The contribution of Personal Meaning and Boredom in Addiction Behaviour

Posted on May 2, 2017 by Addiction Editor

The 4th Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference is on this month at the Mantra on View Hotel, Gold Coast over the 15th – 17th May.

Mr Matthew Csabonyi, Clinical Psychologist at the University of Melbourne joins us on the Gold Coast this month to discuss ‘The contribution of Personal Meaning and Boredom in Addiction Behaviour: Validating Frankl’s explanatory model’.

Mr Matthew Csabonyi

When people have a personal meaning to their life, are they less likely to engage in addictive behaviours? Viktor Frankl (1984) proposed that people are driven to search for a sense of meaning in their life, and that people without a sense of meaning in their life experience the ‘existential vacuum’, a state largely characterised by boredom. Frankl (1984) thought that the experience of the existential vacuum could lead to attempts to temporarily distract from it (i.e., to temporarily get rid of the boredom), including addiction behaviours.

This study investigated whether two broad components of meaning in life, the presence of meaning (PM) and the search for meaning (SM), are associated with alcohol, drug, and cigarette use, and whether boredom mediates those relationships. One hundred and seventy-six young adults completed the Meaning in Life Questionnaire, the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, and provided information about cigarette and illicit drug use over the preceding year. The results partly support Frankl’s model: higher PM was associated with lower alcohol/ other drug use and boredom mediated those relationships, but PM was not significantly related to cigarette smoking.

Contrary to Frankl’s model, no relationship was found between search for meaning and alcohol, drug, or cigarette use. Clinically, these results suggest that psychological interventions that assist individuals to identify and engage in meaningful aspects of their lives might be helpful in reducing their levels of drug and alcohol use. The process of searching for meaning itself may not have a substantial direct impact on levels of substance use, however, once some meaning is established there may be decreased motivation to continue using drugs and alcohol.

For more information on the upcoming 2017 Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference and to secure your spot, please visit addictionaustralia.org.au

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