What is an addiction?
While it is common to think of addictions in terms of alcohol and drugs, the fact is that there are a number of addictions which can be harmful in a variety of ways. For example, the addiction to shopping seems to hurt no one, but it does serious damage to the finances of the addict, so it can be severely harmful.
A general definition of an addiction is that it is a chronic condition affecting the brain’s memory, motivational, and reward functions. Addiction is characterized by an impulsive need or craving for something. The need or craving surpasses and obviates other personal motivations, wants, and needs for the individual.
The signs of addiction are:
- A lack of behavioral control
- An inability to resist the want or need for some substance or behavior
- A decrease in socialization
- Ignoring social commitments and critical elements in relationships
- Ignoring the risk factors implicit in some particular behavior
- The experience of physical and/or psychological effects on the withdrawal of the wanted or needed substance or behavior
These signs often occur together because they are linked responses or reactions. The intensity for these signs depends on how long the addictive behavior has been present in the individual.
While healthy individuals can recognize dangerous, unhealthy, or undesirable behaviors, the reaction for the addictive individual is different. Commonly, they pretend that the behavior doesn’t exist. Another defensive response is to justify or rationalize the behavior.
A critical first step in positively dealing with an addiction is simply and honestly to admit that the problem exists. It is important to recognize the critical signs, which may be emotional, mental, physical, or, in some cases, financial. The reactions and responses of family members can also provide important signals that something is wrong.
The Types of Addictions:
As noted above, while addictions are most commonly associated with alcohol or drugs, there are other behavioral addictions that can be significant and serious.
Addiction affects the individual by their being unable to resist and abstain from a particular substance or behavior. The “costs” of addictions personally may be physical, psychological, social, or financial.
The most common substances of abuse are:
- Substances of inhalants, such as glue, oven cleaners, aerosol products, and/or spray paints
- “Drugs,” illegal substances of a wide variety
- Certain medications
Other behavioral addictions besides these substance addictions can also be serious and have significant consequences:
- video games
- Using the Internet
- Cell phone use
Your psychologist can help: Addictions are condition which are treatable through a variety of psychological interventions and treatments. The first step is to start talking to a psychologist who will help you to identify the source of your problems and create means and methods to alleviate the need for these behaviors.