Addiction is when you struggle to control specific repetitive actions, to the point that it negatively impacts your life. If you experience this you’re not alone; it’s estimated that one in three people in the UK are addicted to something.
People who have an addiction are under the powerful influence of compulsions to do the action over and over again, in many cases as a means to avoid thinking about past trauma or current stress.
Our brains are also wired to released ‘happy’ chemicals when we’re doing something that brings us joy, but unfortunately this doesn’t work in our favour with addictions. Instead, it only further encourages us to engage in the destructive action, despite the harmful impact.
Who gets addicted?
Some research has found there is a genetic component to addiction, but other factors like experiencing high levels of stress and being around other people with addictions can increase your risk of having one too.
Anyone could become an addict, as there are many triggers for developing an addiction. People who have unresolved trauma from the past, or are experiencing a lot of stress in their daily life, may choose to use drugs or alcohol to block it out. Other people may be triggered by a specific event, such as unemployment, a relationship breakdown or the onset of poverty.
What makes something an addiction?
It can be tricky to see where an action stops becoming a habit and becomes an addiction. But if a habit spirals out of control and you need to engage with it to cope with everyday life, it is considered an addiction. The key question to ask yourself is: can I stop? If you can’t, it’s no longer a harmless habit, but an addiction.
Sometimes people confuse misuse and addiction, but they are two separate issues. Misuse is when a person consumes an excessive amount of mind or body altering substances, such as binge drinking. While it isn’t healthy behaviour, it also isn’t addiction.
Another term people use interchangeably is addiction and compulsion, but they are also not the same thing. Addiction refers to the entire disorder, whereas compulsion is an intense urge people feel that can lead to them engaging with their addiction. You can think of the compulsion as a cog in the wheel of addiction.
What types of addiction are there?
People think of addiction and think of alcohol and drugs, but anything has the potential to turn into an addiction. Sometimes addictions develop from harmless activities like eating, having sex and using the internet. Unfortunately, all of these activities can develop into a destructive addiction.
But while most actions have the capacity to turn into addiction, some of the most common types we see include:
What are the signs of addiction?
Managing an addiction is hard work and it will usually end up putting a strain on various factors of your life including work, finances and relationships.
Some of the key signs of addiction can include:
- Prioritising their addiction over everything else including important responsibilities
- Being highly private about addictive habits
- Noticeable changes to how they look
- Taking more risks to enable their addictive habit
- Needing more of the action or substance to satiate their desire
- Inability to stop, despite obvious negative consequences
The good news is, addiction is treatable. While overcoming addiction is not easy, there are lots of ways you can seek help and take back control.
Unfortunately, it is rarely as simple as simply ‘stopping’ as you would do with a habit. This is especially true of substance abuse addiction, where sudden withdrawal can result in illness and even death.
Recovering from addiction takes support and an understanding of the role that addiction played in managing certain issues such as stress levels, complicated feelings or past trauma.
How can therapy help with addiction?
While some can recover from an addiction on their own, most people need support. And though many people wait until the problem reaches crisis levels, the earlier this help is accessed the better.
An addiction therapist will help you work out if you’ve got an addiction and, if you do, help you understand the causes of it. Together you’ll discover what triggers could cause you to start the cycle again, so you can manage your recovery process effectively. If your addiction has caused issues like shame, low mood or poor confidence, your therapist will also help you address them too.
While therapy often plays a critical role in recovery, serious addictions may require diagnosis and monitoring by a psychiatrist or, in extreme cases, time at a rehabilitation centre.
If you’re interested in exploring how therapy could help you beat your addiction, book in for a free phone consultation with one of our team by calling 01892 249032. Alternatively, click on the green ‘book a consultation’ button to automatically select a time that suits you.
Alcoholics Anonymous – support for anyone with an alcohol problem
Narcotics Anonymous – help for anyone worried about their drug use
Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous – support for people with sex addiction
Gamblers Anonymous – help for people who want to stop gambling
FRANK – confidential advice about drugs and their effects
NHS Better Health – Quit smoking – advice on how to stop smoking
Where addiction comes from – A summary of addiction from physician and author Gabor Maté