Religious Addiction

          Religious addiction is very similar to other addictions like alcohol, heroin, or prescription meds in that it is an illness that can be managed. But, to better translate a religious addiction, it is instrumental to revisit a few commonalities regarding general addiction processes. Typically, any addictive substance alters one's mood. In other words, it changes how individuals feel and think. However, the precise mechanism of mood alteration will almost always have a wide variance. In the early stages of the addictive process, addictive elements can sometimes change our mood in ways experienced as desirable or pleasant. However, they may not always make us feel “high” or even better.


           Now that we have a background on addiction in general, let's take a look at how religious addiction comes about.

          First on the list of religious addiction symptoms comes preoccupation. Preoccupation is when a person is so preoccupied with their religion, faith, religious institution or other aspects of their belief to a point it becomes a problem. That said, merely thinking about religion when away from a church function isn't necessarily preoccupation. But, when it begins to get in the way of one's life, preoccupation exists. For instance, when people talk about important, non-religious subjects with significant others, but cannot stop thinking about an upcoming church function, or injecting improper religious quips. Remember that it's okay to look forward to events that are pleasurable, but there may be a problem when a person tries to create chemical highs via planning, anticipation, and execution of the event to the point where it interferes with personal relationships and is a link of the preoccupation stage in any addiction.

          Secondly on the religious addiction pathway comes rituals and behavior patterns. In this stage, doing something the same way in rigid progression anticipating the final event is another way individuals psych their minds up for fulfilling the addiction. They understand their favorite religious radio show comes on at 10:00 am every Friday. They have to hear it, so these people plan their week around it, they typically sit in their favorite spot to hear it. They usually tune in a few minutes early and get comfortable with their favorite beverage and if anyone should interfere with this “ritual” they may feel  anxious or even angry. If they are late or miss their program, it can cause them great pain. It is when this behavior becomes obsessive, commonly being played out hourly, or even daily that it can transform into a religious addiction.

          Another stage in religious addiction is “using”, or involvement in the act. This phase in the process is typically the most intense, but most  brief. It is the real act of grasping the drug and placing it into one's body. For example, the food binge, the sexual relief, or in whatever manner the addiction plays out.

          Next in the process of religious addiction comes “aftermath”. When a person realizes how they behaved in preceding steps of the cycle, including hurting people around them, or in some way caused them to breach their moral standards, they then become aware that they have broken their own mandates. For that they experience extreme responsibility and guilt. This experience very often causes them to search for comfort once again via activity in one or another of their addictive behaviors.

          In sum, a religious addiction, similar to an alcohol or heroin addiction, is a treatable disorder and to understand religious addiction, it’s helpful to be familiar with addiction in general. Firstly, any addictive substance or process can change our mood; they alter how a person feels and thinks, but the exact manner of the alteration in mood can widely vary. At times, addictive substances will transform one's feelings in ways they experience as desirable or pleasant, or at least early in the addictive process. However, they may not always make us feel “high” or even better.  


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