How Lack of Purpose Leads to Addiction

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

Which came first, addiction or lack of purpose? Research would indicate that lack of purpose came first. Addiction has been associated with a lack of spirituality, meaning in life, a sense of purpose, relationship with God or other higher power, or religious stability. But why? How does a lack of purpose lead to addiction?

First, let’s examine the causes of addiction:

None of these common causes are a lack of purpose, but life is never that simple. The first four causes can all lead to the last one, mental health issues. As stated earlier, you are twice as likely to have an addiction if you have a mental health issue. Why do individuals have mental health issues? Lack of purpose.

Studies have shown that people with a sense of purpose have healthier behaviors, can manage stress better, have increased cognitive function, and have higher life satisfaction. There was also a study among young individuals that showed that having a purpose leads to a positive self-image. Furthering the point that having a set purpose can help anyone with an eating disorder overcome that addiction.

One study showed that four different parts of life are crucial to fulfilling one’s purpose. Those four parts are 1) physical and mental well-being, 2) belonging and recognition, 3) personally treasured activities, and 4) spiritual closeness and connectedness. Notice they are the exact opposite of the causes of addiction?

  1. Physical and Mental Well-Being. This physical part includes having your hygiene needs met and prevents nutritional imbalances. This section includes the mental and emotional part of health, which is the opposite of having a mental illness.

  2. Belonging and Recognition. This social part means having someone to love and care about, which is contrary to difficult social circumstances.

  3. Personally Treasured Activities. This part allows the individual to work creatively, perform meaningful tasks, and experience nature and culture. Having meaningful activities is the opponent of difficult economic or environmental circumstances.

  4. Spiritual Closeness and Connectedness. This spiritual part refers to having something or someone outside of yourself that shelters and strengthens you and an abstract experience of being listened to and taken seriously. For those of faith, it represents God or another higher power.

For the most part, you can put these aspects of purpose into the five health dimensions - spiritual, emotional, mental, social, physical. Each section has to be taken care of for you to be fully healthy. That includes spirituality. Having a purpose combats all causes of addiction.

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