How to define addiction?
An addiction is a complex problem that involves many cognitive, behavioral, and emotional issues. In short, it is possible to define addiction as a mental health disorder. It occurs when there exists a prominent unhealthy dependence on a substance or a behavior. The substance or behavior affects their daily life and severely impairs their normal functioning.
What does an addiction mean? It means that a person is emotionally, cognitively, and physically dependent on something that seriously affects their life. A person might depend on oxygen to live, but that doesn’t mean they have an addiction.
We might think of addiction as a problem with drugs or alcohol. However, a person might be addicted to gambling, sex, pornography, and even things like exercise or Internet. Some of these addictions can be more disruptive than others, but they all are maladaptive.
What does an addiction mean?
It’s possible to define addiction in terms of its characteristics. An addiction differs from a fondness or from a preference for something.
First, there is tolerance. A person with an addiction will need more of the same thing in order to feel the same effects. For example, a drug user needs bigger doses to feel the same high as before. Tolerance causes many people to overdose because they need to increase the dosage they use until it becomes too much.
Another characteristic to define addiction is the exclusion of other things. The person becomes focused on their addiction and begins to withdraw from their friends, avoid activities they used to enjoy, and spend most of their time, money, and energy on the addiction. For example, the gambler might spend a lot of time in casinos and avoid spending time with his family, spending more and more money on gambling.
A further characteristic to help define addiction is the inability to quit. The person might say they can quit whenever they want. However. what defines an addiction is the inability to quit even if they desire to do so. The gambler will continue to visit casinos and spend money even if they have lost their house or family.
The inability to quit is associated with withdrawal. People with a substance dependence might find that if they don’t use, their body responds with pain, cramps, shaking, sweating, and other symptoms that can be difficult to get through. This is withdrawal that occurs until the body clears of the drug. While it is mostly associated with physical symptoms, withdrawal can be psychological too: the person who can’t gamble or access the Internet might get irritable, angry, anxious, or upset if they can’t get online.
The impact of addiction
Another way to define addiction and distinguish it from other things is by the impact it has on the person’s life. People with addiction tend to experience severe consequences in their personal and professional lives.
For example, a person might lose their financial stability due to gambling. Some people then turn to fraud to raise more funds, which can cost them their job and their freedom.
People with alcohol addiction might act violently or simply irresponsibly towards their family. For example, they might forget to pick up their kids from school because they are drunk. This can make the spouse choose to leave them and limit the contact they have with the kids for the kids’ safety.
Friends and family members might offer support. However, unless the person enters treatment, they might leave the person if they feel their own well-being is in jeopardy. For example, a person with a behavioral addiction like gambling might often try to borrow money from other people. Or they may take credit in someone’s name or steal from them. While family members might forgive some incidents, many tend to get angry and cut contact with the individual. One important question for those with addiction is how to stop?
How to stop addiction
The biggest question people have in relation to addiction is how to stop addiction? Addiction can be a difficult enemy. However, every day people make a choice to end addiction and begin a road to recovery.
First of all, it is difficult to know how to stop addiction while the person with the addiction is in denial. Many people make justifications until they reach rock bottom: I can quit, it’s not a problem, it’s just a way to have fun. However, eventually people might decide they need help.
What does beating addiction entail? Often, it involves rehabilitation (depending on severity and other factors). People with addiction might undergo a detox process to beat withdrawal. Then spend some time at an inpatient facility. Later they may attend self-help groups and therapy to keep the recovery going. Some people go to hospitals, others to self-help and therapy, and some choose a different treatment combination.
Addiction can be difficult to beat. While a lot of progress has been made, there is no miracle cure. It is a process that can even last a lifetime. That being said it can be done and there is always hope. People make the decision and take steps to lead a healthy and sober life every day.
Is addiction a disease?
The question of whether addiction is a disease is a controversial one. For a long time, the prevailing model of addiction was that of addiction as a moral failing. People saw addicts as people with a weak will and character, and this idea still is held by many people today. However, the disease model of addiction has gained more prominence and is at the core of professional treatment for addiction.
The disease model of addiction sees it as a mental health illness, like other mental health illnesses can be. The disease model of addiction is supported by evidence that an addiction causes severe changes in the brain and physical dependence. Addicts also tend to have genetic and environmental factors that make them predisposed to developing an addiction.
Addiction changes the brain and the body in ways that make it progressively more difficult to quit. Also, people with genetic and environmental predispositions may develop an addiction even if they don’t use drugs or alcohol, developing a behavioral addiction, for example.
There are many things that define addiction:
- Its impact on the body and brain
- The dysfunction it creates in a person’s life
- The presence of denial
- Often progresses
- Many factors and no single cause.
An addiction can be complex and involve drugs, alcohol, or behaviors like gambling. While drugs create a strong physical dependence, behaviors can create a powerful emotional and psychological dependence too, which makes it difficult to stop a behavioral addiction.
Past models of addiction looked at it as a moral failing, and many people today see it as such. However, the disease model of addiction is supported by evidence that it can change the brain and the body. There are other views as well that critique the disease model. Whether or not addiction is classified as a disease the physical and mental changes are such that it becomes more difficult for the person to quit. There is hope and everyday people get on the road to recovery by making a choice. As hard as it may be for some to do so they can overcome it. The power ultimately rests with the individual.