Understanding addiction, the signs of addiction and how to find an addiction therapist.
While many of us associate addiction with substances such as alcohol or drugs, there are other addictions. A number of activities can lead to addiction, including shopping, internet use, sex, and gambling. Your brain releases ‘feel-good’ chemicals when engaging in activities that make you feel happy, such as winning a bet or going on a shopping spree. These chemicals can encourage you to repeat behaviours that result in happiness, as they provide an enjoyable ‘high.’ Addiction occurs when seeking out this ‘high’ develops into an uncontrollable, compulsive desire to engage with the activity, despite it having negative or harmful consequences on your everyday life.
Are you being controlled by bad habits?
While many of us associate addiction with substances that can have a negative physical affect on the body, such as alcohol or drugs, these are not the only pathways to addiction. A number of activities can lead to addiction, including shopping, internet use, sex, and gambling. Your brain releases ‘feel-good’ chemicals when engaging in activities that make you feel happy, such as winning a bet or going on a shopping spree. These chemicals can encourage you to repeat behaviours that result in happiness as they provide an enjoyable ‘high.’ Addiction occurs when seeking out this ‘high’ develops into an uncontrollable, compulsive desire to engage with the activity despite it having negative or harmful consequences on your everyday life.
All addictions can negatively affect your physical and psychological health. Symptoms of addiction can include obsessive-compulsive traits, panic attacks, deteriorating relationships, depression, issues at work, significant financial problems and sleep disturbance.
If your compulsive desire to engage in an activity is affecting your day-to-day functioning, including negatively impacting upon your health or financial stability, then addiction counselling and psychotherapy may be beneficial for you. If you are worried about addiction, act now and seek help as soon as possible.
What is the difference between misuse and addiction to substances?
There is a difference between the misuse of an addictive substance and an addiction to that substance.
Misuse is defined as incorrect, non-therapeutic, or excessive use of mind-altering and body-altering substances.
Addiction is defined as the long-term inability to cease the intake or moderate the intake of mind-altering and body-altering substances.
Not all individuals who misuse substances have an addiction. For instance, drinking a large amount of alcohol in one evening may make you feel euphoric or ill from over-consumption, but this does not become an addiction until the individual begins to drink large amounts of alcohol regularly, uncontrollably or to the point that it affects activities in their daily life.
Individuals addicted to substances will misuse them despite the harmful consequences to their health, relationships, work and daily life.
How do you identify if you have an addiction?
Signs and symptoms indicating the development of an addiction can include:
Losing interest or neglecting responsibilities in favour of engaging in addictive habits
Uncontrollably seeking out addictive substances
Engaging in habit-forming behaviour to a dangerous extent
Experiencing an inability to cease the consumption of an addictive substance despite its negative effect on relationships, career, physical health, and mental health
Increased risk taking in order to access addictive substances or while using addictive substances
Changes in appearance and a poor sense of hygiene
Developing a sense of secrecy surrounding addictive behaviours and habits
What is withdrawal?
Withdrawal occurs when an individual with an addiction takes steps to decrease their use of an addictive substance or ceases use of an addictive substance altogether.
Withdrawal from an addictive substance can result in both physical and emotional symptoms, including:
Loss of appetite
Tremors and shaking
A decreased or sudden halt to use of an addictive substance can result in serious ill health or death. It is essential to contact a medical professional before withdrawing from an addictive substance.
What is addiction counselling and psychotherapy?
An addiction therapist can help you uncover whether you have an addiction before treating the addiction. Therapy for addiction may help you to identify the underlying causes that have lead to a vicious cycle of compulsive behaviour and note any triggers that may result in a relapse.
Your therapist can also address any psychological issues that may have arisen from your addiction, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, or depression. The therapy process may also aid family and friends, giving them the opportunity to understand your addiction and guide them to ensure they provide the correct support during your recovery.
Serious addictions may require diagnosis by a consultant psychiatrist and monitoring to treat any mental health issues that may have arisen. A referral to a residential rehabilitation centre may also be required.
A counsellor or psychotherapist will work with you to examine your thoughts and behaviours that may have contributed to your addiction. You will be encouraged to build a trusting relationship with your therapist in order to share your emotions and feelings with them in confidence. They will listen to you with openness and empathy, but will not force you into following a particular course of action.
Your therapist will help you to identify the causes of your addiction and reach a position of self-understanding that can allow you to identify what triggers your desire to pursue your addiction. They can devise strategies to help you cope with these trigger situations and can assist you in managing any withdrawal symptoms you may experience during recovery.