What is Addiction?
Addiction is any behaviour that we use to cope with our emotions and temporarily relieve our deep feeling of lack of connection to self and others. Addiction is also not having control over doing, taking or using something, to the point that it may be harmful.
We can become addicted to any behaviour that temporary relieves us from nervous system dysregulation and temporarily gives us "feel good", connection-based, neurotransmitters like dopamine that run through the body providing immediate relief. Historically, addiction has been defined with regard solely to psychoactive substances which cross the blood-brain barrier once ingested, temporarily altering the chemical milieu of the brain, substances like:
- Other drugs
Common types of Addiction
Addictions can be developed from anything and almost everything. The most common type of addiction is substance abuse (smoking, drinking, taking drugs, etc.) Addictive behaviour can also include:
- Sexually related behaviour (watching pornography, cybersex, telephone sex hotline use)
- Chronic busyness
- Food use/restriction
- Engaging in toxic relationship dynamics
- Internet and social media use (side effects of this may be, lack of interest in socialising offline, damaged eyesight, and even weight gain)
With repetition of behaviours, the brain and body can change physically, the need for the behaviour becomes stronger and stronger, regardless of the consequences. We as human beings are creatures of habit, this allows addictions to be easily picked up once we get used to behaving in a certain way. Some people may be able to participate in activities and never develop addictions, leaving no signs of withdrawal or cravings. For those that do develop addictions, withdrawal and craving symptoms can create devastating dependencies. Many experts have concluded that neither physical dependencies nor psychological dependencies are beneficial to anyone.
Addictions can also stem from activities such as social gatherings. During social events, a psychological ‘high’ can be experienced and the chase for that ‘high’ is induced. It can stem from substance experimentation such as smoking or drinking something, or even an idealistic approach that intrigues you to the point of wanting to actively oblige your curiosity. Winning a bet, having sex with someone new, peer pressure, any of these scenarios are capable of inducing an addiction.
Personality can play a part in addiction as many people simply have the type of personality that becomes addicted to something. Generally, an addiction has little to do with the actual induction. There is usually a deeper root to the cause of the addiction.
We turn to addictive behaviours because they temporarily provide relief for our unmet emotional needs, they provide us with a brief feeling of connection or worthiness.
Treatment options for Addictions
Proper treatment is vital to ridding yourself of addiction as addictions tend to become worse and have a more damaging effect on you and those around you. Before treatment, you must recognise that you do have an addiction and make the decision to get help for it. Recognition may be very difficult as most of us avoid self-criticism, and in turn, reject constructive-criticism even more. In this case, honesty is always the best policy.
There are primarily three basic treatment processes to overcome addictions:
- Drug Replacement Therapy or Medications (for substance misuse): This is when you are prescribed a substance to replace the dependent substance you are addicted to. This includes such things like nicotine replacements like the patch, or gum, to more sophisticated and potent replacements such as methadone for more hazardous drug addictions. Medications can be very useful when dealing with detoxification procedures, because they may relieve some of the hassles of getting rid of an addiction.
- Cold Turkey: This means to just quit your addictions upon your own willpower. Cold turkey is the most difficult of all treatments as any cravings or withdrawal symptoms can become extremely distressing. It has been done by some addicts, but again, it is the most difficult of all treatment procedures to accomplish.
- Counselling: Addictions Counselling can help go straight to the root of any addiction and should be applied to either of the other treatment procedures to help in reducing risks of relapse. Addictions Counselling is essential in overcoming any physical addictions such as shopping, gambling, pornography, sex, as addictions of this nature can be far more harmful socially and personally as opposed to physically.
Any addiction sought to be given up should be diagnosed first before deciding on a particular treatment procedure. A pill may not be the answer.
Healing and recovery from Addiction
Addiction is often misunderstood, because there is a stigma, we have to understand the root cause. When core needs are not met we have adults who cannot cope. When a person cannot cope, they find whatever way they can to relieve themselves from a mind and body that keeps them in cycles of panic and pain. Addiction is often an unhealthy form of trying to cope.
Many addictions are rewarded or accepted by society - workaholism, busyness, shopping addiction. Some addictions are stigmatised more than others. Regardless of the type of addiction, it is important to remember that addiction is the seeking of relief and of a false connection. Often when we look deeper, we may find that many have experienced trauma. Trauma that has not been resolved, healed from or addressed in any treatment they may have had.
To heal addiction we must address what the addicted person is trying to numb and heal the trauma. Recovery may also include returning to the body we left many years ago. We have to allow people to safely feel their pain, learn new ways to cope, learn how to regulate their nervous system.
Counselling for Addictions
Counsellors who are trained and experienced in treating addictions can be helpful in many ways. Before the person with the addiction seeks assistance, a Counsellor can guide the family or others in helping to increase the addicted person’s motivation to change. Family members can be advised on how to understand addiction and how to provide support during recovery
Using one or more of several types of psychological therapies, Counsellors can help people address the psychological issues involved with their addiction. Many individuals with addictions suffer from other mental health conditions such as severe Anxiety and Depression, at the same time. Counselling and Psychotherapy can be very helpful for diagnosing and treating these "co-occurring" psychological conditions when they begin to create impairment.Because a person may experience one or more relapses and return to addictive behaviour, it can be crucial to have an appropriate professional with whom that person can discuss and be supported in identifying possible triggers for relapse. Reach out for help.
If you, or someone you know, has been affected by addiction the following organisations may be able to help:
AddAction is a support service for people recovering from addictions.
Salvation Army Addiction Support offers detox and rehabilitation.
The National Gambling Helpline offers guidance for gamblers and their loved ones.
FRANK provides information and advice about drugs of any kind.
Alcoholics Anonymous supports the personal recovery and continued sobriety of individual alcoholics in need of help.
If you require Online or Telephone Counselling for Addictions from one of our Addictions Therapists. Get in touch to see how we can help you.