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ADHD and Addiction

The opinions expressed in this article are that of individual participants. GYE does not give out medical advice.

Read an in-depth discussion about a possible correlation between ADHD and sex addiction from the academic point of view.  

obormottel Thursday, 30 June 2016

A girl wrote:

"I found the root of my addiction - ADHD.

I'm a typical, frum, 20-year-old girl from Lakewood. To an outsider I would seem like I have everything going for me: I come from a beautiful family; I am smart, pretty, fun, wealthy, thin, popular...

And in a way, it's true. I do have so much going for me.

But deep within me there is tremendous turmoil. For many years, I've been an addict. I've been addicted to the Internet in its worst most immoral form, and I have had some unhealthy relationships.

My super-amazing, loving, fantastic therapist spent so much time trying to figure out the cause for my addictions and addictive nature and impulsivities. For years, I just suffered going in and out of sobriety, until my therapist insisted I see a psychiatrist. I was put on medication for impulsivity, but it didn't help much.

So after about 3 years of living a double life, I went to a top Dr, and he diagnosed me with ADHD. I am now trying out different medications to help me deal with my impulsive nature and my hyperness and my energy.

The hardest part of this all is that I was never able to say anything to anyone! There are no support groups for people who are impulsive. For people like me, who have so many amazing attributes, yet struggle tremendously. My addictions did come along with my ADHD, and I wish there were people to talk to, other than my therapist.

I'm not bad for being wired like this. Hashem made me this way, and I have to channel my energy and impulses to better things, but no one sees ADHD and addicts like that."


A woman wrote:

"I just wanted to update you that my husband was just diagnosed with ADHD, which seems to be at the root of his addiction. I didn't see GYE mentioning this as a possible cause. I was flabbergasted by the diagnosis, as I didn't think my husband was hyperactive or impulsive.

People with ADHD have high impulsivity, and it's a constant struggle to control their behavior. Also, their minds are always racing, and porn gives a temporary respite by numbing the brain with a flood of stimuli. I don't fully get how it works, but apparently there's a documented link between ADHD and porn addiction (also other immoral behaviors). There's an article on the GYE site by Dr. Benzion Sorotzkin that mentions this."


Dov responds regarding the woman above:

"I doubt there is any real 'root' to this 'problem'. You see, the problem is not really a problem, it is a solution. And yes, I do believe that people with ADHD are addicted more often than people without it. And I also see that people with depression are often addicted more often than people without it. And I often see that people who were molested as children are, too. And people who have trust issues, and abandonment issues, and other addictions, and parents who hate each other, and children of divorce, and, and, and....

The guys who post on GYE often discuss 'The Root of the Problem" and I have seen big people on GYE write and talk about it, as though it is the Holy Grail of GYE recovery...

Well, I do not believe it exists. The temptation to find 'The Root', I believe, is just "al kein nikaveh" - a yearning and a hoping for a gimmick, a shortcut to recovery. A way to avoid having to actually do some of the dirty work of real recovery. A way to stay in the driver's seat. Like calling recovery 'Teshuva.' For addicts, that is just an attempt at keeping their dignity by circumventing the dirty work of public admission of weakness... which is just a way to avoid admitting it to themselves, really. They still live in religious and spiritual and lust fantasy land.

'Finding The Root' is the same. The whole attractiveness of there being a 'Root' to find, is the hope is that once I find a root, all that is needed is to correct that detail - and there will be no need to do the undignified parts of recovery. I will still be able to hide behind a username, unknown to anyone real in my life! Shame has been averted... but at what cost?

Probably at the cost of remaining an addict - the comfortable efforts always eventually fail. It may take a year or more, but I have met dozens and dozens on GYE'ers who have been through that very path and admitted it to me in bitterness.

And here's the rub:

Even if there were a 'root', fixing it is rarely the solution to their addiction problem. Yes, many people have different issues that served as catalysts along the way to getting them into addiction. But that's all they were: catalysts. Confronting that catalyst is often their individual doorway to open up into the room of real recovery work - the kind that leads them to the uncomfortable, undignified work we addicts find true relief in."


C.S responds to Dov's response:

I take issue with Dov’s post, though. The addiction, from what I understand, is a symptom – the real problem is emotional pain and dysregulation. Unless a person’s core issues that create those emotional problems are addressed, the problem can’t really be addressed or solved. And unless there’s some understanding of the person’s psychological makeup, behavior modification strategies are not going to work long-term. 12 steps is not a magic bullet for everyone, and anyone who claims they have a one-size-fits-all solution to a complex and very individual problem is misguided.


Dov responds:

I just reread the entire GYE article on ADHD with my response. And I can safely say this:

I have never, ever believed or told anyone that 12 steps (which is just an honest relationship with G-d) works for everyone, nor that 12 steps is appropriate for every addict, nor that ANYONE can succeed with G-d alone (the solution of the 12 steps again is just an honest relationship with your G-d). Sadly, many religious people find this belief repulsive and insist that 12 steps (G-d) alone is enough for everything...well, as the man here says, we see this is just not true. As a religious person in recovery (I hope 'successful'!), I believe it just must be G-d's Will that we addicts often need more than just an honest relationship with Him to really make it in life - and that is what the chza"l mean when they say "o chavrusa, o misusa"...being true friends with G-d is NOT enough.

I have spoken publicly many times to couples and singles groups, clarifying that for many (many, not all) addicts, success in recovery is going to be impossible without good therapy somewhere along the way. And by 'success in recovery' I do not mean sobriety - for I believe that many who need therapy CAN be successful in long term sobriety... but I do not consider long term sobriety 'success in recovery'. And that particular belief is shared clearly in the AA literature, as well.

I am not sure what the fellow is taking issue with in what I wrote in the piece on ADHD - I do not see my words there as implying that therapy for the ADHD is unnecessary...did I imply that? Please tell me where so I can learn to write more clearly, that is very, important to me.

I'd like to point out that my response begins with precisely the statement that addiction is a symptom of a disease. Does the person here believe that I do not really believe that? In light of the fact that I state that unequivocally, how does the writer arrive at the idea that I am saying that therapy is not necessary for addicts with ADHD to succeed in recovery?

I am not arguing - only asking. I want to know so I understand my own written response better.


C.S responds:

Thanks for sending this. I was just responding to the point about it not making any difference what the root cause is. Knowing the root cause isn’t an excuse for not doing the work, it’s just a way of knowing what’s the work that has to be done. (A person who is overweight because he eats compulsively when anxious will have a different treatment plan than someone who is overweight because he has a metabolism issue…)