To begin with, addiction is a rather complicated illness. However, after having truckloads of study and research conducted on the said topic, researchers have finally been able to understand the deeper aspects of how it really works. Studies have finally concluded that addiction should be categorized as an ailment that has an impact on the brain instead of one’s choice or personal failing.
Many people have the common misconception that the term addiction just refers to that of substance use. However, there are other types of addiction.
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What is an Addiction?
Addiction is basically defined as a prolonged dysfunction of the neural (brain) system which implicates motivation, reward, and memory. It simply refers to the way that one’s body might crave a certain behavior or substance. This is particularly the case when it results in an obsessive or a compulsive desire for a “reward”, as well as a lack of fear regarding the aftermath.
People suffering from addiction will:
- Not be able to stop a particular addictive conduct or avoid a certain substance
- Have troubles with self-control
- Not show any emotional responses
- Deny the chances of any problems caused by the effects of their addictive behavior
- Have a greater need for a specific behavior or substance.
Eventually, addictions may result in a massive disruption of one’s life in general. It is important to know that people suffering from addiction might also have the chances of remission or relapse. This refers to the condition in which the addicts switch between stages of mild and intense use. However, in spite of this switching between stages, addictions usually worsen as time passes by. They may even result in permanent complications of one’s health, as well as grave concerns such as bankruptcy.
What are the Causes of Addictions?
Behaviors and substances have the ability to generate a psychological or a physical high. With the passage of time, people often feel the need to take more of whatever substance/behavior they’re addicted to for the purpose of receiving the same effects. This is known as tolerance. There are many causes of the development of an addiction. These include:
Family History: If a person has family member(s) who might be experiencing an addiction of some kind, he might be likely to get addicted to anything.
The brain: Addictions also arise from various alterations in the reward centers of a person’s brain over time.
Environment: A greater exposure to various substances that might be addictive, a lack of emotional and social support, social pressure or poor coping mechanisms might also play a vital role in developing an addiction.
Genetics: Studies have suggested that another important factor that might enhance one’s chances of developing addictions is genetics.
However, it is necessary to note that addictions develop over time and not all of a sudden. People can’t just get addicted to substances or behaviors after just one go. But, there certainly is a possibility to die or even develop another mental disease because of overdosing or some other complications of the used substances.
Signs and Symptoms of Addiction:
There are many signs and symptoms of addictions. These differ from one type of addiction to another. However, the most common of these symptoms are the following:
- An addict keeps getting involved in risky and dangerous activities and behaviors.
- Is unable to stop using what he’s addicted to.
- Experiences constant changes in his appetite, mood and sleep.
- Stays in a denial.
- Keeps using despite being aware of the harmful consequences.
- Keeps increasing the amount of the substance he’s addicted to.
- Starts becoming rather secretive about his matters.
- Suffers from withdrawal symptoms.
- Loses interest in previous hobbies.
- Experiences financial and legal issues.
- Feels anxious about the behavior or substance.
- Prioritizes the specific behavior or substance over all other important aspects of life like work, family, as well as other duties and responsibilities
Types of Addictions
According to researches on addiction, it has been found that at least 1 in 3 persons all over the globe suffer from addictions of any kind.
It is popularly known that the most serious of these addictions are those of alcohol and drugs. Approximately, 1 in every 10 Americans is found to be addicted to both of them. And almost two-thirds of the drug addicts have also been known to be addicted to alcohol.
There are two major types of addictions researched on today. These include:
- Behavioral Addictions: Addictions that involve certain compulsive or obsessive behaviors are known as behavioral addictions. These are certain types of continuous and repetitive behaviors which one carries out even without receiving any benefits from them. According to DSM-5, there are two types of behavioral addictions. These include:
- Internet Gaming Disorder
- Gambling Addictions
- Chemical Addictions: Addictions which involve the substance use and abuse. According to DSM-5, following are the different chemical addictions:
- Alcohol-related disorders
- Cannabis-related disorders
- Opioid-related disorders
- Stimulant-related disorders
- Caffeine-related disorders
- Hallucinogen-related disorders
- Tobacco-related disorders
- Sedatives/Hypnotics/Anxiolytics-related disorders etc.
1. What are Behavioral Addictions?
Some might disagree with the entire idea of addictions involving behaviors. However, as mentioned above, there are two types of behavioral addictions according to DSM-5:
- Internet Gaming Disorder
- Gambling Addictions
Experts do suggest that there are particular behavioral patterns which do have the ability to become difficult eventually, but research is still under progress to find out when certain behaviors can turn into addictions and which behaviors might become addictive. For instance, most people will agree that one can get addicted to shopping or sex etc. But nobody can say for sure that one may also get addicted to social media.
However, there are a few signs that one can expect in someone suffering from behavioral addiction. These include:
- Using a specific behavior to handle unwelcomed sentiments
- Wasting a lot of time in the particular behavior
- Troubles in preventing that behavior
- Cravings to carry out the behavior despite its adverse effects on relationships, responsibilities and daily life
- Trying to hide the behavior or lying about the amount of time spent on it
- Anxiety, restlessness, irritability or certain other kinds of withdrawal symptoms while trying to quit it
Some of the behavioral addictions commonly found include:
- Addiction to social media
- Addiction to sex
- Addiction to exercise
- Addiction to shopping
- Addiction to Food
- Addiction to TV
How to Cope with Behavioral Addictions?
When it comes to behavioral addictions, the number one treatment is therapy.
CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a kind of therapy which has been rather helpful for such addictions. The prime focus of this kind of therapy is on helping the individual in paying attention to his emotions and thoughts which might be a source of misery, and then helping him learn how to handle them. CBT, along with some other coping skills, can prove to be productive and help decrease the desire for such compulsive behaviors.
Addressing several underlying issues which might be the cause of aggravating addictions might also help in controlling behavioral addictions. For instance, issues like relationships problems.
· Other Treatments:
There are many groups for self-help as well as peer support which can assist in controlling behavioral addiction.
Some studies and experts have also proved that SSRI antidepressants might also be advantageous for these behaviors.
2. What are Chemical Addictions?
An addiction to chemicals is a tricky topic to discuss because there are a lot of confusions regarding what really generates substance misuse, the addiction and dependency.
Symptoms commonly found in people suffering from substance addictions are the following:
- A desire to keep increasing the amount of substance to bring about the same effect.
- Intense cravings that decrease one’s ability to consider more important things in life.
- Discomfort and nervousness if the substance isn’t easily available.
- Difficulty in handling school work, jobs or household chores and duties.
- Carrying out risky tasks like working or driving while using it.
- Problems in personal relationships and friendships because of substance use.
- Inability to avoid using it.
- Withdrawal symptoms in the attempts of quitting.
- Losing interest in or spending lesser time on previous hobbies.
Common substances or chemicals that people may get addicted to include:
- Opioids (Heroin, as well as prescribed pain killers like morphine and oxycodone etc.)
How to Cope with Chemical Addictions?
Controlling or quitting an addiction to substances or chemicals is very challenging without help and support from trained experts.
The initial step for treating most chemical addictions, like those of alcohol, heroin and benzodiazepines, usually include detoxification supervised by medical experts and health professionals. This can’t completely treat the disorder, but the withdrawal process becomes a lot easier and safer.
Medications might help some of the addicts with their recovery. Medicines usually assist in preventing remissions or relapses in those who might be addicted to nicotine, alcohol or even opioids. Their main function is to decrease the urges for the chemical, as well as decrease the withdrawal symptoms.
However, medications are usually prescribed in concert with other modes of treatment like addressing underlying causes for the addiction or therapy.
Residential treatments or rehabs basically require that the individual stays in certain treatment facilities to avail special support and medical attention by the skilled treatment experts. Such rehab programs might last for a couple of few weeks, or even months to one year.
Psychotherapy, as well as counseling for addiction has also proved to help in the recovery process for many addicts, particularly if one has started to use a chemical or substance to manage some other troubling emotions.
Therapists help the individuals in exploring the reasons as to why they started using, as well as decide on several newer approaches to cope with the challenges they’re dealing with.
· Support Groups:
There are many twelve-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous which can assist people with their journey to recovery. Such programs mainly depend on various self-help techniques and comprise of many anonymous support groups to receive some kind of support from people who might also be on the same journey to recovery.
What are the Consequences of an Addiction?
If an addiction has been left undiagnosed or untreated for a long period of time, it may result in serious consequences that might even last for a lifetime. These complications include:
- Emotional and psychological consequences: These include certain mental states like stress, anxiety, as well as depression
- Physical consequences: These include HIV/AIDS, certain heart diseases, as well as neural damage
- Economic consequences: These include massive debt and bankruptcy
- Social consequences: These include damaged relationships, as well as jail time for some crime committed under its influence.
The different types of compulsive behaviors and addictive substances can produce different kinds of effects on the health of every other individual. Severity of any such consequences or complications might even be lethal in certain cases.
A huge number of people even today in the modern world still fear the entire concept of addiction and according to them; addiction is simply a sign of worthlessness or even failure. There are many people suffering from or experiencing any form of addiction that have been found to feel embarrassed about their addiction to any behavior or chemical, which leads them fear or hesitate while looking for professional help. This is an advanced era and the world is constantly changing and advancing. Therefore, if you’re suffering from an addiction of any kind, the best thing you could do for yourself today is to look for professional help. Meanwhile, one must also try to keep educating themselves about this disease and what they need to do to continue moving on this journey to recovery.
It’s quite obvious now that addiction is a very vast topic for research purposes and even the experts have a lot more to explore in the topic regarding what addiction really is, how it works and how to cope with it. However, one thing is for sure: Addiction is certainly treatable.