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Intimacy Disorder

The root of addiction.

 Thong Vo/Unsplash
Source: Thong Vo/Unsplash

What is emotional intimacy and how does this impact addiction? The lack of true intimacy where an individual does not feel emotionally safe to share their thoughts, feelings, concerns, desires, and needs leaves one vulnerable to develop addictive tendencies as a means to cope.

This can be a one-time incident or the cumulative effect of what’s known as attachment trauma where connection, bonding, safety, and trust are compromised. Ruptures in attachments (i.e., with parents, primary caregivers, coaches, and/or other significant figures) can be overt and explicit like physical or sexual abuse where “something is done to an individual."

But ruptures oftentimes happens in a more subtle form when “something is not done or given to an individual” such as emotional nurturing, praise and validation, physical hugs, and/or kisses. Role-reversals can also fall in this category when children turn into caretakers in their families and are deprived both of emotional nurturing yet also asked to take on adult responsibilities.

Some specific examples include:

Being the “parentified child” where the child’s needs are neglected to take care of parents or siblings
Being the victim of verbal, sexual, or physical abuse or witnessing verbal, sexual, or physical abuse
Growing up in a family where addiction/compulsive behaviors reign
Covert Incest: where a child is treated as a parent’s best friend, confidante, and/or spouse.

In any case, the breach in secure attachments can result in shame, anxiety, low self-worth, depression, in addition to the risk of addictions. The fear of being rejected if someone “really knew me” makes it hard for these individuals to cope with life and thus turn to addictions as a means to cope. Addictions don’t necessarily have to “negative” such as drugs or alcohol. Addictions can also be associated with “positive” behaviors such as workaholism, exercise, reading, and a plethora of other more subtle forms of escapism.

Breaking the cycle, though, means tapping into your true emotional self which involves sharing your innermost thoughts, feelings, needs so others can truly see you (i.e., “In to me you see”). This, in essence, is the definition of intimacy and when you allow others in, you are building trust in relationships, which can eliminate the need for addictions.