The Psychology Behind Addictions

Some people may not even realize that having an addiction to something, no matter what it is, is actually a psychological issue. Addictions are a physical and psychological dependence on something that you don’t necessarily need. Despite the negative effects of our addiction (and the majority of people know what they are), we continue to use the substance because of the temporary feelings of relief or elation that they provide.

While we originally start using the substance as a way to feel better, over time we become dependent on it as the only way to make us feel normal. This is where the psychological aspect kicks in; we do not need the substance, our mind just thinks that we do. You know the old phrase, “It’s all in your head,”? When it comes to addictions that’s actually a very true statement.

Types of Addictions

The formal definition of addiction as stated by the American Society of Addiction Medicine is, “…A primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.” This means that a person can become addicted to anything from the typical addictions like drugs and alcohol to more abnormal dependencies like food, sex, computers, or even the internet.

An addiction is not something that actually makes the person feel better, the psychological aspect of it just makes them think that it does. Once they are dependent on a certain thing, they are caught in a vicious cycle that they cannot escape from.

Drug Addiction

Drug addiction is the most chronic type of addiction and to date there is no known “cure,” per se. Drug addiction severely interrupts brain function and as the addiction gets worse, so do the detrimental health effects. Drug addiction so severely hinders a person’s senses and perception of reality that they are willing to do almost anything to feed their need for the drug. They forget all relationships, overlook all laws, and have a complete disregard for anything that does not feed their need.

Overcoming a drug addiction is only made worse by the fact that the symptoms of withdrawal are almost unbearable. The person actually feels like they are going to die without the drug; that is one of the most damaging psychological aspects of this addiction. Those who are not able to overcome the addiction often end up incarcerated, hospitalized, and sadly many of them die.

There is help available for those trying to overcome a drug addiction. The only ways to get it, however, is to first admit you have a problem and then seek the necessary help. There are rehabilitation centers, 12 step programs, therapy, and many other avenues that you can take to get the support you need to overcome the addiction. The key is to overcome it before it overcomes you.

Alcohol Addiction

Much like drug addiction, alcohol addiction is caused by the repeated use of alcohol. No matter how long you have been addicted or what your reasons are for drinking, one thing is true among all addicts: it started with one drink. Perhaps you picked up a drink at a party while trying to relax and have a good time. Maybe you had a drink at the end of a bad day to help calm your nerves. Maybe you were out with friends and just couldn’t say no. Whatever the circumstance was, your addiction can be traced back to that one drink.

Unfortunately for many, alcoholism is genetic. That is not to say that if you mother was an alcoholic you will automatically become one as well. What it means is that should you start drinking, you are much more likely to become addicted. Because alcohol is legal and easily accessible, more people tend to become addicted to it more easily than to drugs. The problem is that when you start to feel better after one drink you figure another one will make you feel even better, and the one after that; and it continues. Many people cannot just have a couple of drinks and know when to quit. A true alcohol addiction means that you can’t quit; your mind screams that you have to keep drinking in order to keep feeling good.

Many alcoholics keep drinking until they “black out,” or lose consciousness. They often cannot even remember the events of the evening, and the sick feeling they have only adds to their need to drink more in order to feel better. Alcohol addiction often stems from depression. Alcohol makes people, “loosen up,” and they feel that they can simply drown their sorrows in the bottom of a bottle. Sadly, all that is drowning are their internal organs. While the serious medical consequences of drinking don’t appear as quickly as with a drug addition, the damage is happening and it will catch up with you.

Dealing with the addiction early is the key to avoiding serious health problems, incarceration, and death. Rehab centers, programs, and even hotlines are available 24 hours a day to offer help in overcoming this addiction.

Behavioral Addiction

Perhaps not as well-known are addictive behaviors. The people engaging in the behaviors likely don’t even realize that they have an addiction; they figure it’s just something that they enjoy doing. Here is a list of some of the most common behavioral addictions:

  • Sex
  • Gambling
  • Eating
  • Exercise
  • Shopping
  • Computer/Internet

While these are things that most of us enjoy on a regular basis, as soon as we begin to think that we need these things in order to feel normal, they have become an addiction. Also if you are turning to these things every time you’ve had a bad day, need to feel better, or use them to fill an “empty” feeling, it is time to seek help.

While the majority of these things will not necessarily cause any damage to your health, they will cause damage in a number of other ways. Shopping and gambling can cause major financial trouble, computer and internet addictions will lead you to waste time, never accomplish anything and become isolated. These addictions can also do further damage to your self-esteem over time as the effects really start to show.

Addictions can be overcome, but in order to start the process you need to admit to yourself that you have a problem. Once you have done this, further help to get you through the withdrawal period can ensue.

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