The Definition of Addiction
Numerous theories and definitions have been used to describe addiction. A number of them focus on the physical dependence part and the associated withdrawal symptoms, while others underscore the psychological dependence component. There are theories that use a medical model to define addiction and others that pay attention to social and cultural factors.
In my line of work, I have found it extremely medically helpful to adopt a broader perspective of addiction, from considering the addictive usage of the drug to continuing damage to relationships at home, work, and with friends. To me, I use the term “addiction” to describe a behavior that may or may not involve the use of a substance but is:
- Done repetitively and persistently and taking center stage in one’s life.
- Impacting negatively on an individual’s life, but the affected person continues nevertheless.
- Compelling the individual to carry on without considering if there is an option to stop
In addition, addiction may have a physical or psychological dependence element, where the individual undergoes substantial psychological or physical agony.
Most people battling an addiction tend to deny to others and themselves the adverse effects of the addiction.
Addictive behaviors and substances alter how an individual feels. Sometimes, the addictive substance enters the nervous system and changes the normal functioning of our bodies. In other instances, it is the impact of behavior like gambling that stimulates our mind’s reward mechanism and changes how we feel about life and ourselves.
These behaviors or the use of substances start as a means of dealing with a form of physical or psychological pain that has become too agonizing. Sometimes, this pain is in the form of an intolerable oversupply of joy or an instinctive buildup of tension. Anxiety or depression is one of the most common forms of psychological pain. On the other hand, physical pain is often a result of injury or sickness. For a significant number of people, the pain they go through is linked to social trauma like racism or poverty. Other times, an underlying psychiatric disorder could be the basis of addiction.
At this point, we start to appreciate that addiction is not a pleasurable pursuit in any way but rather an attempt to handle difficult circumstances. Here, the affected person has to overcome some insurmountable challenge and ends up looking for answers by using certain substances or engaging in some behavior.
The behaviour they adopt to cope does not have to be problematic, even when it goes on unabated for some time. The affected individual may “overcome” the addiction by seeking other ways of dealing with the pain or when the difficult circumstance changes. In most cases, the individual starts to depend increasingly on the shortcut to coping brought by the addiction. If you are currently struggling with a addiction then I highly recommended you getting in contact with a company like Addiction Care.
As reliance grows, the psychological and physical impact of discontinuing the use of the behavior or addictive substances also increases. Therefore, trying to avoid withdrawal symptoms becomes a major reason why the addiction continues.
Another Cause of Concern: Underinvestment in the NHS Counsellor Department
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Together with a growing dependency, we are seeing a corresponding upsurge in tolerance levels. This means the individual is growing accustomed to the substance or behavior, thus requiring a higher supply to attain the preferred levels.
As the addiction continues, the individual begins to care less and less about other vital parts of life. For instance, they might start running into problems in their finances and relationships at home and at work—problems that worsen the situation as they knock the individual deeper into the addiction to try to cope. In its entirety, it is a self-perpetuating cycle of destructive and addictive behavior or consumption.
Many people struggle to break away from the bondage of addiction and related destructive behavior because they must deal with the agonizing reality of their current situation and other underlying problems.