How To Break An Emotional Addiction

Emotional Addiction

What does addiction do? it’s an unhealthy tool to relieve distress. When you’re hooked, you become overly dependent on that addiction. Similarly, emotional addiction can be quite dangerous for you, if not more, as you are at the mercy of your feelings and emotions. All these emotions become so enrapturing that you cannot let them go.

We’re taught to feel and accept our emotions, but what about when your emotions actually become an addiction?

This concept is pretty foreign in the system of psychology which is based around the analysis of emotions.

When I practiced traditional psychotherapy, I began to notice how many of my clients were feeling emotions repetitively. Most of them would subconsciously set up situations where they would experience them even though they were verbally telling me that they wanted to change.

Few people understand the chemical cocktail of human emotion.

Emotions begin with a thought. We have too many thoughts in a day to even count, but most of these thoughts are habitual. We have them day after day, and because we have not created a separation from thoughts, we assign a meaning to those thoughts assuming that they’re true.

It’s the assigned meaning of thoughts that form our emotions. When we feel this emotion, there’s a cellular change in the body. Neurotransmitters are released and the physiology of the body shifts. As our physiology shifts, the neural pathways in the brain fire and wire in response.

Feeling and reacting habitually strengthens neural pathways which will make us subconsciously seek the same emotion. Emotional addiction is when the body becomes dependent on our own chemical responses.

This cycle changes the reward center of the brain. Even if the emotion makes us miserable, the rush of neurotransmitters is a reward.

Addiction usually means being addicted to an external substance or behavior (like food addiction or sex addiction) but it’s also possible to be addicted to our own internal chemical cocktails.

Most people who struggle with any kind of addiction are aware at least on some level of the issues their addiction is causing them. Emotional addiction is different because we’re living and breathing the emotional experience so closely it literally is beyond our scope of awareness.

In order to break emotional addiction, you have to become conscious of your own patterns.

Become aware of your “hit” emotion.

If a lightbulb has gone off and you realize you have an emotional addiction it will be easy for you to identify your “hit” emotion. If something has stirred inside of you but you can’t quite place which emotion you feel in cycles, some more work will need to be done to identify the “hit” emotion.

Here are some easy steps to start:

1. Set an intention to observe your emotions: 

While this sounds simple, it’s actually very difficult because we rarely observe our emotions before responding to them. You may think you don’t have an emotional addiction because it seems like it’s just part of “you.”

Put reminders in your phone and journal this intention. Doing this will help you become conscious of the subconscious. Watch how you feel in daily situations while scrolling Instagram, at work, or when talking with friends. Notice any patterns and note them. These may give you clues to your hit emotion.

Read 8 Ways You Can Regulate Your Emotions

2. Ask for input from someone you trust:

Through vulnerability, we gain insight.

If you have someone in your life who you trust and who’s willing to be open and honest with you, ask them if they would give you input. Tell them that you’re doing some personal development work and see if they find you in any particular emotion a lot of the time. Other people can see what we cannot see in ourselves.

3. Commit to a daily 5-minute meditation: 

For 30 days, commit to doing 5 minutes of meditation no matter what. Watch the feelings and emotions that come up while attempting to observe your thoughts. They will give you valuable feedback on the loops of your thoughts which trigger emotion.

As you can tell, this will take a lot of work and commitment. Emotional addictions take decades to develop and will require you to do a ton of self-reflection. After you’ve identified the “hit” emotion you’re ready to move forward.

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Dr Nicole LePera

Dr. LePera views mental and physical struggles from a whole person perspective and works to identify the underlying physical and emotional causes. She understands that balance is an integral part of wellness and empowers individuals to heal themselves, supporting them on their wellness journeys. Dr. LePera founded the Mindful Healing Center in Center City Philadelphia. She recently expanded her work online creating a platform for teaching these often overlooked components of mental wellness to individuals and practitioners around the world.View Author posts