Addictions involve unstoppable and repetitive behaviours that typically have a negative impact on the individual. The addictive behaviour affects the way an individual feels mentally and, in most cases, physically. These feelings can be pleasurable and create an urge to repeat the behaviour to reproduce the feeling. An addiction can get out of control as an individual needs more and more of the substance or behaviour to satisfy the craving and receive the same ‘high’. If not treated, addictions can seriously affect a person’s psychological and physical health, social life, career and financial stability.
There are many reasons why someone might develop an addiction. Some examples are:
- Avoiding withdrawal (from a substance)
- To cope with distressing thoughts, feelings or events
- To help manage an underlying mental illness
- To cope with emotional or professional stress
- To cope with unemployment or poverty
This TEDEd video gives an interesting insight in to why people develop addictions.
Recognising an addiction in a friend or family member can be hard. It can also be difficult for the individual with the addiction to recognise that they have a problem. General signs of addiction are:
- Unexplained need for money
- Changes in appetite – overeating or under eating
- Repeating a behaviour or action even if it has negative consequences
- Being angry, irritable or violent
- Experiencing shakiness or feeling sick when attempting to quit
- Changes in sleep habits
- Not attending work or school
- Loss of interest in other areas of life
- Difficulty concentrating
Something that all addictions have in common is a failure to resist temptations or urges, which ultimately affect the individual negatively. Some common examples of addictions are:
- Drug abuse
- Alcohol dependence
- Compulsive shopping
- Internet addiction
Whatever a person’s addiction, they can’t control the behaviour associated with it and it can have a significant impact on the individual themselves, their family and friends. It can be difficult for the individual or the individual’s loved ones to tell when an addiction has become too intense and requires treatment. Good indicators that professional help is needed are:
- The addiction is significantly impacting the individual’s daily functioning. An addiction can take up a significant amount of a person’s time through thinking, doing or planning the behaviour. The more time the addiction is given by the individual, the more they will withdraw from other areas, such as work, school or social life.
- An attempt to reduce the behaviour has failed previously. This can cause a feeling of hopelessness in the individual and a further lack of control over the behaviour
- Making excuses for the addiction or downplaying it. This behaviour shows that the individual is either aware of their addiction but does not have the strength to face up to it, or is unaware that they have a problem.
Although extreme cases of addiction, such as severe substance abuse, may require treatment in hospital, most addictions can be successfully treated with psychological therapy. Counselling can help an individual recognise their addiction, help them understand it and subsequently control it. Individuals have found their life drastically improves once they gain some control over their addiction and begin to recognise their dysfunctional behaviours.
At the Act of Living, we believe that addictions provide an opportunity for growth and change. Our practitioners are experienced in the treatment of addictions and we use a variety of evidence based psychological therapies to treat them. These therapies include, but are not limited to, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and positive psychology. Often a combination of techniques works best for our clients.
Coping with addiction on your own is difficult. We understand that it can be hard to talk to others about your addiction due to the associated stigma and it is unlikely that others have had the same experience as you. Our practitioners can help you work through your challenges, the reasons behind your behaviours and give you the support you need in a safe space.
It is normal to feel stress and concern in relation to a family member or friend’s addiction. This is why we provide counselling for family members or friends of someone with an addiction. We can teach you strategies to help cope with a loved one’s addiction and guide you in helping them regain their daily functioning.