When you think of addiction, you probably think of drugs and alcohol. But addiction isn’t limited to substances. People can become addicted to gambling, shopping, sex and even work or exercise. Despite the varying forms of addiction, they all share common characteristics, causes and consequences. Understanding the causes and circumstances of addiction can help you better support and assist yourself or your loved ones who may be struggling with addiction.
Addiction is characterized by a compulsive, obsessive behavior that is difficult to control. It is a chronic, progressive illness that affects the sufferer’s physical, mental and social wellbeing. People with addiction have a compulsive need to use a substance or engage in an activity despite the negative consequences it may have on their lives. For example, a person with an addiction to gambling may continue gambling even if it severely strains her relationships with family and friends or causes her to rack up huge debts.
Addiction is rooted in neurotransmitter pathways and patterns in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that allow nerve cells to communicate with each other. Addictive substances and activities cause changes in the brain’s natural reward pathways and functioning. Over time, it can be difficult for a person to resist the urge to engage in their addiction since they experience such a pleasurable response when doing so.
In addition, there are several risk factors that can contribute to the development of addiction. The most significant risk factor is genetics, with those who have a family history of addiction having an increased risk of developing an addiction themselves. Other factors such as psychological issues (such as anxiety, depression, stress, etc), environmental factors (such as exposure to drug traffickers or those who abuse alcohol and drugs), and certain lifestyle factors (such as poor coping skills and harsh life circumstances) also increase the likelihood of developing an addiction.
It is essential to understand that addiction is a complicated and multi-faceted issue. It is important that those who are suffering from addiction, or those close to the addict, don’t blame themselves for the addiction or feel guilty. Instead, it is important that those affected look to gain the right assistance and to understand the addiction and acknowledge the need for treatment and help.
A great first step in supporting a loved one with an addiction is learning more about addiction. Taking the time to read up on the impacts of addiction and the treatment currently available is a great way to start. You can also speak with a healthcare professional, a counselor, or a therapist to gain valuable information on addiction and support.
Educating yourself and utilizing the right resources can help you and your loved one find treatments and solutions. There are many available treatments and supports such as cognitive behavioral therapy, contingent rewarding, and 12-step programs designed to help those affected understand and work through their addiction. Many facilities also offer group therapy and support services, allowing those suffering from addiction to interact and learn from each other and grow together.
Finally, it is important to remember that addiction is a serious illness that requires specialized treatment plans in order for the afflicted individual to have a successful recovery. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, as everyone is different in their needs and experience. Therefore, it is important to understand the circumstances surrounding the addiction and the available treatments in order to provide support that is both informed and effective.
By becoming educated about addiction, you can help yourself or your loved one identify the available strategies and treatment options to help them along the path of recovery. Support, empathy and understanding are essential ingredients to any successful recovery program.