Understanding Addictive Behaviors

It seems that there is a lot of talk about addiction lately. Television shows like Intervention, Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab, and My Strange Addiction have brought addiction into the light, and done the public a great service by reducing the taboo and increasing awareness about the nature of addiction. One common theme that pervades addiction media today is that addiction is not necessarily about the substance being abused. Addictions are behavior mechanisms that are fed by multiple influences, and they generally spread to other facets of life. Want to know more about how addiction works? Here is a guide to understanding addictive behaviors:

What is an addictive behavior? Modern research concludes that a person may become addicted to virtually anything. This understanding leads to the currently accepted definition of addiction as a compulsion, obsession, or dependency toward a substance, a behavior, an activity, a thought, or an object.

Physical dependence versus psychological dependence. Many people mistakenly believe that a lack of physical dependence proves the absence of addiction. However, that is just not true. As a matter of fact, many studies indicate that psychological dependence may play an even stronger role in addiction that physical dependence. A prime example of this is marijuana abuse. While, statistically, very few chronic marijuana users ever experience physical withdrawal symptoms upon stopping, most experience very intense emotional and psychological cravings for the substance when they aren’t using. It is not uncommon for people who are dependent on marijuana to deny their dependency because of the lack of physical dependency symptoms.

How do you know when a behavior has crossed over into an addiction? While physical dependency is the most clear-cut and undeniable proof of addiction, it is possible to gauge psychological addiction by asking a few questions. Has the behavior been disruptive to other important aspects of life (work, relationships, personal goals, etc.)? Does the user want to quit, but can’t seem to, in spite of honest efforts? Is the behavior likely to lead to health problems, unnecessary stress, or incarceration? Can the user not control how often, or for how long, he or she engages in the behavior? Is the behavior an obsession that seems to override other thoughts and activities? If the answer to even one or two of these questions is “yes,” then chances are the behavior is an addiction.

Addictive behavior is a serious problem that can have devastating effects on the lives of both the addict and the people who love the addict. Fortunately, if you suspect that you or someone you love suffers from an addiction, then you can get help. Addiction can be treated, and successfully, with proper attention.

About the Author: Raphael Mauller is an addictions counselor who spends a great deal of time educating his clients about addictive behaviors.  Make sure you seek the advice of a counselor, quit drinking with TheSobrietySolution, or speak to a loved one if you need help with addictions – no matter what kind.