Avoidance Coping Through Addiction

As avoidance coping strategies go, addiction is a powerhouse. A person’s addiction provides the ultimate escape. However, it does nothing to improve his/her reality. So, once the literal or metaphorical high wears off, what he/she was trying to escape is staring them in the face and has likely gained influence, i.e., is a larger problem than initially was.

I am using the term addiction loosely. I am talking about any substance or process (behavior) that triggers the reward system in the brain and allows a person to disengage from reality and becomes a habitual process.

The DSM-5 only allows for substances (drugs [prescription/illicit]/alcohol/caffeine/tobacco) and gambling to be associated with addiction due to a lack of research in other “addictive” behaviors like sex, shopping, eating, gaming (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Essentially, the DSM-5 has not caught up with recent studies, which show these activities light up the reward pathway in the brain in the same manner as substances and gambling. Thus, I include a whole host of substances and processes in my definition of addiction: codependent/toxic relationships (Loughead et al., 1998), food (Gordon et al., 2018), gambling, gaming (Andre et al., 2020), pornography (Park et al., 2016), sex (Hertlein et al., 2015), shopping (Kirezli & Arslan, 2019), substances (drugs [prescription/illicit]/alcohol/caffeine/tobacco), and working (Urban et al., 2019).

Addiction is a beast, and there is a variety of contributing factors, both biological and sociocultural. There are multiple treatment modalities – abstinence and harm-reduction are the most popular.

Beating an addiction is not easy - but it is possible! A plethora of studies indicate support is essential.

Get Help.

Gather the Troops.

Do the Work.

Create a life that you are not compelled to escape.

Contact me for help crafting your “sober” life in the life you desire.

Angela W Startz, MA-HSC


HopeWorks Counseling


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Association.

Andre, F., Broman, N., Hakansson, A, Claesdotter-Knutsson, E. (2020). Gaming addiction, problematic gaming, and engaged gaming – Prevalence and associated characteristics. Addictive Behavior Reports, 12, 100324. http://dx..doi.org/10.1016/j.abrep.2020.100324

Gordon, E. L., Ariel-Donges, A., Bauman, V. & Merlo, L. J. (2018). What is the evidence for “food addiction?” A systematic review. Nutrients, 10(4), 477. http://dx.doi.org/ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.3390/nu10040477

Hertlein, K. M., Weeks, G. R., & Gambescia, N. (Eds.). (2015). Systemic sex therapy (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Kirezli, O. & Arslan, F. M. (2019). Analyzing motivational determinants of shopping addiction tendency*. Ege Akademik Bakis, 19(1), 61-74. http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.21121/eab.2019148775

Loughead, T. A., Spurlock, V. L., & Ting, Y. (1998). Diagnostic indicators of codependence: An investigation using the MCMI-II. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 20(1), 64-76.

Park, B. Y., Wilson, G., Berger, J., Christman, M., Reina, B., Bishop, F., Klam., W. P., & Doan, A. P. (2016). Is internet pornography causing sexual dysfunctions? A review with clinical reports. Journal of Behavioral Science, 6(17), 1-25. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/bs6030017

Urban, R., Kun, B., Mozes, T., Soltesz, P., Paksi, B, Farkas, J., Kokonyei, G., Orosz, G., Maraz, A., Felvinczi, K., Griffiths, M. D., Demetrovics, Z. (2019). A four-factor model of work addiction: The development of the work addiction risk test revised. European Addiction Research, 25. 145-159. http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000499672

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