Psych Central Professional


The Stages of Addiction

You don’t have to have every element of an addictive personality or be emotionally disturbed to become trapped by addictive behavior.

All it takes to start an addiction is your brain’s memory, or imprint, of an experience with some activity or substance, which was especially comforting, relief giving, or pleasurable.

Later, when you experience a high level of stress, you will be unconsciously compelled to seek that substance or activity again. Actual biochemical effects on the brain reinforce the dependency.


Emotional Abuse and the Impact of Absence

So often we think of abuse as something that happens to us, but have you ever thought about what it means to a person who suffers from the abuse of omission?  Emotional abuse can be so deceptive, that most of the time, people who are victims have no idea they are being abused.  One way to analyze your situation to determine if you are being emotionally abused is to consider, rather than what the other person is doing, is what the effects are on you.  What may be hurting you may not be overt, but rather covert; you may not suffer from anything you can put your finger on because your abuser may be hurting you by what he’s not doing.

Here are some things to consider:  Do you find yourself being confused within this relationship?  Do you analyze yourself or an argument with this person to determine where you went wrong or what you could have done differently?  Do you find yourself blaming yourself for the things that go wrong in the relationship?  Do you find yourself accepting fewer and fewer “crumbs” from this person as time goes on, being grateful for any small comment or gesture that feels validating?  Do you feel like an emotional wreck?  Do you feel desperate or in despair?  Do you read lots of articles, blogs, and books looking for ways to improve your relationship?  Have you lost trust in your own perceptions?  Other symptoms of emotional or covert abuse include feelings of rage, low self-esteem,  anxiety, preoccupation with the relationship, obsessive need to fix it, feelings of guilt and shame, despair and loss of hope, increased addictions, loss of weight, or somatic symptoms.


Trauma, Differentiation and Integration, and Neuropsychology

I love to study neuropsychological treatments for trauma, and the importance of emotional integration in the therapeutic process.  I am a big fan of the neuropsychologist Dr. Dan Siegel and Brain-Wise therapist, Dr. Bonnie Badenoch, from which I obtained the information I am presenting in this article.

When a person is not properly attuned to as a child, secure attachment and healthy connection do not occur.  This trauma leads to the painful consequence of interrelational disconnection.  The goal in therapy for a person, who has suffered from the effects of trauma, abuse, lack of attunement, neglect, or some other form of emotional disregard, is to help that person find emotional regulation through the process of differentiation, with the ultimate goal of emotional integration.


Breaking out of the Drama Triangle

Using the Karpman Triangle (also known as the Drama Triangle) as my guide, I have summarized a process of “recovery” from manipulative relationship dynamics.

In case you aren’t familiar with the Karpman Triangle, it represents the dynamics of unhealthy and manipulative relationships. Each corner of the triangle depicts a role that people play in the game of a dysfunctional relationship. One corner is the victim (please help me); one corner is the rescuer (the over-responsible, controller); and the third corner is the persecutor (the villain, the bully, the superior one).

The victim usually “hooks” the other person into becoming a rescuer and if the victim role fails, the individual may switch roles into becoming the persecutor as a more overt means of accomplishing the goal. People often switch roles, playing each part, all in one dramatic interaction. You will often find these relationship dynamics in families with addictions and abuse.

(Karpman Drama Triangle; Source:


When the Church fails to help Abuse Victims

Please note that this article addresses women who are abuse victims.  While I realize that men can also be victims of abuse, my focus is on women for the sake of simplicity.  Anyone who is abused, male or female, should be cautious about the advice they receive for handling the problem.

It is so sad when a person struggling with an abusive relationship, seeks help from clergy or Christian friends, only to be told that they need to “try harder,” or “be the bigger person,” or “overlook an offense,” or “forgive,” or “turn the other cheek,” etc.  When a person, particularly a woman, seeks help from the church for domestic violence, addiction, pornography issues, or emotional neglect and abuse problems in her marriage, so often the church gives pat answers, throws a few verses at the problem, promises to pray for her, and/or sends her on her way. 

Cheat Sheet for Common Mental Illnesses Co-Occurring with Substance Abuse

I tend to work with addicts, alcoholics, abusers, and abuse victims.  Often, others are not quite sure what some of the typical symptoms are of some of the most common mental illnesses.  I decided to make my life a little easier so I typed up a little "cheat sheet" with descriptions of some of the most prevalent mental illnesses I come across, particularly when dealing with substance abusers.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  The definitions were taken from the DSM-V.