About Addictions


What is an addiction disorder?

An addiction is a condition in which those affected engage compulsively in behaviours despite the adverse consequences of continued engagement in the problem behaviours.  Addictions could be substance related or may take the form of thrill seeking behaviours such as gambling.  There is usually a temporary reward associated with most addictions, and the desire to seek this reward is what sustains the addictive behaviour.

What are the types of addiction disorders?

There are many forms of addiction.  The most common are drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, nicotine, caffeine, food and shopping.  Addictions such as drugs, alcohol, nicotine and caffeine also cause significant medical issues in addition to the psychological and emotional consequences.

What are the symptoms of substance addiction?

Most addiction to substances begins with experimental and social use of the substance.  This usually progresses to habitual use and finally to dependence and addiction.  The core symptoms of addiction to substances include:

  • A feeling that you have to use alcohol or drugs regularly
  • Having intense urges for drugs or alcohol
  • Over time needing more drugs or alcohol to get the same effect
  • Making sure you maintain a supply of drugs or alcohol
  • Spending money on drugs and alcohol even though you cannot afford it
  • Neglecting work, family and social life because of drug or alcohol use
  • Engaging in illegal activity such as stealing or fraud to get drugs or alcohol
  • Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol
  • Failed attempts to stop using drugs or alcohol
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop taking substances

What are the symptoms of gambling addiction?

Gambling addiction is a form of thrill seeking addiction with mainly psychological, emotional and financial consequences.  As a result of the problem behaviour, work, family and social difficulties could arise.  The main symptoms of gambling addiction are:

  • Spending more money and time on gambling than you can afford
  • Finding it difficult to stop or mange gambling
  • Frequent disagreements with family and friends about money and finances
  • Losing interest in other activities
  • Constantly thinking about gambling and winning
  • Gambling until you have no money left
  • Borrowing money, selling possessions and stealing to fund gambling habit
  • The need to gamble with larger amounts or spend more time on gambling activity to get the same buzz or thrill
  • Neglecting work, family and other responsibilities because of time spent gambling
  • Feeling depressed, anxious, angry and distressed due to gambling
  • Feelings of guilt and shame

What is sex addiction?

Sexual addiction is characterised by compulsive participation or engagement in sexual activity, particularly sexual intercourse despite negative consequences. Symptoms of sex addiction include:

  • Engaging frequently in more sex and with more partners than intended
  • Constant pre occupation and craving for sex
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down and reduce sexual activity
  • Neglecting other activities due to frequent participation in sexual activity
  • Spending excessive amounts of money to engage in sexual activity
  • Anger and feeling irritable when cravings for sex not satisfied
  • Increased need for sex in order to achieve same effect
  • Continued engagement in sexual activity despite harmful consequences

What causes addictive behaviour?

There are numerous causes for addictive behaviour.  Genetics may play a role in certain types of addictions, but this is inconclusive.  In a significant number of cases, people use addictive behaviour to cope with adverse circumstances or emotional and psychological difficulties.  Boredom and stress contributes to addictive behaviour and also helps sustain and maintain these behaviours.  A lack of vocation, family and social support increases the risk of developing an addiction and reduces the chances of overcoming the addictive behaviour.  Certain personality types are also prone to developing addictive behaviour.

Is there any treatment for addiction disorders?

Treatment for addiction will depend on the nature and severity of the addictive disorder.  If numerous attempts to stop the addictive behaviour have been unsuccessful, then residential rehabilitation can be helpful.  If stopping the addictive behaviour is associated with withdrawals symptoms, your doctor may recommend medications to help reduce these withdrawal symptoms.  There are also medications that help reduce cravings and can assist as a deterrent by causing unpleasing physical symptoms if the addictive substance is consumed.  For mild to moderate cases, psychological and behavioural approaches are effective and plays a significant role in the recovery of most addicts.

What can I do to prevent myself from developing an addiction?

There are measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of developing an addictive disorder. Your chances of developing an addiction are reduced if you have an occupation or vocation that you participate in on a regular basis. Abstaining from using drugs or alcohol will also reduce the risk of developing an addition to these substances.  An awareness that thrill seeking endeavours such as gambling and extreme adventures could lead to addictions will help maintain control.  The sooner help is sought for problem behaviours the less likely they are to progress to a full blown addiction.

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