Common Addiction Disorders and Types
Have you ever binge-watched a TV series to the point where you thought you just couldn’t stop, no matter what? Did it feel like you were addicted?
Maybe you were, briefly. As research has increased into the science of addiction, it has led to an expansion of what is defined as addictive behavior that goes beyond just the habitual abuse of substances. Disorders such as behavioral addiction and process addiction have come more and more into the public view, and we now recognize that activities can also stimulate the same types of pathways in our brain as substances, and cause us to act just as compulsively.
Common Types of Addiction (More than just drugs)
It may seem strange to think of something that we need to sustain life as being addictive. However, for most of us living in a world of abundant food, and in a culture where eating is so tied into our social interactions, this can indeed be the case.
Studies into food disorders such as overeating have used brain scans to show the neurological activity involved with these afflictions. Just as with an addiction to drugs, eating certain foods can stimulate pleasure centers in our brains. There is a component of physical dependence involved with our desire for certain foods.
In particular, foods high in sugar, fat, and salt are the ones that really tend to stimulate us. They trigger what is roughly the equivalent of a high in the brain.
In addition to this physical stimulation, there can also be behavioral addiction associated with food. Binge eating is an example where a person becomes so consumed with eating because they have associated it with their sense of wellbeing. For these sufferers, thinking about the gratification that comes from overeating turns into a full-blown obsession.
Researchers also think that this type of addictive behavior involving food may be a critical element in obesity. Sufferers are unable to refrain from certain foods, in spite of the negative consequences that they know will result from eating them.
For additional information on food addiction, Overeater Anonymous is an excellent resource: https://oa.org/
Sex is another human activity that is fundamental to our biology, yet also one that researchers have determined can lead to addictive behavior. For the addict, sexual thoughts are persistent and continually escalating. Individuals are unable to refrain from sexual encounters, even though they may be having a significantly negative impact on their lives.
Sex addiction can in some ways be regarded as process addiction, which is defined as compulsively engaging in a certain activity. There are many such actions that can fall under this category, and scientists are finding out, more and more, that what many regard as normal routines in their daily lives can sometimes become entangled with addictive behavior.
In the case of sex addiction, the pursuit of sex begins to consume the addict’s life to the detriment of family, career and even health. Acting out on sexual desires becomes part of a routine, or is ritualized. After the desire has been fulfilled, the addict is typically overcome by remorse, shame, and confusion as to why they are unable to control their behavior.
Some Symptoms of Sex Addiction Include:
One of the greatest hindrances for those suffering from sex addiction can be the sense of shame associated with the disorder. However, you don’t have to let this stand in your way of recovery! Seek out professionals that will treat your sex addiction as the medical condition that it is.
Although gambling addiction has been known about for a while, there was a time when many viewed it as a psychological dependence. However, it is now known that gambling addiction is just one manifestation of a broader neurological phenomenon referred to as an impulse-control disorder.
As a result, those who suffer from gambling addiction are also likely to suffer from related behavioral disorders. Among them are substance abuse issues, ADHD, stress, depression, anxiety, and bi-polar disorder. Often times, before a gambling addiction can be addressed, these underlying issues must first be treated.
One problem with recognizing gambling addiction is that the symptoms are usually not as obvious as other addictions, such as substance abuse. So, many times it is up to the addict himself or herself to notice the signs and take action. But some important behaviors to look out are as follows:
Feeling the need to be secretive about your gambling.
Once you start gambling, you can’t walk away.
Gambling even when you don’t have the money.
Friends and family commenting on the frequency of your gambling.
Fortunately, today there are many first class facilities that offer treatment for gambling addiction. There are also support groups of recovering addicts who can help with resisting the urge to gamble.
More on treating gambling addiction: http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/
As part of Internet addiction, one could also include smartphone addiction or any other means by which people get online. This is another activity that would fall under the category of process addiction. And, like gambling addiction, it is viewed as a disorder rooted in impulse control.
Often the addiction to the Internet has an emotional component. Users develop strong attachments to online friends and other activities. This, in turn, causes both increasing amounts time to be spent online, and a sense of emotional emptiness when away from it.
There can be genuinely damaging effects of spending an inordinate amount of time on the Internet. Just as with other addictions, Internet addiction can be detrimental to real-world relationships with family and friends. It can also lead to decreased performance at work, as using the Internet for social or personal reasons overtake job responsibilities. The various health effects of poor sleeping habits also tend to catch up to Internet addicts.
Just like anyone else going through addiction recovery, those attempting to break their Internet habit also suffer withdrawal symptoms. Anger, depression, and feelings of loneliness are just some of the negative emotional states that can be associated with weaning oneself from excessive time spent online.
If you find that you are having trouble curtailing your Internet use, or have experienced emotional distress when not online, seeking out professional help can be an important first step. Often times it is the knowledge that these professionals provide that allow one to use the Internet effectively, rather than obsessively.
Is Addiction a Disease?
There is some debate concerning the question of whether or not addiction is a disease. Most medical associations do define it as such. Others argue that true diseases, such as cancer, have no component of conscious choice when it comes to stopping them.
While it is true that people make choices about whether or not to use drugs, one thing they do not have a choice over is how these substances will affect their brains and bodies. It is also the opinion of most experts that, once the level of addiction has been reached, the addict no longer has control over behavior.
According to the disease model, the causes of addiction involve not just behavioral, but also environmental, genetic, and other biological factors, just like any other disease. Addiction induces changes in the function of our brain and bodies. And when left untreated, addiction increases in severity becomes debilitating and can be life threatening.
But whether you wish to view addiction as a disease or not, what is critical to understand is that there is a physical component to addiction. It is not simply a matter of “willpower”. Substances and activities that stimulate our brains in certain ways engender the development of neuronal pathways that become strengthened and reinforced over time. We develop within ourselves an overwhelming need to continue receiving this stimulation.
Because of the nature of addiction, it is critical that we seek the advice of professionals in dealing with our problems. Arming ourselves with information that specialists provide can prove to be critical to recovery. It allows us to recognize the underlying behaviors that are leading to our addictive behaviors.
It is also important to have professional assistance through the initial detox, or withdrawal process. In many cases, this period of recovery can lead the addict through many difficult emotional states. Professionals offer strategies for how to effectively cope with low points and also reassure the addict that what they are experiencing is normal and temporary. In addition, there are some cases, as with opioids, where the detox process itself can be physically threatening and should not be undertaken without medical supervision.
When facing an addiction problem, you will have many options to find the therapeutic approach that works the best for you. The decision to enter a rehab facility also represents a significant financial investment, which makes the choice that much more critical. So always keep in mind, it will be important that you do the research necessary to determine the program that gives you the greatest chance for success!