When you think about it, nearly all of us have an “addiction” of some kind.
Addiction may be defined as repeatedly returning to a substance or activity, because it brings pleasure or reward – even though it may be known that involvement can lead to serious harm (eg smoking can cause lung cancer; abusing credit cards can result in high levels of debt, and in the worst-case scenario, bankruptcy).
For some, it might be an addiction to something that is relatively harmless – such as chocolate, Facebook, or reading. We may even joke about it.
However addictions become serious when they begin to impact the individual’s day to day life, relationships, work, health and wellbeing. These problems tend to develop when the addiction is to something like nicotine, alcohol and other drugs, the pokies, online gambling, food or even shopping.
Addiction – Why Can’t We Stop?
Addictions grow from activities or substance which produce feelings of pleasure initially – drugs for example may induce feelings of energy and confidence, or relaxation and satisfaction. Even eating chocolate releases feel good chemicals in the brain!
Over time however, the pleasure decreases, requiring more of the substance/activity to achieve the same affect.
Addictions may also develop when the substance/activity is used as a way of avoiding distressing thoughts and emotions, such as depression or anxiety. Alcohol for example is famous for reducing social inhibitions and helping us to feel more confident, finding it more easy to talk with others. For others, the addiction helps them to avoid painful memories or chronic pain.
Initially, the individual may try the activity/substance out of a sense of curiosity, or because they believe it will improve their performance or ability in some way.
When addiction takes hold, the individual may not even want to stop, despite knowing the risks and problems it brings.
Treatment for Addiction
It all depends on the individual, the causes, and the addiction itself, as to what form the recovery process will take. No single treatment is right for everyone.
It could include medication or medically assisted detoxification in the initial stages; counselling and other behavioural therapies are also useful in identifying the causes underlying the addiction, dealing with these problems, and seeking out healthier alternatives.
Realising that you need help is the first step. From there, a psychologist can become your ally as you battle to overcome your addiction, providing a non-judgemental environment for you to honestly and openly address your problems.
Author: M1 Psychology
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