Any form of addiction means having difficulty controlling repeat behaviour, with the results of your behaviour being harmful. You will feel the urge to do something repeatedly because of the need to escape from upsetting/painful emotions and or situations.
The compulsions which drive a person to repeat the above behaviour can have devastating effects, causing more pain and hurt not only for the person involved but also their family and friends.
Addictions take form in many different ways: drinking alcohol, taking drugs, overeating, gambling, internet, sex, smoking, solvent abuse etc. Addictions develop due to the way substances make you feel emotionally and physically.
Usually, these feelings are pleasant (for a short period of time) and trigger a powerful urge to repeat the activity to have that same pleasant feeling again. This then creates a cycle effect which results in you repeating the activity to get a pleasant feeling, which will only last a short period of time and then repeating the activity to get the feeling again.
The cycle continues and can get worse if the time between you carrying out the activity is shortened. This cycle becomes more difficult to break the longer it continues.
In a lot of cases you may not be aware of your addiction and the effect this is having on your relationships, work and/or your health. As a result, you may find that you’re unable to quit your addiction on your own and require support to do so.
Addiction therapy is a crucial key to helping you recognise the problem, work on resolving the problem, working out how and why your emotions are affecting your behaviour, develop coping strategies for the future and eventually be able to abstain from your addiction altogether.
There a number of causes for alcohol addiction or drug addiction, these causes vary greatly from one person to the next:
• Stress. science strongly supports a link between stress and addictions. Feeling stressed can have a negative emotion/feeling associated with it: to escape this feeling, you may try some addictive substances
• Childhood trauma. As a child you may have suffered from abuse, neglect, experience persistent family problems, sexual abuse and or other traumas because of this you are more vulnerable to developing an addiction
• Environment. It’s thought that people are more vulnerable to addictions; who live, go to school or work in environments in which use of addictive substances is common
• Mental health issues. If you have a mental health issue (such as depression and/or anxiety) you are more likely to develop an addiction
• Family history. Research shows that children’s who parents have addictions are likely to develop addictions themselves
• Early use of substances. Evidence has been shown that the younger a person is when they are exposed to substances and activities the more likely they will become addicted
There are two types of addictions; physical and psychological.
Physical addiction is when you have a dependency on substances to get a ‘high’ or gain pleasure. On occasions you may find that you see or experience something which can cause you to feel the sensation of the pleasure of taking the substance, which can cause you to crave the ‘fix’ to fill you with warmth, calm, clarity and release from everyday life and pressures.
For a short period of time, everything can seem like its better, however when you come back to reality the feelings of hopelessness follow. This then makes you want to feel the ‘high’ again and to do this you have to take the substances again; developing and enabling the cycle of addiction.
This type of addiction is known as the biological state where the body becomes used to the substance so the substance no longer has an effect. As the body has got used to the substance (tolerance) it can show signs of withdrawal; cravings increase and the person then has more and more of the substance within a shorter space of time – trapping them into this cycle.
Psychological addiction is when you have an overwhelming feeling which can leave you looking for a way to cope with the things that are going on and the way you cope is through addiction. You will find that on occasions you will have a void or need for something within your life which you are trying to fill and the way you’ve found to do this is through the addictive activity.
This could be that you need to block out negative thoughts/feelings/experiences. Psychological addictions are based solely on filling the need and as such the addiction can change forms i.e. gambling addictively for a period of time and then switching to drinking alcohol. In these cases the focus which isn’t the activity but the certain kind of emotional strain you are trying to fill.
This type of addiction tends to lead to other negative feelings e.g. guilt, despair, failure and shame which again creates a cycle and traps you.
There are many signs of addiction and some may vary depending on the substance and the activity:
• Unable to control the use of substances or activity which shows signs of physical impairment
• Severe cravings/feelings to take the substances or activity
• Increased use of substances and or activity
• Continuing to use the substances despite negative consequences
• Changes in mood, irritability, poor focus, lack of concentration, feeling shaky and or nausea
• Having repetitive relapses
• Personality and or behavioural changes
• Neglecting responsibilities and important tasks in everyday life I.e. attending work/school, completing assignments
• Focusing the majority of your time on when you will get to take the substance or undertake the activity again
In most cases may be unaware of your addiction or the impact it is having on your life and the lives of your friends/families lives. Others may be aware of your addiction but you may be in denial; believing you’re in control and can stop at any time, denial is prominent in situations where the addiction is your main or only way of coping.
You may ignore your addiction due to fear or not being able to live your day-to-day life without the addiction present. In the most severe cases of addiction, you will find yourself in a financially difficult position, you may end up losing your job or your home because of your unpredictability and or lack of focus on your responsibilities, you may also lose your loved ones as addiction causes strains on relationships.
The first step to seeking treatment for addiction is speaking to someone about how you’re feeling. If you feel you’re unable to speak to loved ones due to nerves or other reasons, you can always turn to your GP for help and support and refer yourself for therapy. Your GP will be able to answer any questions you may have about your condition. Your GP should be comfortable discussing this with you and be able to provide you with a safe environment in which to discuss your concerns.
There are several treatments for addictions, which include medication and addiction Counselling; both work to clear up the physical and emotional results of the addictions. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) tends to be used in addiction therapy because it helps you to identify and correct difficult behaviours by establishing and implementing easy to use skills. CBT also helps to address any underlying problems or issues (the reasons you turned to substances in the first place) that tend to occur with addiction; this is essential to be able to determine the root cause, thus working on preventing something similar from happening again in the future.