The Root Cause Of All Addictions And Compulsive Behaviors

September 10, 2010 by  

(Photo credit)

The pandemic of addiction

How many people do you know who eats compulsively, or work obsessively, or spends so much time on the internet, video game, exercise, and so on to the extent it affects their other aspects of life? Or someone who “can’t live” without daily doses of coffee, chocolate, junk foods, sex, not to mention alcohol, nicotine, or drugs? Or someone who goes from one destructive relationship to another with hardly any intervals? Or someone who shops for the pleasure of acquiring stuffs even though they don’t really need them?

Hello? Are you one of them?

Practically everyone is addicted to something or some behavior patters, often multiple of them.

And even though there are physiological issues, some unique to the specific addiction, the root cause of all addictions is one. Until we face this root cause, we just make lateral move from one addiction to another, for example, a recovering alcoholic pigging out sweets and then becoming obsessive health advocate or “born-again” religious fanatic.

Are we all crazy?

And this, when a good life is quite accessible.

Imagine, for a moment, a mediaeval Viking man in the freezing Scandinavia. He doesn’t have enough foods and fuel, no one in the village does. So the only way they can save their lives, along with their families’, is to go out to the southern, slightly warmer area and assault the people there. Some of them would die in the fight, and leaving home is intrinsically painful, so to ease the fear and the emotional pain, they drink alcohol — it keeps them (temporarily) warm, too.

Back then, no one thought drinking was a problem. The cold and the lack of foods and fuel was the problem.

But we don’t live like that, fortunately. We can have a reasonably safe, comfortable, and healthy life — and yet, we throw ourselves into compulsive behaviors that sooner or later destroy our well-being.

And again, so many of us do this. Ours is the culture of obsession and compulsion. Why?

Sense of not being “enough”

There are physiological causes. For example, I’ve been feeling so much better since I started taking extra vitamins (C, E, B complex) — I feel so “normal” around foods. I was suffering a mild hypoglycemia and that was part of the cause of my sugar problem. Likewise, there may be chemical or hormonal imbalance behind many compulsive behaviors. (So consulting a healthcare professional is an idea — although many doctors, or even nutritionists are not very aware of the issue.)

But the physiological cause is not the whole story. If it were, the rehab should have 100% recover rate. And it doesn’t explain the common switching of addictions.

I think the root cause of all addictions is the sense of not being enough. A girl who doesn’t feel she is pretty and lovable enough may attempt to control her food intake. If it’s a boy, he might exercise endlessly. Or they may retrieve to the fantasy world of video game altogether. Someone who doesn’t feel he or she is good enough may work excessively for achievements. And someone who thinks their life hasn’t been good enough or spiritual enough may become by-gods.

This inner sense of insufficiency is very universal in our society. Even kids exhibit it. And we go into compulsive behaviors either to numb the pain of this insufficiency or to overcome it.

But why are we, I mean practically all of us, feeling insufficient? Does this make sense? Who is enough, then? And what is enough?

The disconnection from the Source

The intellectual answer to these questions is to attribute them to the society’s more. But I think there is even deeper issue.

We are suffering from the disconnection from the Source.

Even though most of us don’t remember on the conscious level, we know we are connected to the life-giving Source. We also remember the connection was more full and complete before. We crave to feel that full connection again. That is certainly “enough” — there is nothing more complete than that.

But because we don’t even know it’s the spiritual level hunger, we look to all the wrong places. The truth is, no amount of money, fame, worldly recognition and power, no level of physical fitness and beauty, no amount of knowledge and academic achievement, nothing — absolutely nothing — can replace the satisfaction we receive when we connect with the Source.

So now we have a choice. We can forever seek, possibly switching the target of our compulsive behaviors from time to time, or we can reconnect with the Source.

Test: doing nothing

If you are still unsure, do a little self-test. Do nothing — for a long time — and watch what comes and goes in your mind and how long you can last doing nothing.

“Gee, I have so many things to do, why am I doing this stupid test of doing nothing?”
“I wonder what (name of someone you know) is doing now.”
“This is waste. What do I achieve by this?”
“And how much more time do I have to do this?”

These are some common thoughts that might cross your mind. They all indicate compulsiveness.

If you are comfortable with who you are, you would notice how sweet the air is. Or the light around you. You would feel joy and peace doing nothing.

How to be aware and reconnect with the Source

And this test doubles as a way to reconnect with the Source. Because it’s all about being aware. Being aware means releasing the mental chatter.

When you are thinking compulsively, you are like in a dream when you think the dream is real. You try many things in the dream. You try so hard. But of course, you get nowhere because you are only dreaming. The cure is to wake up.

You wake up from the human collective dream when you release compulsive thinking (and the behaviors that are promoted by these thinking).

Stop thinking and stand still. NOW.

When you do, you may feel a temporary buzz or pain. That is the dying scream of your ego. . . well, for now. Most likely, it will come back soon enough, so again, you stop and release your mental chatter, focusing on the Now.

Personal endnote
I am currently releasing my urge to reading. Yeah, reading can be an addiction, too. It’s an easy addiction because no one frowns at an avid reader. And I don’t mean I would never read — just as I would eat, I would read. But no more reading to overcome the inner feeling of “I may not know enough.”

Spiritual growth is an oxymoron. All it takes is to be aware, to be aware of my connection with God, or the Source. And that doesn’t take any reading. It takes actually connecting.

Do you find this blog inspiring?

Please check About page to learn more about this blog and the author, Akemi Gaines.


10 Responses to “The Root Cause Of All Addictions And Compulsive Behaviors”

  1. Merry on September 11th, 2010 3:27 pm

    I’ve known for some time that I’m addicted to the Internet, but this article made me realize I need to stop it. It’s mostly a connection-thing to other people because I’m often alone. I also need to learn how to be alone not lonely. These things are something I need to do for myself, and I know at the beginning it’ll be hard, but I know the payout will be good in the end. ^_^

    Thank-you for posting this.


  2. Akemi on September 12th, 2010 2:42 pm


    I can related to that a lot as I am alone often, too. And you know, anything and any behavior can be addictive.
    Behind all addiction is compulsive thinking that drives us to do more — whatever that more may be. So the resolution is actually a simple one. Relax. Easy does it. Stop and breathe.

  3. Spiritual Simplicity | Real Life Spirituality on September 13th, 2010 7:11 am

    [...] credit) This is a continuation of my last post on addiction, in a sense. At the base of all addictions lies compulsive thinking and so practically all of us [...]

  4. Fawna Bews on September 13th, 2010 7:36 am

    What a great article Akemi! I almost fell off my chair when I got to the end. About a
    month ago I got a clear message to stop reading- just stop it- and bam- same thing I totally noticed the compulsion, the not good enough messages that I’d been stuffing with seeking, searching and learning.
    Your article is bang on- Thank You!

  5. Paul on September 14th, 2010 4:29 am

    “I think the root cause of all addictions is the sense of not being enough” So many of our clients have this as a limiting belief but do not realise it supports thier internal conflict. Wanting something but not believing they can hvae or deserve it. However when we do ‘get it’ we can make great changes and really quickly.

  6. Dawn on December 3rd, 2010 11:30 pm

    I enjoy being able to obsess over my work (art) or reading bc it’s my way of hiding from the chaos of constant multi-tasking and ” to do lists. I’d actually prefer to be in the comfy cloud of those realms more often but addictions don’t mesh well with raising a family.

  7. Charles Somer on December 10th, 2010 6:34 am

    As you said, everything can be an addiction, when I was in a treatment center for alcoholism they were treating a child for an addiction to chewing paper.

    All addictions are ways to fill the void we have had since birth, from the moment the umbilical cord is cut we yearn for all our needs to be met-as they were in the womb. They never are until we are released from the material world (that is death). Substances,activities,emotions fill this void but temporarily.

    Anyway those are my thoughts, thanks

  8. Amethyst on December 27th, 2010 3:28 am

    I also suffer from this problem. Alcohol is ruining my life and my motivation. It has made me gain weight and also I suffeer from the compulisive thinking, and it is so hard to focus on one thing for so long. I know I need help but I don’t know, i have tried workshops, medication, self help books, meditation, yoga, accuuncture, But every night I keep drinking wine. I am so lonely…I haven’t had a real relationship in so long, and I know it is because my relationaship with myself if damaged.

  9. tekalign mulugeta on April 29th, 2011 10:24 am

    as i think the root cause of addiction is losing on es personality

  10. vivian on June 22nd, 2011 8:52 am

    Who would have thunk it? Not enough. Now that makes for an endless dive into how one could “feel” that at a very early age and not be aware that it drives them into addictions going forward. I am grateful for this article. Thanks!!