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Addiction: An Overview

This article I’m looking at an overview of Addiction. In the simplest sense addiction is a mixture of obsession and compulsion. There are many types of addiction, technically speaking you can become addicted to anything as addiction isn’t necessarily linked to a substance, it is a self defeating behaviour that can wreck lives if not treated. Addiction can appear as a result of a habit that has become out of control, a physical dependency on a substance, or a psychological dependency where the addicted person either believes they cannot live without their addiction or they are not aware they have an addiction at all. In my personal opinion the latter is the worst kind of addiction because if the person isn’t aware they have an addiction, they cannot address it and the addiction can take over their lives without the person realising it before it’s too late. This leads me on to an important aspect of addiction, the aspect that makes addiction so very dangerous. This is that most addicts lie, not just to those around them but importantly to themselves.

The nature of addiction is such that the sub-conscious mind may believe it needs the addiction so much that it will find any way to keep the addiction up. Addicts may find themselves inventing all sorts of weird and wonderful excuses so that they can indulge in their addiction and keep it alive. For example, someone who is addicted to gambling may visit a casino telling themselves that their child needs a new pair of shoes, so therefore it is more likely they’ll win. Logically this makes no sense as gambling is based on luck not necessarily Karma but nevertheless the addict has found a way to indulge their addiction. The problem arises when this person has to explain away the blackhole that has developed in their finances. Addicts can become astute liars and are very good at remaining for long periods in denial. I remember a case study when I was training that I read about a woman who came to therapy because her husband was divorcing her. Because they had to go through the finances for the divorce, she found out that he had been gambling for the last 10 years, had many credit cards she didn’t know about, various secret bank accounts, and he hadn’t paid the mortgage in months or any other bills for that matter. He had been declared bankrupt as a result, she had to foot some of the bills, and he still denied he had a gambling problem!

The most difficult thing to do for an addict is to admit they have an addiction. Sometimes the addict has been in a cycle for so long they’re used to it and they don’t know how to face life without it. The important thing to remember when treating any addict is firstly that they will need coping strategies to help them deal with life without their addiction. Secondly, if they are going to try and stop their addiction it is likely they will feel a loss, especially if their addiction has been part of their life for some time. Sometimes it is the very fear of this loss that keeps the addiction alive and the client may or may not be aware of this.  As a therapist I would also bear in mind whether the addiction holds any secondary gain for the client, are they gaining something currently unforeseen from having this addiction? I would certainly be looking at how their addiction manifested itself, where did it come from, how does it feel when they’re indulging in their addiction – there are many questions to ask the client to find out the nature of the addiction. This is because in my opinion, the better the client understands their addiction, the better equipped they are to deal with it. 

Next time I’ll discuss various theories and approaches to addiction. If anyone has any questions please feel free to visit our website and contact one of our advertising therapists.

by Jenny