A recent study done by Florida Atlantic University (FAU) showed that certain spiritual factors in one’s life are associated with alcohol abuse and drug addiction. According to the study, these same factors can contribute to other mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, as well.
Previous studies have already been shown that the kind of attachment a person had with their primary caregiver has an effect on whether someone developed mental illness, including addiction. Because relationships provide a significant amount of meaning in one’s life, this most recent study combined the information of attachment styles (secure vs. insecure) with exploring certain spiritual dimensions and how both can influence addiction and mental illness. The spiritual components included having purpose or meaning in one’s life, spiritual well being, and/or having a relationship with a higher power.
The study took place at a substance abuse treatment center in Palm Beach County, Florida. Researchers worked with Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches (BHOPB) in order to develop a model that uses creativity, service, and solitude in order to foster purpose and meaning in the lives of the participants.
The study found that those participants who had an insecure attachment style with their primary caregiver as a child appeared to have more risk for developing depressive symptoms, which can be an initial factor in developing an addiction. The study also found that when one has purpose and meaning in life, they were less likely to develop depressive symptoms. In fact, the study suggested that an existential sense of purpose in life seems to be the most important factor related to whether or not someone develops depressive symptoms.
The researchers pointed out that because of these findings, clinicians and other mental health providers should focus on promoting improved interpersonal relationships, especially for individuals with insecure attachments. This alone can help foster purpose and meaning in their life. In fact, researchers suggested that they make this a higher priority in treatment for addiction and depression.
John R. Graham, Ph.D., a professor at FAU and director of the university’s School of Social Work commented that these findings can not only support clinicians in their treatment planning, but it also supports individuals when searching for how to help themselves. The findings shed light on the fact that individuals can try to repair broken relationships with parents, for example, even if they are older, as a means to restore meaning and purpose.
More and more studies reveal that spirituality plays a significant role in one’s healing and transformation. For this reason, more and more treatment centers are including meditation, yoga, and other alternative type of practices to help foster meaning and purpose. Along these lines, many treatment centers also provide family counseling, as a means to heal any family relationships that might have been affected by an addiction. However, family therapy also recognizes that unhealthy relationships within a family can contribute to an addiction, and for this reason, attempts to transform unhealthy relationships into healthy ones.
This study validates one’s spirituals needs and how they too can play a significant role in healing from addiction.
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