Ask an Expert: My Wife is Addicted to Self Help

By Lance Dodes 02/19/15

Today's question is on what to do when your wife can't stop subscribing to self help programs, books and tapes—none of which seem to be helping.


My wife is a recovering alcoholic who is obsessed with workshops for healing. She is almost compulsive about it, as if she is madly in search of herself and so goes to anything she hears about where someone is giving a workshop that promises your authentic self or great success in life or finding the meaning of your life etc. She has all these tapes and books around the house and is still emotionally unstable and unhappy and pretty drained of energy. It's like she replaced one addiction for another. She doesn't have much time for me, and so now I just bury myself in work. It's all taking a toll. So, my obvious questions is where do I turn? Where's the way out of this weirdness? My appreciation in advance. -  Jorel


Lance Dodes:  I think the answer to your question, Jorel, lies in your statement that your wife is unhappy and emotionally unstable.  It's likely that she has been dealing with her feelings with compulsive behaviors whose emotional purpose is to try to undo or reverse her feelings of being overwhelmed. Compulsions are not weird; in fact they're among the most common psychological symptoms. It is also common for them to shift direction, as your wife appears to have done by moving from compulsive drinking to compulsive book-buying etc. I suggest that you speak with her about seeing a good therapist to get to the issues behind her compulsive behaviors.



Lance Dodes, MD, has been Director of the substance abuse treatment unit of Harvard’s McLean Hospital, Director of the alcoholism treatment unit at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Director of the Boston Center for Problem Gambling. His books, The Heart of Addiction, Breaking Addiction: A 7-Step Handbook for Ending Any Addiction and The Sober Truth, have been described as revolutionary advances in understanding how addictions work.   Full Bio.

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