A Unified Theory of Addictions

The behavioral theory associated the phenomenon of impulse-control disorders called Feeling-State Theory marks a critically important development within the academic research field of behavioral addictions that constitutes a kind of unified field theory of addictions. This behavioral science theory of addictions is every bit the equal of such other famous theories put forward in Physics such as Albert Einstein’s Theory of General and Special Relativity as well as Werner Heisenberg’s invention of Quantum Theory as a way of demonstrating to the disbelieving Einstein that God does indeed play dice and that indeterminism is an integral aspect of the nature of things. Such an all embracing comprehensive theory of addictions that has been put forward by Robert Miller has the serendipitous effect of also advancing present day theories of mind that indicate more often than not that mind is not synonymous with the brain.
One wonders what impact such a theory put forward in 2010 by Robert Miller, 575 Plymouth Road, San Marino, CA 91108 will have on the mega-billion dollar addictions treatment and recovery industry or has had in the six years since the initial publication of this comprehensive theory on addictions in 2010 in the journal Traumatology. Being the cynic that I am in regard to such dubious enterprises that claim either religious faith or some minor science grounded approach as the ideological/empirical basis for the questionable methodologies employed, I would be quite surprised indeed is Miller’s Feeling State Theory had over the ensuing six year period gained any standing at all in the mad rush of the owner/operators of the addiction recovery centers to cash in big time on the ignorance of the addicted and thusly tormented celebrity sports figures and the other so called “celebrities” that constitute the enormous cash cow that such ilk has been milking quite successfully for a very long time now.
Perhaps it’s time to get down to the actual science involved and away from the P & L statements for awhile so that an actual unified behavioral theory on addictions can be explained in language simple and straightforward enough for any mega-millionaire sports celebrity to understand and appreciate. In an effort to achieve such simplicity and straightforwardness, I will seek to refrain from the use of the standard boilerplate technical jargon (when possible) that is typically and far too often deployed by one professional in the field to impress another or at least gain through the use of such elitist academic psychobabble a measure of legitimacy that such authors assume they would not have sans elitist psychobabble. The public’s cynicism in regard to the use of such convoluted speech patterns is therefore seen by this author as a commendable virtue. There is however, an appropriate place for the necessary and required deployment neuroscience terminology and other physiological brain pathway arcana.
The article under discussion that appeared in the journal Traumatology, 16(3), 2-10; is entitled “The feeling-state theory of impulse-control disorders and the impulse-control disorder protocol. My readers may be better off with a few worthy quotations from Robert Miller’s article than any paraphrases constructed by this authors that could inadvertently leave out some curious but essential detail. On page 3 Miller states the following-
Schmitz ( 2005 ), proposes a biologically based theory of the etiology
Of the ICDs or what he calls “behavioral addiction.” Behavioral addictions
Are hypothesized as using the same neurological rewards/pleasure pathways
as do substance-related disorders. These specific neurocircuits have been
identified as part of the reward/pleasure pathways involved in the reinforcing
properties of drugs of abuse and drugs of craving. The neurotransmitters
dopamine, opioid peptides, glutamate, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
are integral parts of the reward pathways (Koob, 1992). Substances such as
cocaine and alcohol stimulate the neurotransmitters in these pathways so that
the individual experiences reward/pleasure. ……………
The reward deficiency theory postulates that individuals can have “malfunctions in the reward/pleasure neurocircuits” that causes individuals so effected to be less able to find pleasure/reward with such natural reward/pleasures as good food/normal sex. Such individuals are driven to seek “unnatural rewards such as illicit drugs and thrill-seeking to overcome the neurocircuit deficiencies.” Such other impulse control disorders (ICD) as gambling, thrill-seeking, compulsive buying, hypersexuality, stealing, binge-eating disorder, and other forms of ICDs.
This theory makes an important contribution to an overall better understanding of contemporary ideas regarding theories of mind. According to Miller (2010), p.3- “Margaron (2004) argued that the biologically based explanations are too reductionistic and that pleasure should be understood as the result of complex mental processes involving the interaction of the body with the environment rather than a fixed biological predisposition.” The Feeling State Theory of Impulse Control Disorders was developed by Robert Miller. “The theory postulates that ICDs are created when positive feelings, linked with specific objects or behavior, form a state-dependent memory. This state dependent memory, composed of feelings and the event, form a unit called a ‘feeling state’ (FS). The FS is hypothesized to be the cause of the ICDs.”
Feeling State Theory (FST) is based upon the important principle that each and every person’s psychological history has an important influence upon the formation of ICDs. Although ICD’s are thought to result for positive events, they require underlying negative personal beliefs by the person so affected for the impact of the positive event to have such a major impact upon the personality. The youth growing up under constant emotional and psychological abuse from parents, siblings, etc. designed to convince him that he is a looser is unduly influenced as a result of winning $10.000.00 in a game of poker. Gambling then takes the form of an ICD. Other examples about regarding the perhaps almost infinite number of negative feeling states in the affected person who is at risk (so to speak) for an eventual positive FS (feeling state) of the right type spontaneously generating an ICD.
My only objection is to what Miller is proposing as a behavioral treatment modality that is known as Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Based upon previous academic work at the graduate level in a masters level (LMHC) mental health counseling program at Stetson University, EMDR has been proven to lack validity as well as efficacy. There are other behavioral treatment modalities such as Cognitive Therapy (CT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Gestalt Therapy, Existential/Humanist Therapy, and various psychoanalytic approached that are better suited to produce valid and efficacious results than EMDR.
Schneider, & Irons (2001), is an excellent study of what they label as “sex addiction” for both the curious and the thoughtful who may have a serious professional and/or scientific interest in addictions theory and an overall interest in one unified theory of addictions that encompasses both chemical and behavioral addictions.
Miller, R. (2010). The feeling-state theory of impulse control disorders and the impulse-control disorder protocol. Traumatology, 16(3), 2-10.

Schneider, J.P., & Irons, R.R. (2001). Assessment and treatment of addictive sexual disorders: relevance for chemical dependency relapse. Substance Use & Misuse, 36(13), 1795-1820.


About charlesknause

I was born in Camden, N.J. (now the poorest city in America) in 1950 and grew up in a beautiful old Victorian town in South Jersey called Collingswood. I now live in Ormond Beach, FL where the weather suits my spirit. My personal life was impacted at an early point in my life by a psychiatric diagnosis that changed my life and put me on the workers scrap heap. I have refused to accept such a miserable fate and today consider myself a social activist dedicated to changing the way that people who have been diagnosed with a serious psychiatric disability are perceived by society and the people in their community. I have a B.S. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Central Florida and 18 graduate credits in Mental Health Counseling from Stetson University in DeLand, FL as well as 24 graduate credits in an MSW program at UCF. I am a member of the Volusia County Behavioral Health Care Providers Consortium where I function as an advocate. I am a daily reader of the World Socialist Website and an occasional contributor.
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