Addiction is characterised as repeated, uncontrollable engagement in behaviour, despite the fact that it may subsequently be harmful to you. This can include participating in activities such as gambling, taking drugs, drinking too much, smoking and sniffing solvents. However, it may also cover things that would usually be considered normal activities, but have been taken to an excessive level, for example: working, playing computer games, shopping or spending time on the internet. Addiction can be physical, psychological or both.
These behaviours feel rewarding in some way – drugs may give you a high or winning money from gambling may make you feel like your luck is in. A person may then continue the behaviour in order to try to achieve the feeling of pleasure again and again. People may also become addicted to behaviours which they recognise as destructive but partake in for negative reasons.
The main indicator of addiction is withdrawal. Going without these practices may affect you psychologically by causing you to feel low or stressed out. There can also be physical symptoms of withdrawal. This occurs particularly with substance abuse, where you can feel physically unwell when you stop using a drug. A mild example of this is the caffeine headache some of us experience if we miss our morning coffee. It is important to remember that physical withdrawal from certain drugs can be severe and it is essential to seek the right support with this. The negative mental and physical feelings associated with trying to break an addictive habit create a need for you to proceed with it instead, as this often seems easier than dealing with the withdrawal.
Managing addiction is a process that takes a lot of work, and help from your GP or services who have experience in what you’re dealing with. There are many charities who offer support for quitting smoking, alcohol addiction, drug addiction and gambling addiction. Some people may need medication to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal, which can be provided through your primary care doctor.
If you or anybody you know is struggling with addiction it’s important to seek support. In addition, you can talk to your friends, family, anonymously in charity supported groups or to your GP. You are not alone, addiction is a very common problem and help is available.