Addiction is a complex syndrome that involves various mechanisms within the brain that affect thought, feeling and behaviour. Addictions can vary in form and most commonly include: Pornography addiction, substance addiction (such as alcohol addiction or drug addiction), and gambling addiction.
Addiction involves the repeated use of a substance or repetition of a behaviour whereby the rewarding effects (often feelings or neurochemicals) provide an incentive to pursue the behaviour, even when the consequences are detrimental. Mental health conditions are also commonly present and can include depression, bipolar, anxiety, and some stress-related illnesses such as burnout. People commonly report difficulty stopping the use of a substance or behaviour, and that they are often mentally preoccupied with thoughts about acquiring a substance or performing an action (such as gambling).
‘Use’ versus ‘addiction’
Substance use is common for many people and the use of a substance does not necessarily constitute an addiction. However, for some, and especially after repeated use, a substance can be difficult to voluntarily stop. This is affected by the type of substance, genetic predisposition to addiction, the presence of environmental stressors, as well as the presence of other metal health disorders.
How does addiction work?
Addiction works by affecting the reward, reinforcement, motivation, and memory systems of the brain. People commonly experience cravings and have difficulty controlling their usage. Because addiction affects executive functioning within the brain, people often have difficulty identifying that they have an issue, or that their behaviour is causing problems in their life. Unfortunately, there is a significant degree of shame and guilt surrounding addictions which can make it difficult for people to seek help when they need it.
How do I know if I have a problem?
If you find it difficult to reduce, control or cease the use of a substance or a behaviour, then you may have an addiction. You may also experience significant cravings as well as agitation if you cannot access a substance, or perform a behaviour (such as gamble). You may also find that you are preoccupied with acquiring or engaging with a substance or behaviour. If your friends, family or partner have noticed changes in you that they are concerned about, it may be time to talk to a professional and find out more.
Treatment for addiction
Treatment is not always straightforward. People commonly experience relapse, and this can be part of the process for many. Maintaining an honest and open relationship with a psychologist is essential, and treatment works by addressing the reward mechanisms and memory system within the brain through cognitive and behavioural therapy and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR); as well as addressing any underlying trauma, stress, self-esteem issues, or other mental illness that may be driving the condition.
The MVS Psychology Group approach
At MVS Group we use a highly targeted and advanced treatment programme that includes traditional cognitive and behavioural approaches as well as advanced EMDR protocol to target the memory system of the brain for addictions.
For more information, get in touch with us today