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What is addiction?

When you want to escape, from either stress or boredom, you can find yourself indulging in things like sex, shopping, drinking, taking drugs, gambling, or even computer games.

rock abstract by NikkiBut, when does an indulgence become dependence?

Addiction is defined by a compulsion to use a substance or continue with certain behaviour making your feel good or to avoid bad feelings.

There are two types of addiction: physical and psychological. The pattern doesn’t have to be severe to be considered an addiction, there are mild addictions.

Physical addiction

This occurs after you blitz a substance so much it actually alters your body’s chemistry. This means your body develops a hunger for this drug that you have to keep feeding.

If you don’t, your body goes into withdrawal and you get all sort of nasty symptoms until you feed it again.

Psychological addiction

When your brain gets hooked to a particular substance or behaviour that ‘rewards’ it, i.e. makes you feel good. The mind is a powerful thing and therefore an addicted brain can produce physical manifestations of withdrawal, including cravings, irritability, insomnia and depression.

When it comes to alcohol, nicotine and illegal drugs, it’s possible to develop either a physical addiction, psychological addiction, or a mixture of both.

How do you become an addict?

Anyone who takes enough of a certain substance is at risk of becoming addicted to it. People generally don’t overindulge in a particular substance when they’re content.

There are usually underlying difficulties that can spark off the addiction. This could be trauma in the family, abuse, neglect, trouble at school/work, or even something as simple as self-esteem issues.

Addiction is actually quite a logical process. If something gives you positive re-enforcement, of course you’re going to want to do it/take it again. It gives you pleasure, it’s fun, it’s enjoyable.

It becomes an issue when you start repeating this pattern simply block out negative feelings, and your life begins to revolve round it. The thing is anyone has the potential to become an addict.

What are the signs?

Even though different types of people can develop any kind of addiction, the warning signs are quite similar and include:

  • An unhealthy focus on pursuing the substance/behaviour
  • Excluding other activities that aren’t related to using
  • Going out mainly to use
  • Needing more of the substance/behaviour to get the same feeling of elations
  • Neglecting other areas of your life including relationships, health, or career.

Recovering from an addiction

There are a number of ways to recover from an addiction, and not everyone is the same. Some people have found Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to help change their behaviour, or practicing Mindfulness.

If it’s you who has an addiction, or a family member or friend, there’s help out there. Initially acknowledging that it’s an addiction can be the hardest part.

This is a big step. But once you’ve done it, you have begun to free yourself from it. Remember, recovery is possible, often with the help of others, so do reach out for extra support.

This article was last reviewed on 03 May 2017

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