As a childcare provider, it is important that you are on top of your game both physically and mentally. The demands you face on a daily basis in caring for young children require you to consistently be mentally sharp. That can be a challenge especially if you are distracted or if your health is compromised by behaviors or addictions that take your focus away from the task at hand.
What Is Addictive Behavior?
Addiction is defined as a compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance. While some addictions can be positive such as those related to healthy eating or fitness activities, most media references to addiction refer to negative behaviors. Addiction can center on any substance or object that becomes the focus of a person’s life, often to the exclusion of other activities.
While it is often thought that associate addictive behaviors related to drugs or alcohol, other addictive behaviors can involve activities such as smoking, gambling, sex, work, shopping, internet, television watching, or eating.
Addiction can affect all dimensions of one’s health--physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. These addictions or dependencies can cause you to become tired, distracted, have mood swings, engage in other risky behaviors, and ultimately lead to other problems in working with children.
Consider these alarming facts:
- One out of every eight Americans has a significant problem with alcohol or drugs; 40 percent of the group has a “dual diagnosis” or concurrent mental disorder. For example, a person suffering depression might use drugs or alcohol to cope with their illness.
- Four to six percent of Americans who gamble have a gambling addiction. The suicide rate for pathological gamblers is estimated to be 20 times higher than that for non gamblers.
- It is estimated that 24 million Americans have an eating disorder; this affects one in five women.
Signs of Addictive Behavior
Some individuals exhibit warning signs, but others do not. Below are possible signs of addiction:
- Health or physical status: Weight loss or weight gain; unexpected and persistent coughs or sniffles; seeming unwell at certain times, and better at other times; changes in energy level (unexpectedly and extremely tired or energetic); pupils of the eyes seeming smaller or larger than usual.
- Behavior changes: Sleeping a lot more or less than usual, or at different times of day or night; extreme mood changes (e.g., happy, sad, excited, anxious); secretiveness, lying, or stealing; repeated unexplained outings, often with a sense of urgency.
- Financially unpredictable: Perhaps having large amounts of cash at times but no money at all at other times.
- Changes in social groups: New and unusual friends; odd cell-phone conversations.
- Physical evidence: Drug paraphernalia (e.g., unusual pipes, cigarette papers, small weighing scales); stashes of drugs, often in small plastic, paper or foil packages.
What can you do if you suspect that you--or someone you care about--has an addiction? If you approach someone and suggest that they have an addiction, they most likely will deny it. There are steps that can be taken to help with addictions.
Treatment typically addresses an individual’s physical, psychological, emotional, and social conditions. The type of treatment is often based on the severity of the problem.
Screening is the first step to help. Talk with your own physician, nurse, or employee assistance professional about a referral to someone who can help, such as a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). After screening, intervention may be recommended.
Formal treatment and recovery can take the many paths; there is not one type of treatment best for everyone. If the person is willing to accept help from others and invest the time in working on recovery, experts believe that a number of programs can lead to an improved quality of life.
By Robert P. Mathner, PhD
Sport and Fitness Management
Addictive Behaviors, www.indiana.edu/~engs/hints/addictiveb.html
Helping Someone Who May Need Treatment, www.drugfree.org/Intervention/HelpingOthers/TakeAction/Helping_Someone_Who_May_Need_Treatment
How Addictions Happen, addictions.about.com/od/?once=true&