Why is it that we know what we want but can rarely seem to achieve our goals? What undermines us every time? As a psychiatrist who has run several rehabs and an addiction expert who has helped thousands of people change their habits and get back on track, the answer is simple: cravings. Cravings make us smoke “just one puff” when we’re trying to quit. Cravings make us “cheat” on our diets. Cravings lead us back into the casino if we’re gamblers, or back to the bar if we’re alcoholic. Why do we let that happen? How can we stop them?
Cravings are intense urges that are very uncomfortable to resist. They often feel like they are going to last forever unless they are satisfied. They trick us into believing that “this time will be different”, or “I deserve this”, or even “one time can’t hurt.” They are powerful thoughts and feelings that drive our behavior in ways that are clearly against our self-interest. Where do they come from and how can we stop them?
Well, that’s exactly why I wrote Craving: Why We Can’t Seem to Get Enough (Hazelden Pub. 2013). As an addiction psychiatrist I saw heartbreaking examples of people giving up just as they were starting to get successful, families torn apart and jobs lost, all because of cravings and their effects. I saw people spend thousands of dollars on miracle “cures”, geographic cures (moving away to try and fix the problem), and fads. Most of these efforts were misguided, although at the time they seemed sensible to the person who was suffering with the cravings. The people I was helping truly believed their problem was the sugar (or the alcohol, or the gambling, or the smoking) and couldn’t see past that to learn that the craved object was really just a symptom of a deeper need that couldn’t ever be met with “one more donut.”
In Craving, I review the complex causes of cravings (the brain science and psychology behind cravings, the powerful social forces that affect cravings and even the genetics of cravings) and then explore what we really know about what works to kick them. Strategies that have published, peer-reviewed, scientific support are emphasized, and myths are debunked. The book contains practical suggestions that a reader could use to immediately begin to gain control over their cravings and achieve their goals.
Many of the suggestions are counterintuitive (did you know that mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce cravings?), but all of the suggestions are grounded in science. What you won’t find is a suggestion to use this or that supplement, or some piece of fitness equipment or a magic juicer. As a psychiatrist I have reviewed thousands of articles on addictions and cravings. In many of the cases, I spoke directly with the researchers who conducted the cravings studies to clarify what exactly their research showed. In Craving I distill those down to the essential suggestions that can make a difference in your cravings and help you get on your way to recovery.
Omar S. Manejwala, M.D.
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Omar Manejwala, M.D., is the senior vice president and chief medical officer of Catasys in Los Angeles, California, and is the former medical director at Hazelden Foundation. Dr. Manejwala is a transformative public speaker and appears frequently in the national media to address the topic of addiction.
Find out more at www.cravingbook.com
follow on twitter @DrManejwala