What Is Addiction?
If you are wondering how to know when your behavior crosses the line from healthy to addictive, start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Do you find yourself repeatedly making goals to quit certain substances and then are unable to keep your goals very long?
- Do you find your emotions linked to taking a substance?
- Are your thoughts controlled by the next time you can get alcohol, tobacco or drugs?
- Do you find yourself taking medications longer than needed/prescribed?
- Do you need more and more of substance to get the same results?
- Have you borrowed or stolen money to feed your addiction?
- Is your behavior regularly altered by the use of any substance?
Addiction is cyclical, starting with feeling a painful emotion, then being preoccupied about the acting out behavior. After preoccupation, is ritualizing, or doing special routines that intensify the preoccupation. The acting out phase is the shortest in the cycle, and creates a type of release, which can be both emotional and physical. Feelings of despair and shame follow the acting out behavior which, if not addressed, starts the cycle over.
There are two overarching types of addictions: substance addictions and process addictions. Substance addictions are addictions to substances/chemicals (for example, to drugs or alcohol). Process addictions are addictions to an activity or process of doing something (for example, an individual can be addicted to gambling, eating, gaming, or sexual activity). Many addicts are addicted to more than one substance or process.
The American Society of Addiction Medication (2010) describes addiction as a disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and brain circuitry. They describe the ABCs of addiction as follows:
- Inability to consistently abstain,
- Impairment in behavioral control,
- Craving; or increased “hunger” for drugs or rewarding experiences,
- Diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships; and
- A dysfunctional emotional response.
If you find yourself struggling with any of the characteristics listed, know that you are not alone. Addiction thrives in secrecy. You may feel terrified to talk to a counselor. That’s normal, but it’s one of the best things you can do to treat your addiction.
If addiction is hindering your ability to have healthy and happy relationships, and affecting everyday life please reach out to me! Let’s talk today!
- The American Society of Addiction Medicine (2010). Public Policy Statement: Definition of Addiction. Retrieved from www.asam.org/quality-practice/definition-of-addiction
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