Our Society of Addicts: Addiction as a Spectrum Disorder

We are a society of addicts. It seems everyone has some sort of addiction, but it interferes with our life in varying degrees. Is addiction a spectrum disorder?

We are, on a whole, a society of addicts. Have you ever seen the AT&T commercial with the little kids and the girl states, “We just want more!”? This is the battle cry for our addiction-consumed society. Whether it is drugs in the form of alcohol or cocaine or in such behaviors like overeating, gambling, pornography or shopping, we just can’t seem to get enough.

For many like me in this society of addicts, addictive behavior began long before I ever picked up a drink or drug. Such behaviors as lying, sneaking around and using psychological defense mechanisms all served to allow me to progress to a point where once I picked up a drug I was off to the races. So the question that begs to be asked is: If addiction begins before a person ever picks up, is there any way to find any kind of relief from using?

Can We Explain our Society of Addicts by Using the Spectrum Model?

Maybe it’s just that we are hard wired to be addicted to one thing or another. I tend to believe that we are all addicts. It’s just a matter of degrees, you know, like addiction is a spectrum of disorders like other mental illnesses.

So where do you stand on this issue? Do you fall into the category of majorly chemically dependent or substance abuse disorder? Or are you one of those people that have a couple of beers to unwind at the end of the day? Or do you have some kind of other affectation that you are overly involved with?

Whatever your answer, you have to admit that many people struggle with addictions of one kind or another. It’s just that some addictions are easier to spot than others.

Learning Lessons from Addiction

Addiction can be cruel and unforgiving. But it can also open the door to a whole new way of life – one which can help an individual learn to overcome incredible obstacles. If I was not an addict I would never had the opportunity to learn so much about myself. It is with this understanding that I have hopefully been able to share what I have learned to help others. And for this I am truly grateful.

As I’ve stated before, I would never want to go through the horrors of my co-occurring disorder again like I did years ago, but in the same respect I would never want to change anything. Recovery is possible.

Thank you for letting me share.

APA Reference
Shallowhorn, K. (2013, May 13). Our Society of Addicts: Addiction as a Spectrum Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 21 from

Author: Karl Shallowhorn, MS, CASAC

April, 12 2016 at 6:12 pm

Congrats, Karl! You are sure! our weaknesses strengthen us!

October, 16 2015 at 12:20 pm

They say addiction starts with flour and sugar way before we hit the hard stuff.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kira Lesley
October, 18 2015 at 5:29 pm

Thanks for your comment Chris. I hadn't really thought about this before but it does make sense; those are some of the substances we are exposed to earliest.

June, 21 2014 at 3:48 pm

Its crazy how widespread addiction is. I think everyone I know now is either involved, directly effected or know some one who is.
Most underlying issues I see relate to eating disorders, sex, love etc. As soon as substance is removed people learn who they are.

March, 14 2014 at 1:11 pm

Oh and thanks for the blog. Its a great read!

March, 14 2014 at 1:10 pm

Fantastic post. My behavious looking back now were very addictive and I "acted out" for years before touching a substance. As they say the problem is me not the substance.

October, 23 2013 at 11:40 am

Very honest and true.

August, 5 2013 at 8:34 am

It's an interesting point that you make Karl. I'm not sure whether I think everyone is on a spectrum or not, but I most certainly agree that there are more than a few addictive behaviors out there that may not normally come to mind, shopping be one of them. Interesting talking piece!

August, 1 2013 at 1:20 am

Great article Karl!
I recently read an interview with I believe his name is Scott Kilby where he says that truly he was addicted to "more". Not necessarily the drugs be just the feeling of unfulfillment and an insatiable craving, yearning and desire for more. He then used Buddhist practices of detachment and inquiry to dive deep into these cravings in order to break free from his addiction.

July, 10 2013 at 2:43 pm

I agree that we are all (at some level) prone to addiction. Whether or not we will become an "addict" is another story. There are so many factors involved. I do think that many addicts stay that way because of the enabling of well-meaning family and friends who will not allow the addict to take responsibility for him or herself. The addict then believes that he is not to blame for his addiction, that some outside force is causing it. The only way for an addict to get control and stay clean is to understand that he is the only one who can make the choice to be clean and he must take full responsibility for his actions. Only then can treatment be effective. It is so true that people must hit "rock bottom" before accepting help and recovering. Thanks for an interesting article.

July, 9 2013 at 2:54 pm

Recently, I have developed the habit of sniffing gasoline before and after I fill the tank of my car. I love the way gas smells. Today I wiped off some of the gas I intentionally let drip on my car and put the napkin in my car so I could smell it. How does this behavior fit into addiction??? I also find myself spending more money than I would prefer on auction sites on-line. I'm not sure if I should be concerned.

Veronica Valli
May, 18 2013 at 10:41 am

I totally agree. I knew I was different from when I was 5 years old, I always felt uncomfortable in my skin and when I became a teenager I found drink numbed the pain of being me. Years of hell followed and then sobriety. I wouldn't want to go through that again, but I also wouldn't change anything either because of what it gave me.
I don't know if everyone is on a spectrum of addiction, but i do think most people have disconnected from themselves and are numbing the pain through consumerism, drugs, sex, relationships, work, exercise etc.

May, 17 2013 at 2:02 pm

Great article Karl. I've often heard it said that addicts who enter into a program of recovery are among the chosen ones. They're given tools and a pathway for living. Feeling grateful. :)

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