ADDICTION – WHAT IS IT?
According to the Collin’s English Dictionary, the meaning of addiction is “an inability to stop doing or using something, especially something harmful, i.e. drug addiction such as using opioids or cocaine”.
Whilst addiction is described as “an inability to stop doing or using something”, it can also include taking something. Drug addiction is given as the example above, but it can also be associated with gambling, alcohol and nicotine, although it is possible to be addicted to just about anything. In fact according to the charity “Action on Addiction” one in three people are addicted to something. Given these figures it can be realised that you are not alone. Here are some other examples of addictive behaviour:
- Work obsession: Someone obsessed by work can be to the extent they become physically exhausted, or if your relationship, family and social life are affected and you never take holidays, then this addiction may apply to you.
- Internet: Cmputer and mobile phone use has increased, along with computer and internet addictions. People may spend hours each day and night surfing the internet, may be gaming while neglecting other aspects of their lives.
- Solvents: Volatile substance abuse is when you inhale substances, such as glue, aerosols, petrol or lighter fuel to give you a feeling of intoxication.
- Shopping: This would be when you buy things you don’t need or want to achieve a buzz. This regular behaviour becomes an addiction and is quickly followed by feelings of guilt, shame or despair.
There is scientific evidence that the addictive substances and behaviours share a key neurobiological feature – they intensely activate brain pathways of reward and reinforcement, many of which involve the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Both substance use disorders and gambling behaviours have an increased likelihood of being accompanied by conditions such as depression and anxiety or other pre-existing problems. Substance use and gambling disorders not only engage many of the same brain mechanisms of compulsivity, they respond to many of the same approaches to treatment.
Yet the strain of managing an addiction can seriously damage your work life and relationships. In the case of substance misuse (for example, drugs and alcohol), an addiction can have serious psychological and physical effects.
HOW ADDICTION DEVELOPS
Complex conditions affect reward, reinforcement, motivation and memory systems of the brain. Whereas substance use and gambling disorders are characterized by impaired control over usage; social impairment, involving disruption of everyday activities and relationships; and may involve craving. Continuing use is typically harmful to relationships and work or school obligations. Another distinguishing feature is that individuals may continue the activity despite physical or psychological harm incurred or exacerbated by use and tolerance to the substance increases, as the body adapts to its presence.
Addiction affects the brain’s executive functions, therefore individuals who develop an addiction may not be aware that their behaviour is causing problems for themselves and others. Eventually, pursuit of the pleasurable effects of the substance or behaviour may end up dominating an individual’s activity or activities.
Addictions can have the capacity to induce a sense of hopelessness and feelings of failure, coupled with those of shame, guilt or even despair.
CAUSES OF ADDICTION
There are lots of reasons why addictions begin. In the case of drugs, alcohol and nicotine, these substances affect the way you feel, both physically and mentally. These feelings can be enjoyable and create a powerful urge to use the substances again.
Gambling may result in a similar mental “high” after a win, followed by a strong urge to try again and recreate that feeling. This can develop into a habit that becomes very hard to stop.
Being addicted to something means that not having it causes withdrawal symptoms, or a “come down” and because this can be unpleasant, it’s easier to carry on having or doing what you crave, and so the cycle continues.
Often, an addiction gets out of control because you need more and more to satisfy a craving and achieve the “high”.
However, addiction is a multi-faceted condition which can arise out of many elements, including the exposure to an addictive agent. It can therefore be productive (and may be more accurate) to think of risk factors for the development of substance abuse disorders, rather than the causes.
Given below are some of the factors that contribute to risk:
- Biological factors: Included here are one’s genes, physiological factors, and gender
- Psychological factors: Such as personality factors, trauma and abuse, and mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic e.g. professional pressure) or being unemployed
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY – HOW I CAN HELP YOU AS A THERAPIST
Whilst there are many routes to the recovery of addiction, along the way some individuals can achieve improved physical, psychological and social functioning on their own – this would be called a natural therapy. Some prefer the support of community or community peer-based networks, some like to be clinical based in recovery through the services of credentialed professionals.
As the road to recovery is seldom straight, there are opportunities to relapse, or a recurrence of, say, substance use, is common and often regarded as part of the process – when this happens it is definitely not the end of the road.
Whilst there are a number of ways to consider an approach to recovery, there is evidence to suggest that commitment to change is more important than the type of programme itself.
As a Counselling Therapist I will give you both the support and space to explore your thoughts and feelings in some detail to establish the background behind your addiction as we also explore your past, the present and focus on the future. This will help you to understand any particular pattern of behaviour …. May be you are unaware as to why you have established this behaviour, or perhaps your addiction is to temporarily reduce the feelings of loss of control or anxiety. Either way, it is important you are heard and understood in a non-judgemental way, and to find out what actually triggers it. In this way you will feel supported further by avoiding the opportunity of a relapse as together, say, we monitor closely how your progress is going as more effective ways of coping are established.
I have helped many people who have had an addiction.
In fact, for those who achieve remission of the disorder for five years, scientists report, the likelihood of relapse is no greater than that among the general population.
So if you believe your current behaviour is bad for you, if you believe you would be better off after making change and if you believe that with commitment you have a good chance of making a success of making change, then I can help you walk across that bridge back into normal living.
Take that first step right now to cement your belief in place and contact me knowing that you are ready to change:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07973 410376 or 0208 873 2843
I operate from clinics in both Epsom, Surrey and Crawley, West Sussex.