What is Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease. It is when someone cannot stop using a substance or engaging in a behaviour that causes physical or psychological harm. Stopping these behaviours can cause some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Addiction doesn’t discriminate and affects people of any age, ethnicity, gender, or background. No one starts taking drugs looking forward to the day they cannot control their drug use.

The word ‘Addiction’ is derived from the Latin term ‘enslaved by’ or ‘bound to.’ If you have been affected by addiction, you will understand why.

Addiction can cause significant distress to the person concerned and their families and may lead to criminal behaviour in some people.

Types of Addiction

When thinking about addiction, many people will think about alcohol and drugs. However, there are chemical addictions such as food, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, and behavioural addictions such as work, gambling, sex, porn, gambling, shopping, the internet, and video gaming.

Chemical Addictions

Food Addiction

food addictionMany people like to indulge occasionally, but consuming unhealthy foods to an obsessive degree can quickly produce negative consequences for physical and mental health. Food addiction is a complex behavioural disorder characterised by an uncontrollable craving for certain foods, often leading to excessive consumption and negative health consequences. People with food addiction often have trouble controlling their eating and may experience guilt, shame, and anxiety related to their behaviour. The food addiction cycle can be challenging to break, as it involves physical and psychological dependence. Like addictive drugs, certain foods can trigger feel-good chemicals such as dopamine. Satisfaction and satiety signals are often overridden by these reward signals, resulting in a person continuing to eat even though they are not hungry. Someone with a food addiction may spend excessive amounts of time obsessing and being preoccupied with food. 

Prescription Medication Addiction

prescription medication addictionPrescription drug addiction is a growing problem, often unnoticed until it’s too late. Prescription medications are intended for medical purposes and are prescribed by doctors to treat various ailments. However, their potency and availability through illegal means have made them the go-to drugs for recreational use. What begins as an innocent condition that requires prescription medication can soon spiral out of control, resulting in a full-blown addiction.

Prescription drug addiction can have significant mental and physical impacts on an individual. Common symptoms include increased tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. The best way to prevent addiction is to ensure that prescriptions are taken as prescribed by a physician and to stay alert to any changes in behaviour. If a prescription drug addiction is suspected, immediate professional help should be sought to ensure a successful recovery.

Illegal drug Addiction

drug addictionDrug addiction is a chronic and relapsing disorder characterised by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. It can develop from various factors, such as genetic predisposition, social environment, and personal or emotional reasons. Long-term drug use can lead to physical and psychological dependence, causing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit. Substance abuse affects not only the individual but also their loved ones and society as a whole. It can cause financial problems, relationship issues, and possible legal issues.

Treatment for drug addiction can include behavioural therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Seeking professional help is crucial for those struggling with addiction, and support from family and friends can make a significant difference in the recovery outcome.

Alcohol Addiction

alcohol addictionAlcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism, is a chronic condition where a person experiences an uncontrollable urge to consume alcohol. Individuals with alcohol addiction may prioritise drinking over other important tasks and responsibilities, leading to negative consequences in personal and professional relationships. Withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures and tremors, may be experienced when attempting to quit or reduce alcohol consumption. You should ALWAYS consult a professional before quitting drinking if you are dependent, as stopping abruptly can be fatal.

Tobacco Addiction

tobacco addictionTobacco addiction is the physical and psychological dependence on nicotine found in tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that activates dopamine release in the brain, causing pleasurable sensations and reinforcing the desire to continue using tobacco.

Tobacco addiction can have serious health consequences, including an increased risk of lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and respiratory illnesses. It can also lead to addiction to other substances and adverse effects on mental health.

Quitting smoking can be challenging, but it is possible with support and a plan in place. It is never too late to quit smoking and improve your health and well-being. 

Caffeine Addiction

Caffeine addictionCaffeine addiction is common among people who consume caffeinated beverages or food items. Caffeine is a natural stimulant that can provide temporary energy-boosting effects, increased alertness, and heightened cognitive function. However, regular consumption of caffeine can also lead to dependence and addiction. Withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating can occur when caffeine consumption is reduced or stopped abruptly. To avoid caffeine addiction, it is recommended to limit daily intake and avoid consuming caffeine at least six hours before bedtime. It is also important to be aware of other sources of caffeine besides coffee and tea, such as energy drinks and sodas, to prevent unintentional overconsumption. Ultimately, moderation and awareness are key to avoiding caffeine addiction and maintaining a healthy relationship with this common stimulant.

Behavioural Addiction

Work Addiction

work addictionWork addiction, or workaholism, is a behavioural addiction characterised by an excessive and compulsive need to work. Individuals who suffer from work addiction often prioritise work over all other aspects of their life, including personal relationships, health, and leisure activities. They may work beyond regular hours, obsess about work-related tasks, and neglect self-care habits like sleeping, eating, and exercise. Work addiction can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion, strained personal relationships, and burnout. Sometimes, it can result in job loss and financial difficulties. 

Sex Addiction

Sex addiction is a condition characterised by compulsive and persistent sexual behaviour that interferes with daily life. People suffering from sex addiction experience similar behaviour patterns to those with substance abuse and other addictive disorders. They may spend excessive amounts of time seeking out sexual activities, engaging in risky sexual behaviour, and neglecting other important aspects of their lives, such as work, relationships, and health. While sex addiction is not an officially recognized disorder in the DSM-5, it is widely acknowledged as a real and devastating condition. 

Porn Addiction

Porn Addiction is a subcategory of sex addiction. It is characterised by someone compulsively accessing and viewing pornographic material and feeling a complete lack of control over their porn-viewing behaviour.

Gambling Addiction

gambling addictionGambling addiction is a psychological condition characterised by a compulsive and uncontrollable urge to gamble despite the negative consequences it may have on an individual’s life. It is a serious disorder that affects millions worldwide and often goes undetected until it is too late. People who suffer from gambling addiction often experience financial problems, relationship issues, and can become isolated from friends and family. They may also struggle with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. It is essential for anyone struggling with gambling addiction to seek professional help, as treatment is available and effective. 

Shopping Addiction

shopping addictionShopping addiction, also known as compulsive buying disorder, is a psychological condition where individuals experience a persistent and recurrent desire to buy items they do not need or cannot afford. This addiction is often characterised by tension or anxiety that is only relieved by purchases. It can lead to financial difficulties, strained relationships, and social isolation. People with a shopping addiction may try to hide their behaviour or feel guilty, further exacerbating the problem. 

Internet Addiction 

internet addictionInternet addiction is excessive and compulsive Internet use that interferes with daily life. The phenomenon has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, with the widespread availability of smartphone technology and social media platforms fueling this problem. Internet addiction symptoms may include spending excessive time online, neglecting personal responsibilities, and experiencing mood swings when internet access is limited or unavailable. Additionally, internet addiction can have detrimental effects on mental health, as individuals may begin to prioritise virtual interactions over face-to-face relationships.

Video Gaming Addiction

Video Gaming AddictionVideo gaming addiction, also known as gaming disorder, is a mental health condition characterised by the compulsive and excessive playing of video games, despite the negative consequences that it may bring. It is now recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a diagnosable disorder. Those addicted to video games may experience withdrawal symptoms when they cannot play, neglect other important aspects of their life like work, school, or relationships, and continue to play despite its negative impact on their life. It can also lead to physical health problems such as obesity, computer vision syndrome, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms of addiction

Symptoms of addiction can vary depending on the substance or behaviour involved. However, some common symptoms include:

  • cravings or intense urges to use the substance or engage in the behaviour.
  • difficulty controlling the use of the substance or behaviour. 
  • continued use despite negative consequences, such as health problems, relationship issues, or legal difficulties.
  • needing more of the substance or behaviour to achieve the desired effect.
  • withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop using the substance or engaging in the behaviour.
  • spending excessive time obtaining, using, or recovering from the use of the substance or engaging in the behaviour.
  • neglecting work, school, or home responsibilities due to substance use or behaviour.
  • engaging in dangerous behaviours while using the substance or engaging in the behaviour.
  • loss of interest in other activities and hobbies.
  • change in friendship groups
  • mood changes
  • lying
  • stealing
  • changes in appetite

Risk Factors for Addiction

Addiction is a complex and multifaceted condition that can develop due to genetic, environmental, and behavioural factors. Some of the most common risk factors for addiction include:

  • family history of substance abuse
  • certain individuals may have a genetic predisposition to addiction
  • history of mental health disorders, Underlying mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, impulse disorder, PTSD, ADHD, anxiety disorder, and personality disorder make it more likely for someone to grow an addiction
  • Ongoing or chronic pain can contribute to the development of addiction if individuals rely on prescription medications to manage their symptoms. 
  • trauma or abuse
  • social or peer pressure 
  • early exposure to drugs or alcohol, 
  • chronic stress
  • poor coping skills


Understanding these risk factors can help individuals reduce their overall risk of developing an addiction by making healthier choices and seeking appropriate medical care when needed.

Treatment for Addiction

Addiction treatment is often personalised and can be tailored to the individual’s needs and circumstances. Addiction treatment typically involves a combination of therapy, medications, and support groups. 

12 Steps

Many 12 step Groups for addictions can provide ongoing support to individuals in recovery. These groups provide a sense of community and a safe space to share experiences and challenges. At most groups, you will get a sponsor who will help you through a 12 step program.

Charites and Local Help for Addiction

There are many Charities that offer help for people with addictions. Some are National, and some are local to you. 

Some Charities that can help with addiction are:


Therapy is an important part of addiction treatment and can be provided in individual or group settings. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), counselling, Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR), Motivational Interviewing, and family therapy are commonly used to address underlying emotional and psychological issues.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that is often used as a treatment technique for addictions. CBT aims to change behaviour patterns by targeting the negative thought processes and emotions that lead to addiction. The therapy works by teaching individuals how to identify and challenge their negative thoughts and emotions, and replace them with positive ones. This is achieved through various techniques such as self-monitoring and behavioural experiments. CBT is often used in conjunction with other addiction treatments such as medication and group therapy, and has been shown to be highly effective in treating addiction. With CBT, individuals can learn to overcome their addiction and develop new, positive coping strategies.

Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) for addiction aims to identify and resolve past traumatic experiences that may contribute to an individual’s addictive behaviors and emotional dysregulation.

The technique involves the use of bilateral stimulation through eye movements, auditory tones, or physical taps. This stimulation is believed to activate neural pathways that allow the brain to process and integrate traumatic memories in a more adaptive way, reducing the emotional charge associated with them.

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a counseling method used to help individuals with addiction explore and resolve their ambivalence about behavior change. It is based on the idea that people are often resistant to change and that an understanding and supportive approach is more effective than confrontation and coercion.

The counselor encourages and supports the individual in identifying and strengthening their own reasons for change. The process involves empathetic listening, reflective questioning, and affirmation of the person’s strengths and abilities.

MI has been shown to be effective in addressing a wide range of substance abuse and addiction issues. It is often used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes other evidence-based treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication-assisted treatment.

Family therapy for addiction is a form of therapy that involves the participation of family members of the individual dealing with addiction. This approach recognises the significant impact that family dynamics can have on the development and maintenance of addiction. The therapy involves a series of sessions where family members come together to work on strengthening their relationships and addressing underlying issues that may have contributed to the addiction.

Family therapy can take different forms, including behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, and family-systems therapy. Regardless of the approach used, the basic goal of family therapy for addiction is to help family members to develop better communication skills, build healthy boundaries, and establish healthier patterns of behavior. The therapy can also be helpful in addressing co-occurring mental health disorders and providing support for the individual struggling with addiction. Ultimately, family therapy for addiction aims to create a supportive and safe environment where everyone can work together to support the individual in their journey towards recovery.


Medications are also used to reduce cravings, manage withdrawal symptoms, and prevent relapse. Depending on the substance, medications like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone may be used to treat opioid addiction. Medications like disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate may be prescribed for alcohol addiction. 


It might help to avoid places and/or people that may trigger you or be problematic. If you have a gambling addiction, going to a casino isn’t a great idea. And, if you use drugs with friends, then probably best to change your circle. 

Self care is vital to help you with addiction. Taking time to care for yourself will help build your self worth which may aid your recovery. Anything you do for yourself is a victory, even if it is something like having a shower, going for a walk in nature, light some candles, paint your nails. Anything that lifts your mood.

Food can play an important part in your physical and mental health. Try and eat a healthy balanced diet and make sure you drink plenty of water. 

With consistent dedication and support, one can take charge of one’s existence and find healthy approaches to manage one’s thought spaces and behaviours. Nevertheless, it is vital to acknowledge that addiction is an ongoing battle that may take some time to overcome. But with commitment and a good amount of support from loved ones, anyone dealing with addiction can take steps towards an eventual recovery and regain control of their lives.

Addiction-the family disease.

Addiction affects not only the person who has the addiction but also has a ripple effect on family and friends. There is support that you can access if you are a family member. Check your local addiction centre; many have a department for family members. There are also many 12 Step groups that family members can attend for support.