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Understanding Addictive Behavior In the Eyes of Dr. Gabor Maté

Last Updated: December 12, 2023

It is hard to understand how one can become addicted to something or know why you are addicted. But, in order to understand this addiction and addiction recovery, it’s important to go to the root – addictive behavior in general and why people use it. Dr. Gabor Maté is renowned for having some really interesting and amazing insight on the topic, and as we dive deeper into treatment for addiction, take a look at what he defines as addiction.  

According to Dr. Gabor Maté, “addiction is manifested in any behavior that a person craves, finds temporary relief or pleasure in but suffers negative consequences as a result of, and yet has difficulty giving up.” Whether it is a substance like alcohol, drugs, etc., or behavior like gambling, shopping, eating/food, etc., it is important to identify that there’s a reason why you are addicted to it. 

Dr. Maté also speaks about where addiction comes from, which tends to be an attempt to solve a problem. It is the symptom of a deeper malaise, in most cases, trauma. He also says “All addiction has its roots in some kind of trauma, but not all trauma leads to addiction.” That is why speaking to a therapist can be really beneficial in a journey through addiction treatment and addiction recovery. The most important question is not “why the addiction” but “why the pain?”. In order to heal addiction, we must look at the underlying trauma. 

In today’s society, there is some shame around addiction and trauma, which is why a lot of the time people struggling with addiction don’t speak about it or seek help. This clearly doesn’t help the struggles that they are going through, especially because therapy can have so many amazing benefits and lead to addiction recovery. Getting to the root of the addiction mentally rather than just physically can help you so much. Therapy can also give you coping tools so that when challenging things in life happen, you know how to handle them, rather than going back to your addiction or starting a new one.

It is not just about staying free of behavior or substance, it goes deeper into an understanding of the role and function that addiction plays in an individual’s life. It is through a greater understanding of one’s past, perceptions, and belief systems that one can see that the addiction really is there as a means to heal from pain.

At Body Positive Works, we see addiction as a source of information, as a flashlight to where human pain lies. We seek to understand the reasons behind the individual’s addiction – exploring emotional pain, childhood wounds and trauma, and relationships with family, friends, and, most importantly, with self. 

That’s why we identify and address the heart and mind issues behind the addiction, walking alongside the individual on their journey to short-term stabilization, and long-term growth, health, and wellness.​​

Addressing addiction can be really difficult, but improving the relationship with your therapist is one of the best ways to help- they can provide you with a great compassionate, caring, and guilt/judgment-free environment which is vital for a healthy and happy recovery. Working hand and hand with physical treatment like abstinence or 12 step programs. 

By acknowledging and accepting our powerlessness, it actually is able to give us our power back, but in a healthier and happier way. Pushing someone to change or give up an addiction usually only results in them pushing back; especially if they aren’t ready or don’t understand that it’s not good for them. The desire to change has to come from the addict themselves in order to have the best chance of success.