” Cultivate only the habits that you are willing should master you.”
– Elbert Hubbard
Addiction is a word with many definitions, but all kinds of addiction can be helped through psychotherapy. Addiction is best described as a habit that is very difficult to break and which produces a positive feeling, at the same time getting rid of a negative one. Another definition suggests that it is an attachment to an appetite activity, so strongly that the person finds it difficult to stop or moderate the activity, despite the fact that it is causing harm.
The three C’s of addiction:
- Behaviour ranging along the Craving-Compulsion spectrum
- Continued use despite adverse consequences
- Loss of Control
In theory, it is possible to be addicted to anything, but the majority of addictions fall into the following categories:
There is no single cause of addictive behaviour, but there are 5 main factors usually involved:
- Genetics – only a small role
- Gender – more males than females are addicted to substances or gambling but more females with eating disorders
- Family factors – e.g. discipline or bonding issues, parental addictive behaviour and/or attitudes towards the issue
- Childhood assault/ trauma – a very clear link, resulting in low self image, shame, guilt and a feeling that the world is unsafe
When one or more of these factors are involved, the person is certainly more at risk, but other issues also affect the possibility of addiction; such as availability, cultural acceptance, underlying psychiatric disorders and general personality traits of impulsiveness, risk taking and rebelliousness.
For substance abuse, there are many organisations available to help, using ‘the 12 step program’, such as AA. These focus on complete abstinence and may not suit everybody. Separate personal counselling is always recommended.
Pathological or problem gamblers usually respond best to specialist counselling which looks at underlying issues as well as dealing with the practicalities of the problem, e.g. possible financial and legal problems.
Eating disorders are also supported by a number of organisations, dependent upon the particular issue. Again, personal counselling is recommended to determine and deal with the underlying causes of the addiction.
Addictions can be improved to become a less invasive part of your life by lifestyle changes and counselling to deal with the underlying issues such as dysfunctional parenting, abuse or exposure to other trauma.