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Can You Become Addicted To Grief?

Can You Become Addicted To Grief

An addiction as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary is “the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity.” The precise reason behind why an individual develops an addiction remains unknown. There are, however, several risk factors that have been reported to increase one’s propensity for developing an addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) these include a combination of psychological, biological, and environmental factors. Every individual is different and will have or lack various predispositions that can contribute to developing an addiction. Nevertheless, it is important to note that anyone can develop an addiction, regardless of social status, beliefs, or background. 

The Mayo Clinic explains that grief “is a strong, sometimes, overwhelming emotion for people, regardless of whether their sadness stems from the loss of a loved one or from a terminal diagnosis they or someone they love have received.” Loss is a normal and unavoidable part of being human, and grief is an emotion that is caused by loss. Although experiencing grief after a loss is healthy and natural, it does affect the human limbic system by disrupting certain brain chemicals (e.g., serotonin and dopamine). Dopamine is the neurotransmitter associated with one’s reward center and feelings of pleasure. Serotonin is known as one of the chemicals responsible for maintaining one’s mood balance. Further, according to Science Daily, “reporting in the journal NeuroImage, scientist at UCLA suggest that such long-term or ‘complicated’ grief activates neurons in the reward centers of the brain, possibly giving these memories addiction-like properties.” Such reveries about the deceased should not be misconstrued as emotionally satisfying. Rather, in some people, they may serve as a type of craving for the reward response that can interfere with one’s ability to adapt to the reality of the loss.

When one refers to complicated grief, it implies that an individual is essentially stuck in a perpetual state of heightened and ongoing mourning that prohibits his or her from healing. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), mentions a specific disorder, known as persistent complex bereavement disorder, which is described as an individual who experiences intense symptoms of debilitating grief that does not dissipate in the months following the loss, and lasts beyond twelve months. Unlike with complicated grief, and persistent complex bereavement disorder, when an individual is addicted to grief, enduring the ongoing symptoms is how he or she satisfies his or her addictive cravings.

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Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at:

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