What is addiction?
There are plenty of varying definitions and theories surrounding addiction. According to some theories, addiction is the physical experience of dependence on a certain drug, as characterized by withdrawal symptoms. Other definitions are focused on the psychological dependence on drugs. There are theories that explain addiction with a medical model while others focus on the social and cultural issues surrounding addiction. For some, addiction is a sub-category of compulsive disorders.
For me, I consider addiction to be a broader issue involving addictive drug use and repeated destructive relationships. The term addiction refers to any behavior, whether involving substance abuse or not, that:
- Is repetitive, persistent, and has begun to dominate
- Possesses a quality of compulsion (doesn’t feel as if there’s a choice)
- Poses serious negative consequences, but the person carries on regardless
- Involves psychological or physical dependence, and trying to stop the behavior causes significant physical or psychological distress
- Involves an element of denial, to a person or others, of the negative consequences and of the dependence.
Changing how we feel
Addictive substances and activities alter the way we feel. Sometimes the change is due to the direct effect of the drug on the nervous system. Sometimes it is due to a behavior like gambling that stimulates the brain’s own reward mechanisms and changes how we feel. Either way, it is important to note that addiction can be caused by an addictive substance or behavior.
Traditionally, the use of these substances has been considered a form of self-medication, or an attempt to minimize an unbearable physical or psychological pain (even though the pain is sometimes an unbearable amount of happiness or of instinctual tension). Psychological pain often takes the form of anxiety or depression, while physical pain is caused due to injury or illness.
For some people, the pain can be connected to the trauma of social factors like racism and poverty can lead people to start using drugs or engaging in certain activities. An addiction can also be caused by an underlying psychiatric condition.
In this way, we start to understand addiction as an attempt to cope with an unbearable situation or issue and not a search for pleasure. The person is faced with something that they can’t manage and seek a solution in an activity or substance. This response is not always problematic, even though it may carry on for some time. The individual may even overcome their addiction by finding more suitable ways of coping. An increased level of dependence increases the physical and psychological consequences of stopping the use of addictive substances and activities. The need to avoid the effects of withdrawal prompts addicts to use more of the product. Addiction Care provides face-to-face training sessions on the Treatment to suit you and your needs.
Next, we will be looking at how addiction affects individuals dealing with addiction as well as individuals mandated with the task of dealing with addiction.
NHS Counselors: Underpaid, undervalued, and under pressure
According to reports from research conducted by Gemma Ryan’s stemming from a BACP survey of members’ experience working for the NHS, Healthcare Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal, April 2020, there is an increased level of dependency and intolerance. Often, individuals need to adapt to the presence of the substance or activity to achieve the desired effect. With addiction increasing in prominence, other aspects of an individual’s life are becoming less prominent. Stress from work, finances, and relationships can become secondary in importance leading to issues that in turn, lead to addiction as a way of coping. This establishes a self-perpetuating cycle of addiction-destructiveness.
It can be hard to break and diverge from the cycle of addiction and destructiveness since it involves overcoming the painful reality of the current situation along with any underlying issues.