Nature vs. nurture. Scientists have been involved in this debate for an extended period of time in an effort to determine exactly which force exerts the greatest power over the human brain. While the answer is still up for debate, professionals have not minimized the effect that an individual’s environment has on their well-being.
No one understands this concept more than addicts, recovering addicts, and their families. Regardless of the intensity of training, treatment, and rehab that has been obtained, the environment that one is submerged in heavily affects their recovery.
Influence #1: Family
One of the most influential external factors that can drastically affect addictive behavior is family dynamic. Family interactions, parental presence, and disciplinary actions play a crucial role in the ongoing development of social interactions and mental health.
In our early years of life, we develop strategies to cope with stress. When these strategies no longer prove sufficient, other behaviors can take their place such as addiction and self harm. These external actions are facilitated by internal triggers, so returning to an unhealthy environment can be detrimental to mental health.
Influence 2: Friends
Outside of family, friends are some of the most influential forces in one’s life. When social interactions are amongst friends who also have drug or alcohol problems, it may become difficult to exercise healthy habits that were taught in recovery or rehab settings. Old habits can re-emerge quickly, especially since habits and patterns of friends affect everyone around them. Even the mindset of friends who may not use can affect the outcome of a recovering addict if they display less critical and more permissive views of drug use.
Influence 3: Social Media Sources
While social media can be beneficial, it can also be harmful for individuals with prior drug or alcohol addiction. The portrayal of individuals who are consistently happy, attractive, and always enjoying life can be harmful to another individual who is experiencing emotional problems. It can make them feel further isolated, generate feelings of shame, and can damage self-esteem. There is growing evidence that social media can actually exacerbate mental health struggles for individuals who already suffer from them.
Influence 4: Media Presence
Other media sources, such as video games, movies, and TV shows, can also influence behavior. From displays of normal drug use to glorification of fantasy goals to the portrayal of unrealistic relationships, media uses innate desires to attract viewers. Even if these portrayals are absolutely unrealistic, they create an environment for viewers to experience their innermost desires without discussion of feasibility. The information that is absorbed can greatly impact behavior.
Influence 5: Culture and Religion
Cultural and religious-based triggers can emerge at any time. Based on previous geographical location, religious beliefs that were prevalent in childhood, and participating in/exclusion from religious activities, these triggers can become a quick reality. Gender discrimination, sexual abuse, and shaming are all negative facets of certain cultural/religious mindsets. Problematic behavior often develops as a rebellious attitude towards these facets.
While experts still do not have a definite answer to the long-debated issue of nature vs. nurture, the impact of one’s environment on their overall well-being can not be undermined. Facilitating a healthy environment for recovering addicts to thrive in is beneficial for continued sobriety.