In order to escape addiction, a high degree of motivation is required. If the individual does not develop this will to change, it will mean that they remain trapped in their misery. Apathy is the biggest obstacle to a life away from addiction. If the addict is not concerned about the difficulties that substance abuse is causing in their life, then they won’t want to make an effort to improve things. The inability to tackle apathy can be a death sentence for the addict.
Apathy refers to a lack of interest in those factors that influence the individual’s life. It means not caring about these things even though they may be having a negative impact. A good example of this would be the alcoholic who doesn’t care about the impact this drug is having on their mind, body, and behavior. Even when there is plenty of evidence that the booze is causing destruction in their life, the addict just does not care about any of this. This apathy can occur if the individual is unaware that there is a better way to live. It can also occur because they do not believe they have the ability to change their life.
It is important to distinguish apathy from acceptance. Learning to live with those parts of life that cannot be altered is good for mental health. There is no benefit if people spend a lot of time worried or angry about things they are in no position to change. Apathy differs from acceptance in that it is a lack of concern about things that can be changed. Accepting that people will die is not the same as not caring about the consequences of alcohol abuse.
Flow is the opposite of apathy. It is something that athletes will claim to feel when they are performing at their best. It can also be described as feeling in the zone or fully present in the moment. Here the individual is highly motivated and focused on the task at hand. It can create a type of joyful energy that can push people to achieve things they might otherwise have thought impossible. This mental state is the most likely to lead to success in rehab, and in the years that follow in recovery.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a psychologist with a theory that examines the factors that influence apathy and flow. He claims that in order to achieve flow, there needs to be the correct balance between the challenge of a task and the skills of the individual performing it. If a lack of challenge is matched with a low skills level, then it leads to a sense of apathy. On the other hand, if the challenge is high and the skill level is low it can lead to anxiety. In order for flow to occur, there must be a demanding challenge and the skills of the individual must also be high.
Escaping addiction is a challenge. Individuals remain trapped in addiction because they don’t feel they have the skills to escape. If their self-efficacy can be increased, they will feel more confident about their ability to deal with their problems. Recovery skills can be taught in rehab and the individual can begin to believe that a life in recovery is a real possibility. Their faith in their own skills to beat the challenge of addiction can lead to an increased sense of flow.
An addict with a mental health problem such as depression can be prone to apathy about their problems. It can mean that the addict becomes desensitized to the pain caused by addiction. They are also less likely to experience the helpful mental state of flow, which can be so important for a successful escape from addiction. Unless this depression is treated, it can be hard for the individual to develop the motivation to change. This is why there are now treatment options directed specifically for people with a dual diagnosis. The idea is to treat both problems together.
Alcoholics can reach a stage where they can no longer get beyond apathy about their condition. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is where the brain is damaged due to a thiamine deficiency brought about by alcohol abuse. This is also referred to as wet brain and the effects will often be permanent. One of the symptoms of this condition can be an inability to appreciate consequences and a general apathy towards alcoholism. It is vital that anyone exhibiting the symptoms of wet brain are treated quickly before they reach a stage where recovery is impossible.
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