Hobbies can help family members carve out distinct personalities. A father might be known for his penchant for fishing, for example, and this might differentiate him from the son who prefers to build model trains. Activities like this can be soothing, and they can give family members some needed alone time in which to do things that only they find enjoyable. There are times, however, when people become overly attached to specific activities, and in time, they may become incapable of resisting the urge to participate in these activities, even when their participation causes the family palpable harm. People like this might benefit from an intervention, but knowing when to hold one and how to hold one successfully can be a bit difficult.
Defining the Problem
Addictions are often attributed to chemical changes within the brain. People who take addictive drugs, for example, may develop persistent changes in the portions of the brain that deal with impulse control. People like this may be physically incapable of making good decisions about the future, and the lure of immediate pleasures may lock them into a cycle of addiction for good. Similarly, people with process addictions may feel a tiny boost of pleasurable brain chemicals when they’re engaging in the activities they’re addicted to. Just as someone with a drug addiction can become addicted to the pleasure chemical boost, people with process addictions can also become hooked on the chemicals the brain releases, and they may also be unable to break free.
People who are addicted in this way can’t simply stop their behavior on their own, as the chemical changes drive their behavior. Their relapse rates might be incredibly similar to those seen in people who have drug addictions as a result. For example, in a study in the journal CyberPsychology and Behavior, researchers found that 49.5 percent of young boys with a diagnosed Internet addiction relapsed to the destructive use within one year. These are rates that would be familiar to people addicted to heroin, cocaine or marijuana, and they just demonstrate how pervasive this addiction might be. Telling people like this that they should just stop the behavior really isn’t likely to work. Instead, they’ll need targeted therapy, and a formal intervention can help people to accept the need for this kind of therapy.
Process addictions can come in many forms, but common behaviors that seem to be popular targets for compulsive participation include:
Almost anything that’s done in a ritualistic manner could be fodder for a process addiction, however, and some people develop addictions to routine processes like eating, exercising and working. These process addictions come with their own special challenges, as people with these issues will never be able to completely avoid their behaviors, but therapy can help people learn how to behave appropriately when they’re engaged in the acts they were once addicted to, and an intervention can start the person on that path to healing.
Choosing to Step In
Some people become overly interested in an activity and they engage in this act repeatedly and at length for a short period of time. When they’re asked to stop, however, they can quickly leave the behavior behind and suffer no ill effects. Sometimes, a quick conversation could be all that’s needed in order to make people stop travelling down the wrong path. There are some people who have more advanced cases, however. In an article about the issue, in the Journal of Gambling Behavior, researchers suggest that people with addictions have an involuntary need to continue to engage in these acts, and they tend to increase the time they spend engaged in these activities over time. In other words, they cannot stop. Researchers writing this article suggest that people with process addictions don’t have all of the hallmarks of addiction seen in people who have drug addictions, but these conversations may be academic for families dealing with an addicted family member. They may know, on an instinctual level, that the person just can’t stop. Deep down, they may know an intervention is needed.
Some families choose to hold an intervention on their own, and they gather up all of the data they’ll need to plan and get started without the help of any professional entity. Others choose to hire an interventionist to help them. This can be an excellent choice, as interventions can be delicate for people who have process addictions, and sometimes, the family needs to pick up a few lessons on the problem before they can hold an effective talk. For example, an article in the Journal of Gambling Studies suggests that most families hold an intervention with the express wish of pushing the person into a treatment program. Instead, these authors suggest, families should consider getting their own help, even if the person who gambles never chooses to change, and that’s a concept that might never have occurred to a family without the help of an interventionist. Lessons like this might be worth the expense a family might need to absorb in order to hire an expert.
An intervention is, at its core, a difficult conversation about a concept that the family finds difficult to handle alone. Emotions can run high, and it’s easy for people to become irate, angry or even a little bit abusive. It’s important to remember that people who have these addictions often desperately want to change their behavior, but they just don’t know how to do so. For example, in a review of research conducted on shopping addiction published in the journal World Psychiatry, researchers report that 85 percent of these people have concerns about their debts, and 92 percent wanted to resist the urge to shop, but they were unable to stop on their own. People like this don’t need to be blamed or attacked for their problems. Instead, they need to be shown that there is a way out. An intervention that’s positive, loving and compassionate could demonstrate that solutions are available, and this could be the lifeline people have been looking for. It’s easy to be mad, but it might be more helpful to be compassionate.
Preparing the Talk
During an intervention, each member of the family is asked to:
Outline how the addiction has changed the family
Describe a time in which the addiction caused pain or harm
It’s helpful for people to be as specific as possible in these talks, so they can help the addicted person see the deep need for change and understand how a treatment program might be beneficial. Facts, figures and statistics might be hard to think of offhand, but with a little research, families might come up with some compelling numbers they can sprinkle into their important talk. For example, in a study on compulsive shopping, published in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry, researchers found that the average debt accrued by a compulsive shopper was $5,422 out of an average yearly income of $23,443. Numbers like this can help families to demonstrate how the addiction has moved from recreation to compulsion, and they could allow people to see the need for change. Families of people with sex addictions could use statistics concerning STDs, while those families of people with Internet addictions could cite the hours the person spends locked into a flickering computer screen. Getting specific like this is vital.
Rehearsal sessions can allow families to ensure that they have all of their facts straight and their issues clear, and these rehearsals can also help families to remove any negative or blaming words from the scripts they plan to use. An interventionist can also play the role of the addicted person, helping the family to prepare for any outbursts the person might have while the talk is ongoing.
Holding the Talk
During the intervention, the family should try to stick to the script as much as possible. The addicted person should be allowed to speak, of course, but the family should avoid the urge to add information or otherwise engage the person in an argument. As soon as the person agrees to get treatment, the talk is over, and that holds true even if some members of the family haven’t yet had the chance to speak. The idea is to help the person see the need for care and enter a program, or to help the family begin their own healing process if the person won’t get care, so there’s no need to hammer the issue into the ground. As soon as an agreement is in place, the talk should end.
If you’d like help in finding an interventionist to help your family, please contact us. We have an extensive database of professionals to choose from, and many of our interventionists have held successful talks with other families in the past on these difficult topics. We’re happy to find you the help you need, as soon as you call us.