Addiction refers to compulsively, excessively and often destructively engaging in a behaviour that is typically harmful. Addictions often include excessive use of substances such as drugs and alcohol, but can also be seen with a variety of behaviours and contexts – such as: gaming, internet use, gambling, and food consumption.
An addictive behaviour is characterised as one that is habitual, compelling – ie, for which there is either a physiological or psychological need – and; one that can typically become out of control.
An addiction often starts as a reward seeking behaviour – usually a quick fix that invokes a sense of relief. An individual may casually engage in the behaviour every now and then, often to experience a short term release from a negative state. However, the reward seeking, after a while, leads to a build-up of tolerance. This means that the behaviour must be increased in order to feel the same positive effects. This is how an addiction forms over time.
A full blown addiction becomes the main focus in a person’s life, and will significantly interfere with many aspects of functioning, such as work, relationships as well as physical and mental health. Financial hardship can also arise, which places a heavy strain on both addicted individuals and their families.
There is often a lot of stigma and shame that surrounds addiction, which causes many individuals to hesitate about accepting their addiction or reaching out for help. However, help is important, or even required at a certain point.
Counselling can help an individual to identify the underlying cause of their addiction and to develop an acceptance and understanding that can help individuals to build coping strategies, improve self-control and decrease the likelihood of a relapse. Working together with partners and family members may also prove to be beneficial in addressing addiction. Feel free to make contact if you feel a discussion about counselling may be of benefit.