What does addiction actually mean?
The dictionary defines addiction as ‘the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice that is psychologically or physically habit forming to an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma’.
In other words, addiction means being ‘hooked’ on to something that can be harmful both physically (to your body) or psychologically (to your emotional wellbeing). Whatever the habit or practice is – it only becomes an addiction when it causes harm to you.
There are two types of addiction and they are substance addiction, and behaviour addiction or addictive behaviour.
Most people think of illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine and amphetamines when we talk about addiction, however, people can also be addicted to legal drugs including alcohol, nicotine (found in cigarettes), caffeine, energy drinks and prescribed medications. Over time, your body becomes dependent on it and therefore, your body starts to incorporate the substance into its normal function. Eventually, your body creates tolerance for the substance.
Tolerance is when the body continually adapts to the substance and requires increasingly larger amounts to get the same original effect of the drug.
Withdrawal is the physical and psychological symptoms people experience when reducing or ceasing a substance the body is already dependent on.
Withdrawal symptoms may include anxiety, irritability, intense cravings, nausea, hallucinations, headaches and cold sweats.
Behaviour Addiction or Addictive behaviour
This type of addiction usually applies to any addiction that is not substance related. Behaviour addiction includes a compulsion to repeatedly engage in an action until that particular action causes serious negative consequences to the person’s physical, mental, social and financial well-being. One sign that behaviour has become addictive is if you keep engaging in it regardless of the consequences. Addictive behaviour can include compulsive shopping, sex addiction, over eating, problem gambling, excessive exercising or sport, excessive use of the computer/internet and excessive video playing games.
In the next few weeks maybe you can start to have a think about any behaviour or substance (legal or illegal) use that is concerning to you. I’ll be writing more on addictions in future blogs. In the meantime if you’re worried about any addictions that you or someone you know might have, please seek support and advice from your Reconnect caseworker.