“Addiction is a brain disease expressed in the form of compulsive behaviour.” – Alan I. Leshner, MD
It’s not just about stopping, it’s about staying stopped
All addictions, whether to substances or to behaviors involve both physical and psychological processes. Each person’s experience of addiction is slightly different, but usually involves a cluster of some of the following symptoms of addiction. You can still be addicted even if you do not have all of the symptoms. There are many different addictions, but similar symptoms span them all.
Common Symptoms of Addiction:
- Tolerance – needing more and more of the substance or behavior to get the same effect.
- Cravings – overwhelming cravings for the substance or to engage in the behavior
- Withdrawal – when the addict stops the substance or behavior they experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which are often the opposite of the effects of the addictive behavior.
- Loss of Control – difficulty cutting down or controlling the frequency of the addictive behavior
- Preoccupation – preoccupation or obsession with the addictive behavior
- Lifestyle – social, occupational or recreational activities becoming more focused around the addiction
- Unreliable – important family, social and occupational roles jeopardized as the addict is unable to meet the demands of day-to-day life
- Preoccupation – addict becomes more and more preoccupied with the addiction, spending a lot of time on planning, engaging in, and recovering from the addictive behavior
- Deterioration – physical and emotional deterioration resulting from addictive behavior
An addict will usually identify with three or more of the above
Crossing the line
Denial. For many addicts there was a time when they could control their addiction, where the behavior or use of substance is still very pleasurable and the side effects limited and manageable. At this stage an addict could stop if they wanted to, but they usually don’t.
The true addict at some point will cross a line where even if they want to stop or cut down the behavior or substance they find that they can’t, at least not for any length of time. When a user experiences loss of control, the line between recreation and addiction has been crossed.
Addiction is characterized by denial. When the potential addict can stop, they don’t want to. Then when they want to stop, they find they can’t. An addict in denial believes they can stop when they want to, but they don’t want to. This is the hardest addict to treat and a process of breaking the denial must happen before an addict may choose to identify himself or herself as an addict.
When the line is crossed
Signs that the line has been crossed and the behavior has become an addiction:
- Using stops being fun, entertaining, interesting, a hobby or experimental
- Loss of control
- When using takes priority over the necessities of life. An addict lives to use and uses to live
- Inability to function well
- Using has taken over the addicts life
- The addict tries to stop – and either can’t or stops and then starts again and often doesn’t understand why
Controlling problem substance or behavior abuse may arguably be a matter of willpower. However, when the line is crossed and the person has become addicted, willpower seems to have a very limited effect in curing the problem. Addiction is classified as a ‘disease’ by the World Health Organisation and needs to be treated. Treatment may vary from addict to addict depending on severity and/or type of substance or behavior. Addiction may also co-exist with a psychiatric illness or physical disability, and with other addictions. This is called dual diagnosis.
THERE IS HOPE
If you think you or anyone you know may be suffering from addiction and needs help, Please Contact Me