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The Emotion Most Tied To Addiction

It’s hard to argue with data coming out of Harvard University. The famed Ivy League school is considered one of the best in the nation and the gold standard when it comes to in-depth research. So naturally, we were intrigued when we heard they chose to focus their latest study on addiction and the emotions most likely to trigger it.

Shared via the website Fast Company, the stats actually single out one emotion in particular when it comes to addictive behavior. To us it is not a big surprise, but it is important to see hard data associated it.

First, let’s eliminate the choices that many people may assume are the primary drivers. Stress, for example, is not the leading addiction cause. Neither is anger or fear for that matter. The emotion that is overwhelming driver of dependencies is Sadness.

Measuring a wide variety of subjects addicted to everything from alcohol, to cigarettes, to hard substances, the research always tied back to, as Fast Company put it, “the blues.” Lead Harvard researcher Charles Dorison was interviewed for the piece and shared his perspective on the findings.

“The conventional wisdom in the field was that any type of negative feelings, whether it’s anger, disgust, stress, fear, or shame, would make individuals more likely to use an addictive drug,” Dorison explained. “Our work suggests that the reality is much more tied to the idea of ‘feel sad, use more.’”

Of the nearly 11,000 people analyzed, those with self reported sadness were most likely to fall into addictive trappings and also relapse if those feelings were to return. As Dorison put it, no other emotions had that type of levity.

The study was actually conducted over a period of two decades and used tactics such as video watching. People who saw imagery that depressed them would be more likely to pick up a bottle or a cigarette. Dorison added that “happy videos” were shown as well and had a much lesser effect.

We’ve certainly explored this topic too and shared research tied to ongoing depressive themes that fuel addictions. Tragic news events, for example, or loneliness are shown to be drivers to use. Even the holidays can spur an increase if people find themselves away from family.

The bottom line is, it is important to seek out help for addiction and for depression. Because, as Harvard correctly points out, there appears to be a direct correlation.