Addiction often contributes to a psychological condition which is rarely discussed and yet deeply felt. This condition is called Values Illness. Values Illness is defined as a life which feels meaningless and without value. Values Illness occurs when an individual makes life decisions based on escaping painful emotions and thoughts rather than creating meaningful life experiences. Addiction is a major contributor to Values Illness because it “hooks” a person into habitual life patterns of escape rather than striving for a richer and fuller life. For example, if a person values having a close relationship with family, then spending time with their children will provide them a rich and meaningful experience. However, if this person escapes family stressors with alcohol and isolation, then they may miss out on developing the deep relationships they desire. When this process of escape becomes a regular pattern, the individual is likely to experience Values Illness.
There are many symptoms associated with Values Illness that can help one identify if this psychological condition is present. An individual with Values Illness is likely to experience feelings of emptiness, loss of interest, feelings of worthlessness, depressed mood, anxiety, poor quality of life, dissatisfying relationships and feelings of hopelessness. One of the most effective interventions for healing Values Illness is to identify one’s values, and begin taking small steps in pursuit of those values. Making life choices which are values-consistent can help generate a path to a much richer and fuller life.
Dr. Berman is a licensed clinical Psychologist at the Retreat at Lancaster County’s inpatient facility He provides training lectures, group supervisions to staff, and is Principle Investigator on a research study looking at the impact of Acceptance and Valueson addiction. Additionally, Dr. Berman offers outpatient therapy in his private practice in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in disorders of emotion regulation, addiction, anxiety, depression, trauma and chronic pain. Dr. Berman earned a Doctorate of Psychology at La Salle University as well as holds Master’s Degrees in clinical psychology from La Salle University and West Chester University.