The Stages of Pornography Addictions - 2

The Stages of Pornography Addictions - 2

Why is pornography so addictive?  Well, there are many reasons for this.  Today we are going to discuss how and why exposure to pornography can develop into an addiction. 

Exposure to pornography surges the reward circuit or pleasure center in the brain, releasing large amounts of dopamine.  Dopamine makes you feel good and the brain "remembers" how good it felt.  This “good feeling” can provoke you to repeat the same behavior, despite negative consequences, to feel that pleasure again. So, you keep coming back for more and more.  Often times, it results in not being able to stop, and you can get hooked on pornography.

Addictions- Alcohol and Drug

Addictions- Alcohol and Drug

This week, Imagine Hope has covered some common areas of addiction:  Sex addiction, TV and internet addiction, and Relationship addiction.  In the final part of this series, we will cover a very prevalent addiction:  Drug and alcohol.  So, what exactly is the line between being a "social" user, and a problem drinker?  The bottom line is how alcohol and drugs effect you and the ones you love.  If your drinking is causing you problems in your life, then you have a drinking problem.  The same goes for drug use.  Is your spouse or significant other complaining about how much you drink?

Addictions- Relationships

Addictions- Relationships

As we continue to discuss Addictions this week, it is important to identify Relationship Addictions. We see this a lot at Imagine Hope. Again, it is one of the Addictions that is hard to recognize if you don't understand what it is. It is "acceptable". You've heard people say, and there was even a song written about it, "They are just addicted to love". This can actually happen. 

Addictions- TV/Internet

Addictions- TV/Internet

You might be thinking, "how can a person be addicted to the tv?" Have you ever watched tv longer than you intended, or feel mesmerized or "spaced out" as you're sitting in front of the tv? Watching tv can be calming and a nice way to relax. However, when it crosses the line into interfering with what we want to accomplish, or when we're sitting & feeling as though our energy is being zapped right out of us, then there might be a problem.

Addictions- Spending/Shopping

Addictions- Spending/Shopping

So far, you have read about what makes up an addiction and some relevant addictive behaviors.  Today we will discuss another common addiction that is a prevalent one in many relationships:  Spending or shopping addiction. What are some signs that your spending is more than just leisurely shopping (whether in stores, online, at garage sales, flea markets, auctions,  television, etc.)?

Addictions- Workaholism

Addictions- Workaholism

This week we are focusing on addictions. If you have not read the previous blogs, it is important to do so as Teri has actually defined an addiction. Tamara also made an excellent point in saying with addictions, it is not always the "how much" someone is doing something but they "why". That is so true.  Today, I am going to talk to you about work addiction. 

Addictions-Introduction and Food Addiction

Addictions-Introduction and Food Addiction

Addictions are a common issue we deal with here at Imagine Hope. We see everything ranging from alcohol, drugs, and sex, to work, facebook, and food.  Society is getting deeper looks into addictions as well, through T.V. shows like "Hoarders" and "Intervention" becoming more popular. So what makes something an addiction?

H.A.L.T.- Tired

This week, we are discussing the acronym HALT- Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.  As you've read, all of these can be triggers to both addictions, as well as a host of other struggles in life, such as depression, anxiety, and physical illness. 

H.A.L.T.- Lonely

H.A.L.T. is such a great acronym to use for recovery. We have been talking about recovery of addictions but we also use this for our clients who struggle with Depression and Anxiety. This is a MUST for their recovery: to not ever let themselves get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. 

H.A.L.T.- Hungry

H.A.L.T. stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. When people use this as a guide they are saying "I should never get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired". If they do, they could be susceptible to relapsing and/or finding themselves in a situation that they may look back and regret later.

The difference between toxic and healthy secrets

So now you know what toxic and healthy secrets look like and how they impact your relationships... How do you know the difference between the two?  Here are some questions to ask yourself that might help you determine the difference: 1.  What is the intention?  If the intention is to restore or promote passion and intimacy (e.g., not telling a spouse about a surprise date or party on their behalf), chances are that it's a healthy secret.  If the intention is to try and keep someone from feeling "hurt" (e.g., keeping someone from feeling angry that you have done something hurtful), the chances are that it's toxic.

2.  Is the secret effecting the relationship?  For example, if you feel that your partners behavior or appearance (e.g., their physical appearance or weight, their emotional outbursts) are causing you difficulty with intimacy, sharing your feelings about this "secret" can have a positive impact on the relationship (even though it might be painful for your partner to hear this).  If certain issues aren't impacting intimacy or other aspects of the relationship, but you are sharing a lot of critical and judgemental things with your partner, it may not be necessary and only push them further away and cause them to feel inadequate.

3.  Does someone get hurt as a result of keeping the secret?  Secrets like physical, emotional, and sexual abuse can cause someone t0 get hurt as a result of keeping the secret, and are therefore toxic.  Even if it's someone you don't know, having the knowledge that someone is (0r has been) abusive and keeping it a secret can keep the abusive person protected, which allows the abuse to continue with others.  If you are keeping a secret about an addiction or an affair, it can cause feelings of betrayal in the relationship when the truth finally comes out (which it will!).  If no one will get hurt as a result of the secret, it most likely is a healthy secret.

4.  Do YOU get hurt as a result of keeping the secret?  Secrets such as spending money and acquiring debt, having an affair, withholding information about previous abuse or neglect, can cause so much shame over not allowing your partner to know who you really are and what you struggle with in your internal world.  This not only hurts the relationship, but hurts YOU.  It doesn't allow others to know who you really are.  If a secret is hurting you, it is most likely toxic.

These are just a few of the questions to ask when trying to determine whether a secret is toxic or healthy. Thank you for reading!

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.

How toxic and healthy secrets impact our relationships

Teri and Tammy have discussed both toxic secrets and healthy secrets, but how do each of them impact our relationships with others? Toxic Secrets:

  • Create an unsafe relationship which makes intimacy difficult, if not impossible, to have
  • Create distance between the secret keeper and the one who is kept in the dark
  • Create alliances and dependency between the secret keeper and anyone who knows the truth
  • Usually come out in time, and can create a great deal of resentment and anger when they emerge
  • Can be dangerous and cause people harm, which doesn't protect and nurture those around you
  • Can cause the secret keeper to feel isolated and alone (which other people feel... even if they can't name what it is.)
  • Doesn't allow for the freedom of healthy decision making.  If someone is keeping a secret that is toxic, how can the other person make an accurate decision if they don't have all of the information to do so?

Healthy Secrets:

  • Can create a sense of healthy mystery in relationships and help to keep passion and intimacy alive
  • Create a sense of "self" separate from the other person (or people), which is interdependent
  • Promote respect and allow a relationship to have healthy boundaries
  • Nurture a relationship and protect it from hurtful information that will only harm (as opposed to help the relationship grow)
  • Creates a sense of "grace" and kindness that allow a relationship to grow stronger

These are only a few examples of how both toxic and healthy secrets can impact our relationships. Check back tomorrow when we will discuss how you can tell the difference between toxic and healthy secrets.  Thanks for reading!

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.

Toxic Secrets

This week we are talking about secrets! Secrets come in many forms. There are healthy secrets, but also toxic ones. What is the difference? A toxic secret is one that will block you from intimacy and puts walls between you and your loved one. says, toxic secrets "hide a part of your heart, disguise your vulnerability which denies a gift to your loved one, or prevents your loved one from supporting you." Some will call them white lies, or lies of omission. People hold secrets to protect others, out of fear, they feel it could end a relationship, or because it's their job. As a therapist I hold many secrets. I can't count the number of times someone has said "I've never told anyone else that." Usually after a person reveals their secrets they experience a powerful sense of freedom. As the saying goes, "The truth will set you free." Toxic secrets can "haunt" you and cause emotional havoc. They can become poisonous and bleed dysfunction into your relationships and your moods.

Here are some examples of toxic secrets:

  • Abuse- Keeping the secret that someone is hurting you emotionally, verbally, sexually, or physically will make things worse for you and possibly for others. If you do not voice your pain, the perpetrator could inflict abuse to someone else down the road. Sharing this secret could save someone else's life- including your own. (**If you are in an abusive relationship, please seek professional help to consult on a safe way to disclose the abuse.)
  • Affairs- When you have an affair, it will block the relationship from being fulfilling. Even if it is scary to reveal this secret, many couples are able to heal and create a relationship they never thought possible if they do it right.
  • Addictions- When someone is struggling with an addiction, it will only thrive more when they keep it a secret. The first step to overcoming an addiction is not keeping it a secret anymore to yourself and others.
  • Legal issues-Keeping these a secret could be dangerous and cause pain for others around you. If you have a legal matter, not revealing it in a close relationship could cause someone to feel betrayed. You are lying to them by hiding part of yourself.
  • Health concerns- Keeping these fears inside will block you from being able to lean on a support system and your doctor. You may need help from others. If they don't know what is going on, they won't know what to do to help you.
  • Emotions- Hiding your emotions can result in internal turmoil for someone. Keeping your emotions a secret will cause you to carry your pain alone. Sharing your emotions will keep you real and open up doors to emotional intimacy in relationships.

We are not saying you need to share every detail of your life with everyone you meet. There are boundaries to keep in mind and you need to make sure you are revealing secrets to people you feel emotionally safe with. Remember toxic secrets have more power when they are kept. The more you keep them, they more alone you will feel.

Check in tomorrow as Tammy tells us about healthy secrets!

Guest post by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW

Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW is a licensed virtual therapist at Renewed Horizon Counseling. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Renewed Horizon Counseling services Indiana & Florida.

The Masks We Wear...Addiction

This week we are talking about masks since it is Halloween.  However, we are not talking about the masks we put on to dress up for trick-or-treating; we are talking about masks we wear on a daily basis.  All of these masks protect us so that others can’t see us for who we really are.  Today we are talking about the mask of Addiction. What is Addiction?

Addiction is the uncontrollable compulsive need to engage in a certain activity or use a substance even when there are negative consequences.  Alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, sex addiction, compulsive overeating, compulsive working, and compulsive exercise are all examples of addiction.  Misuse or abuse of drugs, alcohol, work, or sex can lead to the addiction, especially with a family history.

Addiction is a “mask” or a fence we put up around us to cope, cover, quiet, or defend our true self.  In doing this, we separate ourselves from who we really are.  With continual use, the addict will withdraw from everything--family, friends, work, things they used to enjoy.  The addiction takes over and is constantly reinforced by feelings such as shame and regret.

Why Do We Wear the Mask of Addiction?

There are two reasons we wear masks: to protect ourselves and to protect others.  In order to protect ourselves, we wear a mask to hide our true self, our wishes, desires, and vulnerabilities from others.  We just don’t feel ok being the person we really are inside.  We wear these masks to pretend we are someone else to avoid rejection from others and pain.  With addiction, we use drugs or alcohol to build a wall and present a front.  No one will ever know who we truly are inside unless we let them in.  This can cause huge problems in marriages or intimate relationships when your significant other cannot or does not know the real you.  Addictions like pornography or sex addiction are very protective masks because they keep us from being intimate with another person.  Your need can be met with very little vulnerability or exposure of your true self.

The mask of addiction helps us to feel ok and to keep us from being in touch with our true self.  We may not feel comfortable in a crowd of people, so put on a mask and have a drink.  We can’t control feelings of shame, guilt, and pain, so we mask the hurt by getting high to escape reality for a while.  We don’t like the way our bodies look, so we compulsively exercise to mask it.  We don’t like being intimate with others because it makes us feel vulnerable, so we have multiple one-night stands to keep anyone from getting too close.

The mask of addiction is often related to codependency.  We want to be who others want us to be, so we wear that mask.  If we are successful, others will like us and want to be around us—often because we fit perfectly into the mold they have created for us.  We define ourselves through others’ approval.  The trouble with this is that our spouse, family, friends, coworkers, etc. never see the true person.  They only get to see the person we want them to see.  All relationships with others are only on the surface, and we are never completely vulnerable to any one.  With this mask, we cheat ourselves and others out of the experience of knowing the real person, without the mask.

If you find yourself reading this, and are struggling with any addiction, please get professional help.  You are not your addiction.  You are not your mask.

Check back tomorrow to read more about the masks we wear!


Written by Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW

Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group.  Christy enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling.  Christy also provides family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling.

Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.

Are You Creating a Shame-Based Family Environment? 16-20

Teri, Tamara and Natalie did a great job at explaining the issue of shame:  a feeling of toxic guilt, or where you feel bad-- even though you haven't done anything wrong.  Guilt is where you feel bad for what you did, or how your behavior or choices effected someone else.  Shame is where you feel like a bad person.  I hear many people describe their shame issues as feeling as though nothing they do is ever good enough, or feeling like there is something wrong with them as a person. Shame is such a core issue for so many people we see in counseling, and it can impact our lives in all areas:  work, family relationships, romantic relationships, friendships, parenting, and our relationship with ourselves!  Unfortunately, toxic shame can also be handed down from generation to generation.  If a parent has unresolved toxic shame, they will parent their children in a shame-based manner as well.  Here are the final 5 characteristics of shame-based families:

  • Shame-based family environments have a "Me" concept, instead of seeing the family as an "Us".  When a family system operates in this way, decisions are made based on one persons needs and desires, instead of seeing what is best for the family as a whole.  This denies the needs and desires of the rest of the family members-- which means that someone's needs will constantly go unnoticed and unmet.  As a result, this can create feelings of unworthiness in the family members whose needs weren't validated.  As an adult, this person may not feel worthy of vocalizing their needs because they either don't believe they deserve to, or they are afraid their needs will just go unnoticed or unheard.
  • Shame-based families have very limited and constricted feelings.  There may be unspoken (or spoken) "rules" about what feelings are "appropriate" or not.  For example, a family who doesn't allow the expression of anger or sadness, but expects for all family members to smile, show happiness, or act like nothing is wrong.  This causes a person to assign a negative label to certain feelings, or to see feelings as "bad" or "wrong".  Some families are even more severely restrictive with feelings, where the spoken or unspoken rule is "don't feel".  This can result in a person "cutting off" to, or being unaware of feelings altogether!
  • On the same note, shame-based families have painful or unresolved issues (e.g., abusive behaviors, addictions, toxic secrets, etc.).  Because they don't allow expression of the entire range of feelings, the relationships between family members can't be authentic.  We are limited in resolving true conflict or issues in our relationships if we can't be real about how we feel and what is effecting us!  This causes the family members to become too tolerant of painful things-- things that are inappropriate and toxic. As an adult, you may allow painful or hurtful things to happen to you, not realizing that you have the right to use your feelings to set boundaries with others.
  • Shame-based families are critical of each others needs, and often those needs are denied.  For example, if a child comes to a parent and is needing their time, attention or affirmation, and that child is ridiculed, criticized or dismissed, that child will end up feeling like that need was "bad" and because they have that need, they are a "bad" person.  We see this frequently in our sessions with clients, where they have a need arise, but because they have so much shame (or feel "bad") about having that need, this conflict in their mind will cause them to not have a voice in what they are needing from others.
  • Shame-based families also have little respect for each others limitations.  If someone expresses a limit-- whether physical, emotional, mental, or otherwise, those limits are overlooked.  For example, if you are physically sick as a child, but not allowed to stay home from school without getting in "trouble" or being ridiculed, you don't learn to set good boundaries and limits as an adult and take care of yourself when you don't feel well.  Basically, when limits aren't acknowledged and respected in a shame-based family system, you don't usually learn proper self-care.  Having personal limitations becomes "weak" or "bad", as opposed to healthy and nurturing.

Have you noticed any of the characteristics of a shame-based family?  Perhaps you recognize some from your family growing up, or recognize ways that you might be shame-based in your own parenting.  If so, we encourage you to begin addressing shame, and making healthy changes, both for yourself and for generations to come!

Stay tuned for next weeks blog topic:  common obstacles to growth in therapy.  As always, thank you for joining us!

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.