The term ‘addiction’ comes from the Latin to be ‘enslaved’ or ‘bound’ by something. This will ring true to anyone who has experienced addiction first hand.
Addiction is made up of three parts:
- A desire for the habit or substance
- An inability to control oneself when it comes to the habit or drug
- A continuation to take the substance or engage in the activity even though it is having negative effects on the person
People often only associate addiction with hard drugs like heroin, alcohol or most commonly perhaps the nicotine in cigarettes. But, habits can also be addicting, and things like shopping, sexual pleasure and gambling are all classic additions.
People never start out planning to get addicted. Rather the opposite, people often try something ‘just for fun’ or the experience. When they find that it is enjoyable, they try it again, and before long a habit and finally addition sneaks up on them.
When the first addiction research came out, it was often thought that people who became addicted were somehow mentally or morally weak or flawed. Or perhaps just had no willpower. This has of course changed, and it is now clear that anyone can form an addiction. Addiction is today recognized as an illness. A chronic disease that is in the same category as any illness caused by bacteria or a virus.
The principle of pleasure
All people get pleasure through the same pathways in the brain. And all addictions happen in the same way. This is through dopamine, which is the pleasure hormone released in the brain. All drugs hijack this pleasure highway and cause you to get a hit of this pleasure hormone whenever the activity is partaken. Be it drugs like heroin, or clicking a button to buy a new bag, the brain releases this which make the person feel good. And this feeling is what is so addictive. Strong drugs do this in a very intense and fast way.
The learning brain
New research then goes on to theorize that this hormone is key in learning and memory. Things like sex and eating are highly pleasurable because they are so important for survival. If we did not have a powerful reward for doing these things then the human race would not have survived for so long. This issue is that when this same pathway is used for other activities, or when drugs are administrated to copy this feeling, the activity becomes similarly ‘necessary’ for survival.
How to know if you’re addicted
While it may seem quite straightforward, understanding if you are addicted can be difficult. It is easy to trick yourself into denial, often by telling yourself that you can ‘quit at any time’. You just don’t want to. The best method to understand this is to stop.
Apart from the symptoms listed above, withdrawal is one of the key indicators of addiction. When you stop the activity and have negative feelings due to the separation, then it may become clearer that you are addicted.
Do not lose faith though. Many people have had extremely intense addictions and have overcome them. Some of the best ways of getting over addiction and beating it are through individual therapy as well as group sessions. These allow you to speak to like-minded people and work as a group to beat your addiction.
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