January 27, 2014

Binge Thinking.


One of my many hats is that of a therapist in a drug and alcohol counseling practice.

My clients are folks who have come to recognize either by choice or chance, or in the face of legal consequences that they have issues with substance abuse and/or addiction.

Some walk into my office filled with resistance, while others enter more willingly. Many deny problems, protesting that they only drink on weekends, but when they do, they rapidly become intoxicated or otherwise impaired or they drink or use their drug of choice until they pass out. Some black out; meaning that they lose time and have no memory of where they were, how they got there and with whom they spent time after a certain period. The term for that is binge drinking.

Another familiar aspect of bingeing is in the realm of food. Imagine having your favorite culinary delights in front of you and after a few bites, you are unable to put down your fork or spoon. Your body could be giving you the signals that it is full, but you ignore them; instead losing yourself as if in a trance, as the gorging continues. Sometimes there is a sensation of nausea and then pain, that if the off switch worked, would put the brakes on the runaway train. Just like the experience of binge drinking, the obsession to indulge continues even when pleasure ceases. Binge eating is an insidious condition as well and sometimes even more challenging, since people can abstain from drinking and drugging, but food is necessary to survive.

Both may be an attempt to self medicate, repress or otherwise cope with untenable emotions. Each can lead to serious consequences, multiple losses and devastating outcomes.

 A few days ago, while standing in a supermarket check out line, I was perusing pages of a women’s magazine and saw mention of a concept that was new to me. It is referred to as binge thinking and it related to the idea of obsessing over something or someone to the exclusion of being able to focus on anything else.

Another definition that came from The  Urban Dictionary “(a) massive burst of brain activity, mostly useless, in one sitting.”

While it isn’t an official diagnosis in the newly revised DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual)  which is the bible, in  a sense, for psychiatrists; it seems to be a distressing condition. It is also one with which I am intimately familiar. Although I wouldn’t say that I have perseverative thinking (another one of those psych terms that are part of the typical vocabulary of those of us who work in the mental health field), I do acknowledge that sometimes thoughts get stuck in my head, like a song lyric I just can’t shake, or fingers melded together with superglue, used to stick the floppy sole of my gym sneaker back on.

“We have more than 48 thoughts per minute. This figure is based on information from UCLA, which states that the average person has 70,000 thoughts per day. If we divide that amount by 24 hours and then by 60 minutes per hour, we get the figure of 48.61 thoughts per minute.”

Consider how many are repetitive and negative in some way. It could be something as simple as “I’m late,” until we start feeling like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. No time to say hello, goodbye, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late,” with the outcome almost assured that we won’t arrive on time. Mine sound like, “I feel like I can’t catch up, won’t get everything done, need a rest, but can’t possibly take one, because if I do, I won’t catch up and get everything done.” Added to that is the desire to be more center stage, expanding my reach, writing and speaking for more venues, while the plates keep spinning above my head and I am afraid to drop any of them, because after all, I committed to doing something and I need to be reliable and don’t want to let anyone down. Even after a series of health crises over the past few months, I remain entrenched in this cycle that feels like an endless loop tape that I need to cut with a machete.
I then tune into my inner wise woman/addictions counselor and ask myself the purpose and function of my behavior. What needs do I want my behavior to meet? How else can I get those urges satisfied? To whom can I reach out? Can I use my spiritual tools and practice to quell the mental machine that is chugging away, about to implode? Can I simply love myself enough to surrender the obsession to do more and be more and simple be?
I am Edie and I am a grateful recovering binge thinker.

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Tara Lemieux

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