What is an Addiction?

Addiction is much more than dependence on a substance that needs drug rehab to cure, though it encompasses that as well.  It can also be a behaviour that is addictive. For instance, gambling can become an addiction – something that is pleasurable to you, but you can’t stop doing – as can shopping or sex.

When you are addicted to something it interferes with your normal life. You want to do it and continue to do it to the extent that other responsibilities that are part of your life are neglected. For instance, shopping and gambling addictions are carried on even if you don’t have enough money. The addict will find ways to getting the money, such as doing without other things and making their family go without. Or they may sell off things that are important or even turn to crime in order to get the money to support their habit.

They cannot spend time on relationships because their addiction consumes all their time and thoughts as well.  Even when they know what they are losing the important things in life such as children, spouse, home and reputation, it doesn’t really matter to them because the thing they are addicted to is something they cannot do without and as such it is the only important thing in their life.

The most common addictions are to drugs, alcohol, nicotine and gambling. The trouble is that not counting the drugs, the other addictions can go on for years without the person realising that they are in fact, addicted.  That’s because drinking, smoking and even gambling and shopping have become acceptable parts of our society and culture.  But you can also be addicted to things like eating and exercising.

So how do you know when you’ve crossed the line that separates an enjoyment of doing something from being addicted to it? There are two things that are common in addictions: –

  1. An addiction causes problems for the person doing or using it and for those around them, even though it helps the person feel good. For instance, a shopping addict feels good when they shop, but they can blow their budget and run into financial difficulties.
  2. The addict still persists in the behaviour – and enjoys it – in spite of the problems it causes.

The media may be partly to blame in people not recognising they are addicted to something. They usually portray addicts as down and out people lying in the gutter. This may be true of some, but those addicted to caffeine, shopping, sex or gambling are most likely to be the very opposite of that, at least on the surface. They may make the behaviour or addiction so much a part of their lives that they never suffer from withdrawal symptoms. And they most likely blame other factors or people for any problems they have due to the addiction.