In a recent podcast I listened to called “Other People’s Problems,” with therapist Hillary McBride, she was showcasing a session with “Maggie” and had this to say about the problematic behaviours we sometimes choose to help us cope with stress and hurt.
“Looking at these [unhealthy] behaviours through the lens of emotional regulation, these are all things that [Maggie] is doing to manage her low mood or depression. There are all sorts of things that all of us do to manage a low mood, to boost us up a little bit. And the feeling of doing something indulgent actually gives us a sense of relief, again, maybe reward and excitement………..so it’s not unusual for people to use behaviours that can become addictive like eating, using pornography, gambling, shopping; any behaviour that creates a dopamine rush in us. That those can be ways we can actually disengage in life and numb out as a way of avoiding pain, sadness, responsibility in life. So we want to make sure its not creating dysfunction.”
I resonated especially with this last sentence; when we choose a rewarding behaviour (like when I occasionally treat myself to ice cream after a long day!), it really is okay. However; when we can sense that the behaviours are creating disruption in our life, or we are drawn to them every time we feel blue or bored or as a way to avoid something, that is an indication that it is perhaps time for some self-reflection and management. Our goal becomes to then begin seeking alternative, healthier behaviours that will still produce that much needed dopamine rush and subsequent feeling of reward.
To listen to the full podcast: https://tunein.com/podcasts/Health–Wellness-Podcasts/Other-Peoples-Problems-p1102022/?topicId=121109787