Addiction is defined as an inability to cease the use of a chemical, drug, substance, or activity despite the fact that the usage is causing harm to the user.
Though the definition makes it sound simple, understanding the nature of addiction is anything but.
Addiction can take on many forms, and as such, it can be difficult to determine whether a person has developed an addiction at face value.
However, if you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one, there are a few things to look out for when the possibility of being an addict comes up.
The Science of Addiction
When we think about addiction, we commonly consider drug and alcohol addiction because they’re substances.
However, aside from illicit drugs and medications, alcohol, or nicotine, individuals can form addictions to less common substances and activities.
For example, a person can become addicted to gambling, food, caffeine, technology, sex, and work (though the last three are not currently recognized by the American Psychiatric Association).
What makes each of these substances or activities addictive lies within the brain.
The brain’s frontal lobes are responsible for the sense of delayed gratification, and when an addiction forms, this lobe malfunctions, making gratification immediate when a substance is used.
This paired with the brain’s pleasure receptors can make it easier to fall into addictive behaviors.
Addictive substances and activities are usually initiated as a way to cope with unpleasant events and feelings, and because we generally want to feel good, the brain initially views this behavior as a relief.
Using the substance or engaging in the behavior temporarily relieves stress, pain, or sadness and becomes a habit when individuals are dependent on it for that relief.
Symptoms of Addiction
The symptoms of addiction can be sorted into four categories, which are as follows:
- Drug tolerance. Addiction to a substance generally comes with a user building up a tolerance (needing larger amounts of the substance to reach the desired effect) and withdrawal symptoms when the substance is not used regularly.
- Risky behaviors. The individual will become involved in risky situations or behaviors in order to use the substance/ engage in the activity.
- Control impairment. The individual experiences cravings to use the substance or engage in the activity, and fails to avoid or cut back on usage despite wanting to.
- Social impact. Addiction can interfere with work, school, or home life, meaning that addiction takes time away from necessary activities.
How Do I Know If I’m Addicted?
Whether you’re searching for signs of addiction within yourself or in the behaviors of someone you care about, there are a few things to consider when drawing a conclusion.
Keep in mind, these guidelines are not intended to diagnose an addiction, but they can help concerned individuals become more aware of what they’re facing.
Ask yourself the following questions to better understand the level of dependency you or a loved one are facing.
- Do you or a loved one place an addictive substance or behavior high on your list of priorities at a given time?
- Do you or a loved one experience relief when using the substance or engaging in the activity?
- Do you or a loved one use the substance or engage in the activity more and more often than what was initially intended?
- Do you or a loved one become nervous when thinking about or discussing a plan to quit the behavior?
- Has using the substance or engaging in the activity caused disruption in everyday life?
- Have you or your loved one tried quitting and failed to do so?
Addiction is a difficult issue to overcome alone, so if you find that substance use or addictive activities have negatively impacted your quality of life, you’re not alone.
What Can I Do If I’m Addicted?
If you feel that you or a loved one have become dependent/addicted to a substance or activity, help is available.
By speaking to a licensed therapist, you can help address the issue of addiction and develop beneficial, constructive ways to work through the issue at hand.
It’s important to remember that addiction is never someone’s intention and becoming addicted does not make an individual a bad person.
Addiction can have a wide variety of backgrounds, but generally, self-destructive behaviors like addiction start as an attempt at self-help.
Nobody decides to become an addict, and seeking the help of a licensed therapist can help you (or your loved one) find the solutions you need to manage and overcome your addiction.
When you or someone you know suffers from addiction, the best way to overcome it in a healthy manner is with support and understanding.
If you’d like support in working through your addiction, you’re welcome to contact our offices as soon as you’re ready. We’ve helped many people struggling with dependency and addiction, and we would be honored to help you, too.
Please feel free to reach out to us to set up a complimentary consult call so we can match you with the best therapist for your situation.