen so often in their clients' history (they favor exercise rather than diets).

To prove their point a recent study found that the 8%-10% of teenage girls who dieted severely were 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than girls who had not dieted. (It shouldn't surprise anyone that diets are the first step but the study underscores that severe dieting may serve as a warning sign.)

Another group of professionals simply say all diets are bad because they don't work in the long run. On the other hand, professionals dealing w/very overweight clients consider diets to be a main solution to serious health problems.

The facts are: obesity is certainly a health risk; weight loss is usually beneficial but can increase certain risks, e.g. yo-yo dieting year after year is associated w/certain chronic diseases; diets do work (maintenance often fails); learning how to maintain weight loss is badly needed (Brownell & Rodin, 1994).

Many diet centers & hospitals offer classes for extremely overweight people which provide detailed knowledge about how the body uses food, the role of fiber & fat, how to prepare better meals & how much exercise is needed.

Many (indeed, most) people don't know these things about nutrition, but once they know exactly how their diet & exercise program needs to be changed, they'll often do it. I urge you to get that knowledge. Two of the better current books about fat & nutrition are by Bailey (1991, 1999) & Ornish (1993).

Bailey also has 4 PBS videos (1-800-645-4PBS). It's commonly thought that very strict diets will be so unpleasant that people will not stick w/them, but research has shown that stricter diets are actually more effective. Strict diets tend to be simpler & easier to follow.

Losing weight may require attention to your feelings & interpersonal relationships. Obviously, if overeating is a misguided attempt to handle some emotional pain, the emotions need to be dealt with. See Abramson (1993) for ordinary "emotional eating" & Sandbeck (1993) for the shame, guilt & low self-esteem that often underlie bulimia or anorexia.

Virtue (1989) & LeBlanc (1992) also address this specific situation. Farrell's Lost for Words, a psychoanalytic view, is online. Empty lives can cause cravings for food; unhappy spouses gain 2 to 3 times the weight that happy spouses do!

For the various unhealthy psychological uses of fat in a marriage, see Stuart & Jacobson (1987). Therapists report that over-eaters often need unusual attention, nurturance & warmth. Roth (1989, 1993), a good writer & Greeson (1994) have written that food is used to replace the love that is missing.

It's been reported that depression may increase while dieting but people are usually happier after the fat is gone (Brownell & Rodin, 1994). Interestingly, interpersonal therapy focusing on relationships & attitudes toward weight has been just as effective as cognitive-behavioral therapy focusing on eating habits. Self-help groups are often helpful, too (Weiner, 1999).

To find a support group online: Mental Earth Community, Grohol's Forums, Support Groups, Support, Eating Disorder Recovery Online, and a newsgroup at Support groups are also discussed in the next chapter.

Another resource you should consider seriously is Overeaters Anonymous, a world-wide organization. To find a local group see Overeaters Anonymous in your White or Yellow Pages or email for information. There are two OA Web sites: Recovery & Overeaters Anonymous.

Keep in mind that 12-step programs, like OA & AA, need to be supplemented w/nutritional information & cognitive-behavioral self-help methods. A caution: it has been reported that some anorexics become more anorexic after interacting w/fellow anorexics in support groups or chat groups.

Since most people try to lose weight on their own, it is to be expected that self-help programs and methods will appear. Fairburn (1995) has developed a science based self-help program for overcoming the binge eating. Crisp, Joughin, Halek & Bowyer (1997) offer self-help to anorexics.

Schmidt & Treasure (1994) describe self-help methods for bulimics. Remember, serious eating disorders need professional help too. Peterson, et al (1998) found that a structured group self-help approach was as effective with binge eaters as therapist lead psychoeducational and discussion groups. Burnett, Taylor & Agras (1985) and, more recently, Personal Improvement Computers have developed small hand-held computers that assist moderately overweight patients to control and monitor their food intake.

Web sites providing information for losing weight were given above but even more sites are offered for understanding the more serious eating disorders: Eating Disorders (see "Best on the Net"), MHN-Eating Disorders, ivillage diet, Eating Disorders, Futter Eating Disorders, Lucy Serpells Eating Disorder Resources, American Anorexic Bulimia Association, Concerned Counseling Eating Disorders, Surgeon General, Assoc of Anorexia Nervosa & Associated Disorders, Something Fishy's Eating Disorders, and, lastly, more treatment programs for serious eating conditions, Binge Eating.

Bulimics and anorexics usually have additional psychological and interpersonal problems beyond the abnormal eating. They often have poor social skills and are frequently in conflict with family members. Young bulimic women tend to be dependent and have trouble separating from their mothers. Judi Hollis (1994) says she has never met a starving or bingeing woman who wasn't raging inside, usually at her mother. Serious eating disorders require professional treatment.

People with eating disorders need to learn better communication and problem-solving skills and, then, change their eating-exercise habits, such as having regular meals that include previously avoided foods, learning new ways of handling the bingeing-purging situations, and modifying their attitudes towards their shape and weight (see the previous section in this chapter). This usually means therapy. Thus far, the cognitive-behavioral methods are only fairly effective with bulimia by persuading the patient to stop dieting since bingeing is a natural reaction to starving the body (Wilson, 1993). Also, after the binge-purge cycles stop, the person needs to cognitively accept his/her "natural weight," based on healthy food and exercise. Keep in mind, serious eating disorders are remarkably resistant to change; only half of patients in treatment will be fully recovered in five years (American Journal of Psychiatry, 1997, vol 153). Like all long-term disorders, bulimia and anorexia place great stress on the family; they all may need help (Sherman & Thompson, 1997). Unfortunately, the prevention programs for young at risk women have, thus far, not been effective. These urges are hard to change.

There are many additional sources of help. See Bennion, Bierman & Ferguson (1991) for a factual discussion of weight control. Parents worry about their children's weight too; there is help (Archer, 1989). Perri, Nezu, & Viengener (1992), Epstein, et al (1994), and Brownell & Wadden (1992) provide therapists with guidelines for managing serious obesity. For information and referrals about anorexia and/or bulimia, call 847-831-3438. For more information about locating Cognitive-Behavioral therapists, call 212-647-1890 or try the Web site for abbt. All obese people and persons with an eating disorder should have a psychological or psychiatric evaluation, including an assessment of the family. Most importantly, you must realize that extreme anorexia, called "the fear of being fat," can be fatal (5% die, half from complications and half from suicide); don't put off getting professional treatment for anorexia and bulimia, three-quarters can be helped by behavioral therapy. See eating disorders at the end of the next chapter.

Guidelines for Losing Weight if Moderately Overweight

1. Remember the expertise of 3 disciplines are involved: psychology, nutrition & medicine. You need to know some of all 3.

2. Become familiar with the 20 Methods for Controlling Behavior described above.

3. Realize that good weight loss is probably not starving, a crash diet, pills, or a special “program,” it's simply acquiring the habits to eat good tasting, healthy food in the right amount for the rest of your life.

For some dieters, especially those w/a lot to lose, a special diet is necessary to get satisfying results. Get your "bulk," as my Grandmother used to say. That means high fiber - vegetables, beans, fruit, nuts & grains - which give you only half as many calories as meat, sugars, cheeses & fried foods.

An occasional "day off" may make a long diet more tolerable.

4. Weight loss almost always involves increased exercise. Be active, move around even in sedentary jobs; it’s good for you. If exercise is hard for you & you do little, read Fenton & Bauer (1995) who recommend walking. Also, strength training ("pumping iron") will add muscle as fat comes off; muscle burns more calories & keeps your metabolic rate high (Nelson, 1999). If you're not used to hard exercise, see a physician, build up gradually & guard against injuries.

5. To drop one pound of weight each week: Cut 250-300 calories per day (1 candy bar, 2 light beers or soft drinks, 3-4 oz. of meat or cheese) & exercise more each day (1 hour walking or yard work, 1/2 hour jog or bike ride, 1/2 hour swim). One pound=3500 calories.

6. Find a time of relative quiet in your life to start your new eating/exercise habits. Once started, avoid missing any days (if it happens, get back on schedule as soon as possible).

7. Eat at times & in sufficient amount so you don’t get hungry. Relax & enjoy eating. Don’t let your calorie intake drop below 1100 calories per day.

8. Your genes may be a factor. Eating Disorders & being overweight tend to run in families (that doesn’t prove it is genetic).

However, depression, low self-esteem, helplessness, poor body image, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive habits & sometimes perfectionism, addictions & impulsiveness also run in families w/ Eating Disorders.

Histories including teasing, rejection, abuse, death of a loved one & giving birth are common. These factors make losing weight a little harder but they won’t stop a determined self-helper.

9. Realize that medication can be of help w/certain eating disorders, especially bulimia.

10. If changing your eating habits seems to be impossible after several weeks of trying, get serious about discovering the emotions & needs underlying your overeating (see the books & Web sites listed above). If that doesn’t work, get professional help from a psychologist w/experience in this area.

11. Find the emotional roots of your urge to eat. What are the psychological concerns (relationships, frustrations, needs) underlying the eating problem. If you can reduce those concerns, you have a better chance of stopping overeating & of avoiding relapse (The Weight Control Digest, May/June, 1997).

12. Keeping a food diary is very helpful, especially if you record the circumstances in which the urge occurs, what you were thinking, feeling & doing immediately before hand & how you responded to the urge to eat. A graph showing your progress can be very satisfying. A recent study at Duke University shows that bingeing by women is triggered by depression, getting off their diets, gaining weight, low self-esteem & anxiety. Bingeing by men is preceded by anger, getting off their diets, thoughts of food, conflicts & fasting. Plans ways of dealing w/your triggers to binge.

13. Celebrate & brag when your pants are loose & slipping down. (Actually it's important to reward in some brief way the achievement of each daily & weekly goal.)

14. Make plans to maintain your gains. Use relapse prevention if needed. In any case, get serious about your weight whenever you gain 2-3 pounds over your desired weight, taking into account your normal weight changes by time of day & for women, time of month.

15. Live a long, active, healthy life.

Addiction to Shopping


Compulsive spending, impulse buying & over-spending to the point of financial disaster are good, fun habits gone awry. The interesting, exciting activities of shopping have become an obsessional escape &/or an irrational way to handle emotions.


The compulsive shopper buys things they want at the moment even if they don't have the money to pay for them. Often this is done to cheer themselves up or to reward themselves during down times, even though their own history has been of feeling guilty & sad after overspending.


The compulsive shopper feels upset, angry & terribly deprived if they can't buy (e.g. insufficient funds) what they want. Unfortunately, after the momentary gratification of buying, they soon feel guilt, sadness, or resentment of the habit, until the urge reappears in a few days.


They're willing (compelled is more accurate) to go into debt with no idea how to pay for the purchase. Several studies have found 5% to 10% of the American population are compulsive buyers & another 15% or so are overspenders.


Indeed, that's about 60 million struggling with overspending & only 1/3 of Americans are saving anything for retirement. We'd rather buy a new car now than save for our children's education, even though we'd agree that an education is much more important than driving a new car (those long-range goals are easily forgotten).

Depression tends to be high among compulsive shoppers; thus, antidepressant medication is sometimes helpful... & shopping may serve the addict as a self-medication for sadness.

Also, because compulsive shoppers often buy things that enhance their image (e.g. clothes or jewelry for the woman or sports equipment, a car, or a motorcycle for the guy), it's thought that buying is often intended to build our sagging self-esteem.

It also seems obvious, but I don't know of research supporting this, that over-spending might be a way to "get something from" an unsupportive partner's bank account or to "get back at" a resented partner.

What research does show is that habitual shoppers also have higher rates of anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse & poor impulse control. Overspending disorders are described in detail by Mellan (1997), Arenson (1991), Coleman & Hull-Mast (1995) & others.

The urge to go shopping tends to occur every few days or every week or so. The urge only lasts for about an hour but, in an addict, the urge can be resisted only about 1/4 of the time. Usually the compulsive shopper has no shopping list prepared in advance, only an awareness of their favorite departments.

Some, however, are bargain shoppers. The fact is though that, about half the time, they never use their purchase, leaving it packaged, returning it, or disposing of it. What is accumulated are large debts, often several thousand dollars on credit cards.

It isn't unusual for an addicted spender to spend half the total family income on these shopping sprees.

Clearly an out of control spender needs therapy; they can't stop themselves, but what kind of therapy is best is still unknown (one small study suggests insight therapy isn't very effective). For some, anti-depressive medication will be helpful (McElroy, 1998).

There are also 12-Step programs available (400 Debtors Anonymous groups in the US). Other Web sites provide a DA bibliography & more info about getting out of debt: see Debtors Anonymous Information.

Some people have found it refreshing to observe the misc.consumers.frugal-living Newsgroup because the conservative attitude seen there is so different from the impulsive spending attitude.

Also a private e-mail forum, called Solvency, is available & provides personal support as well as self-help information about controlling spending urges. To join this group send a message to w/this in the body: Subscribe Solvency firstname lastname

All 3 books cited above give self-help suggestions for controlling compulsive spending &/or debt reduction. There are a couple of others: Catalano & Sonenberg (1993) about controlling your emotions & Mundis (1988) about controlling your budget. It's easy to recommend sensible budgeting or money management methods, like establishing 3 bank accounts:

  • (1) for day-to-day spending
  • (2) for essential regular bills
  • (3) for saving
  • depositing the amount needed for (2)
  • & planned for (3)

as soon as you get your pay check. By carefully setting (1) to include only a small amount for optional "spending" & by considering (2) & (3) sacred, one might control the over-spending.

Any reasonable spending plan would work with most people, but, by the very nature of a serious addiction, this kind of rational decision-making probably won't work. Perhaps it would work if there is a firm commitment to the plan.

In many cases, however, initially the compulsive buyer may have to turn money management over to someone else who is willing to totally control the money for all purposes, only allowing the over-spender a small amount each week of account (1) for non-essential shopping.

While spending is being controlled by someone else for several months, the addict should concentrate on reducing his/her depression, building self-esteem & most importantly, developing truly gratifying constructive activities that demand their time.

A person w/a lesser addiction may just have to avoid stores. Keep in mind, the urge to shop weakens if you can restrain yourself an hour or so. Some moderately impulsive people can go shopping without money or credit cards (it's possible to have a great time shopping w/a friend w/out buying anything, you know).

If a real buy is found, you can impose on yourself a one-day waiting period, then consult with your partner about the appropriateness of the purchase before going back & buying. Several systems like this have worked for many people.

very important additional resources:
it's in the news....

Compulsive Shopping Carries a Heavy Price: Pathological buying is linked to insecurity & it's on the rise, experts say

it's in the news....

ADHD in Childhood Ups Risk of Smoking: Researchers stressed the findings were preliminary

Teen Smoking Levels Off as State Spending FallsCuts in anti-smoking ads take their toll, new survey finds

Booze, Smoking Open Lungs to Pneumonia: Rat study finds the two together speed progress of strep bacteria

Many Smokers Stick With Habit After Heart Attack: European study shows 1 in 5 don't quit, despite risks

Most Teen Smokers Do Want to Quit: Study found many checking out antismoking Web site

Groups Offer Parents Info on Teen Cough Medicine Abuse: The free brochures will outline the warning signs & where to go for help

'Light' Smoking Takes Heavy Toll on Health: 1 to 4 cigarettes per day triples risks for heart disease, lung cancer, study shows

Teen Smoking Retains Its Cool: Study finds junior high's 'in crowd' more likely to light up

Smoking May Cloud the Brain : Long-Term Smoking Linked to Diminished Thinking Skills, Lower IQ

Heart Attacks Don't Sway Smokers : 'Unbelievable' Number of Heart Patients Still Smoke, Dutch Expert Finds

How to Quit the Holistic Way

They've been minimized & they've been marginalized, but the fact is holistic therapies - including:

  • acupuncture
  • homeopathy
  • massage therapy
  • aromatherapy
  • yoga
  • nutrition therapy & dozens more

- have been gaining greater mainstream acceptance.

According to a 1993 survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine, in 1991, about 21 million Americans made 425 million visits to practitioners of these types of alternative medicine; that's more than the estimated 388 million visits we made to all primary care physicians that year.

Now a holistic approach where an individual's situation & particular way of coping is addressed - & going cold turkey may not be necessary - is slowly beginning to influence the way people with addictions are treated.

Holistic therapies are helping to bridge the gap between conventional, exclusively abstinence-oriented approaches & the newer, more controversial harm-reduction philosophy.

When addressing an addiction, all holistic techniques begin with the same basic philosophy: people develop addictions to correct an "imbalance" within them.

Addicts become stuck, unaware & unable to deal with their thoughts, feelings & actions. They may drink, take drugs, or eat to excess to disassociate from their deficiency.

Holistic therapies work to restore balance by connecting mind & body. They take away some of the underlying causes of abuse by helping people become aware of & take responsibility for the way they think, feel & act.

The goal of many holistic therapies is to restore the body to its naturally healthy state. The best treatments aren't offered in isolation; they're carried out with psychotherapy or group therapy - especially when it's open to the holistic view of treating the entire person, not just the addiction - & other holistic therapies.

Holistic philosophy overlaps with the harm-reduction approach to addiction, which evolved out of a desire, about 10 years ago, to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS & hepatitis among injection drug users by dispensing clean needles.

People running syringe exchanges realized they had an opportunity to provide additional services to drug users. Now a number of harm-reduction centers - offering programs including acupuncture, massage therapy & substance use counseling; referrals to detoxification & treatment facilities; & caseworkers to help with housing, food stamps & medical care have sprung up in cities like New York, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, San Francisco & Oakland.

Run by current & former drug users, for current & former drug users, these centers don't demand that clients remain abstinent. From experience they know that no one can be forced into dealing with a problem & that people who are treated with respect & who are educated about their choices can & often do elect to help themselves.

Holistic therapies do have their skeptics, of course. There's concern that these therapies haven't been properly studied or regulated. "As a general rule, holistic therapies are most helpful when they're used in conjunction with - not in place of - other treatments," says Barrie R. Cassileth, Ph.D., an adjunct professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill & Duke University, who has written extensively on alternative therapies & cancer treatment.

Cassileth sees the need for methodologically sound, rigorous clinical tests before any claims about the capabilities of holistic treatments can be made. Frank Gawin, M.D., scientific director of a laboratory examining addictions at the University of California Los Angeles, agrees.

He's currently involved in a 6-city study - the largest involving an alternative therapy - to determine the effectiveness of acupuncture on cocaine addiction. Dr. Gawin believes that holistic therapies should continue to be practiced while studies are underway, so long as people receive psychotherapy & are fully informed that these treatments haven't been proven effective. "There are no magic bullets," Cassileth concludes. "People ought to be wary of those who say they have one."

Many Older Adults Drink Too Much

Reuters Health - By Alison McCook - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Between 1/4 & 1/2 of adults in their 50's & 60's drink more than the recommended amount of alcohol, putting them at risk of problems related to their drinking, according to new research.

Among older adults who drank too much, men were more likely than women to experience problems such as ruptured relationships, or difficulties with day-to-day activities. These findings suggest that drinking guidelines, many of which currently allow men more drinks per week than women, should be equally stringent for both genders, the authors note.

"The guidelines for alcohol use should be no more liberal for older men than for older women," study author Dr. Rudolf H. Moos told Reuters Health.

Currently, the Dept. of Agriculture recommends no more than 2 drinks per day for men & 1 for women. Similarly, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism recommends a limit of 14 drinks per week for men & 7 for women.

The American Geriatrics Society defines dangerous drinking for older adults as more than 1 drink per day, or more than 7 drinks per week, or more than 3 drinks on any occasion.

To investigate how many older adults follow these guidelines, Moos & his colleagues asked 1,291 drinkers between the ages of 55 & 65 how much they typically drank, then re-contacted them 10 years later to see if their drinking patterns had changed.

The investigators also asked people if they'd had any problems related to their drinking, such as family members or friends telling them they were worried about how much they drank or if alcohol had interfered with their functioning, by causing them to fall or neglect other activities for instance.

People who said alcohol had created at least 2 problems in their lives were considered to have a drinking problem. The researchers report their findings in the American Journal of Public Health.

Moos & his team found that, depending on which guideline they used, between 23 & 50% of women drank more than they should, as did between 29 & 45% of men.

"A moderately high proportion of older women & men may engage in potentially unsafe patterns of alcohol use," said Moos, who is based at the VA Health Care System in Menlo Park, California.

Among people who exceeded any of the guidelines, men were more likely to have problems than women.

Previous research has suggested that men are more likely to drink in unhealthy ways, such as drinking quicker, drinking outside of meals, downing every drink they're served & drinking more in a shorter period.

"Thus, even though they consume a comparable number of drinks, men may engage in alcohol use behaviors associated with higher levels of alcohol consumption, resulting in more harmful alcohol use consequences," Moos & his team write.

They conclude that alcohol consumption guidelines for older adults - both men & women - should be no more than 7 drinks per week & no more than 3 drinks "per heavy-use occasion."

SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health, November 2004.

Binge Drinking Entrenched in College Culture There's No Magic Bullet to Stop Dangerous Alcohol Use on Campus, But Many Say a Change in Attitude Is Needed




Sept. 7, 2005 : It's been nearly a year since 19-year-old Samantha Spady was found dead of alcohol poisoning in a fraternity house at Colorado State University. Spady's blood alcohol content was 0.436 - 5 times the legal limit - & investigators say she consumed up to 40 drinks the day before she died.

Spady's death was far from the only alcohol-related campus tragedy last year & as school starts up again this year, colleges & universities across the country are bracing for more booze-fueled chaos.

Each year, college drinking contributes to an estimated 1,400 student deaths, 500,000 injuries & 70,000 cases of sexual assault or date rape, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, a part of the federal National Institutes of Health.

Government & universities are pouring millions of dollars into programs to crack down on or curb campus "binge drinking," but there's been little change in students' behavior over the past decade.

Many experts studying alcohol use on college campuses say excessive drinking is so deeply entrenched in the culture, only a radical shift in students' attitude toward drinking will help.

What Is 'Binge Drinking'?

Spady's parents, Patty & Rick, have started a group called the SAM (Student Alcohol Management) Spady Foundation, whose mission is to educate students & parents about risky alcohol use.

Patty Spady says she & her husband "regret daily" that they never talked to Sam - a former homecoming queen & high school class president - about the fact that heavy drinking could be deadly. But she also admits that she wasn't totally aware of the dangers herself.

"I feel like kids are going out with the intention of getting drunk," she said. "About that style of drinking - I was totally na´ve."

Binge drinking is commonly defined as having 5 or more drinks in one sitting & the number of college students considered binge drinkers - around 44% - has stayed about the same for the past decade.

But ask many college students & that definition of binge drinking seems ludicrous.

Barrett Seaman, a former Time magazine editor, observed student behavior on 12 college campuses for his recently released book, "Binge: What Your College Student Won't Tell You." He found that many students are drinking far more than 5 drinks over the course of a night.

"Students are routinely knocking back 20 shots a night," Seaman said.

Pregaming & Other Drinking Rituals

Seaman, who admits he did his fair share of drinking at Hamilton College in upstate New York in the 1960's, says he was struck by the "intensity" of student drinking today.

One common ritual he saw while reporting for the book was "pregaming," where underage students sat in their dorm rooms or apartments & drank massive amounts of alcohol, usually hard liquor, in order to catch a buzz before going out for the evening.

Seaman says that because drinking is illegal for so many college students, they're forced to do it covertly - & often dangerously - because there's no telling when they will get another drink as they roam from party to party.

"It's cool to be ostentatiously drunk," he said. "It shows you're part of the elite who has access to alcohol."

Dr. Hoyt Alverson, an anthropology professor at Darmouth University, had his undergraduate students spend 3 years studying fellow students' social behavior at the school. Alcohol, he says, is inextricably linked w/social life on campus.

In his study, he writes that first-year students especially fear being alone in their new environment & drinking is simply the best & easiest way of "forming friendships, competing, blowing off steam, … 'hooking up,' fitting in & getting ahead amongst one's peers."

Students at Dartmouth & other schools play elaborate drinking games like beer pong, Thumper & others at parties. And drinking is often an important ingredient in "hooking up" w/the opposite sex.

"Heavy drinking is so ritually scripted on campuses," Alverson said.

Harm Reduction & 'Social Norming'

Colorado State University's Alcohol Task Force kicked into high gear after Spady's death, says Carrie Haynes, a graduate assistant in the Department of Alcohol & Drug Education & Prevention.

But the campus didn't disband all fraternities or ban alcohol in general. Instead, CSU & other colleges are hoping that educating students about the harmful consequences of heavy drinking - like sexual assault & alcohol poisoning - will be more successful.

Many colleges' harm reduction programs include peer-education groups & tips on staying safe while drinking that go far beyond a "don't drink & drive" message. They're telling women students to stick together at parties & never leave a friend behind & how to recognize if someone is in physical danger from drinking.

"Scare tactics are out the door," Haynes said.

CSU is also trying out a "social norms" campaign, which attempts to correct students' misperceptions about fellow students' behavior.

In a sense, social norming is peer pressure in reverse. The theory is that students overestimate how much their peers drink & that by giving them accurate information about "campus norms," it will encourage them to change their behavior.

Though it's early in the year to tell how the tactic is affecting student behavior, Haynes is hopeful. "I see how social norming affects them [students]," she said. "They respond to positive messages."

And according to the National Social Norms Resource Center, campuses that have used social norms programs have seen rates of what they call "heavy episodic alcohol consumption" drop significantly.

Some Call for a Culture Change

In American culture, college students occupy that vague place between adolescence & adulthood & in many ways, drinking, partying & breaking the rules are part of this transitional "growing-up" period.

So while drinking at college is nothing new, what is new is the way today's students are doing it.

Seaman & Alverson agree that raising the drinking age to 21 has been counterproductive. By making it illegal to drink, students' behavior is repressed & driven underground. Their drinking becomes furtive, intensified & in many cases, dangerous.

Besides going to several American campuses, Seaman also visited McGill University in Montreal - a college that more than 2,000 American students attend. The drinking age there is 18 & Seaman said the attitude toward drinking at McGill is far more "civilized," even among American students.

"In American schools, there's a very confusing message to students: Are they kids or are they adults?" Seaman said.

Both Seaman & Alverson say that changing the drinking age back to 18 would be a good start in changing campus drinking culture, but they also say that a radical behavior & attitude shift would take time.

"It's important to keep the conversation going about alcohol & drugs," Seaman said. "Students are very open about it. If you treat them as adults, they'll act like adults."

Some researchers have categorized people with alcoholism as Type 1 or Type 2.

  • Type 1 individuals are more often women. They typically become alcoholic at a later age, have less severe symptoms or fewer psychiatric problems & have a better outlook on life than those classified as type 2.

  • Type 2 people are more likely to be male. They tend to become alcoholic at an early age & have a high family risk for alcoholism, more severe symptoms & a negative outlook on life.

Not only do these 2 groups tend to respond differently to psychotherapeutic approaches, but they may also respond differently to medications.

Alcoholic women are more likely to be depressed & anxious; alcoholic men are more likely to have anger & an antisocial personality disorder.

Social pressure to drink is more common among men; women drink alone more often than men.

Among adolescents, problem drinking is associated with delinquency, violence & lower grades. Alcohol may increase blood pressure or pulse rate & thus, may be associated with strokes. Alcohol certainly is a serious threat to a developing fetus; please, never drink when pregnant.

In temperance cultures (where alcohol is viewed as a dangerous addiction from which you must totally abstain), drinkers tend to binge to get drunk, rather than drink beer or wine with meals every day.

In cultures where drinking is accepted as a daily part of life, people seldom get drunk & when they do have health problems from drinking, the family simply helps them get back on a healthy diet. "Demon alcohol" isn't blamed & a religious solution, like AA, isn't prescribed.

Men are more likely than women to become addicted to alcohol. The slippery slope of alcoholism is pretty predictable for men:

  • by mid to late 20's, there are binges, morning drinking &d job problems

  • by early to mid 30's, blackouts, shakes, car accidents, DUI arrests, poor eating habits, terminations at work & divorces

  • by late 30's to early 40's, there are serious medical problems, such as vomiting blood, hepatitis, hallucinations, convulsions, hospitalizations & life in general is a wreck

The earlier you get off the slope, the better. It can be a slow suicide, with your only "friend" in the end being a bottle. If you have any reason to believe you may be in trouble, DO SOMETHING, NOW! DENIAL IS THE GREATEST RISK.

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