Addiction Extends Beyond Drugs and Alcohol

When you hear the word “addiction,” what comes to mind? Do you think of drugs and alcohol? It’s okay if the answer is yes. Drugs and alcohol are what most people think about when they think about addiction (and overcoming it). The fact is that there are a lot of different types of addiction.

Social Media/Internet Addiction

Social media addiction is a real thing (1). Yes, everybody likes the idea of being able to keep up with their friends and loved ones instantly (and, if we’re being completely honest, lazily). For some people, though, that affinity for easy contact crosses over into a need that can, if not monitored and regulated, become destructive. For these people, their communication with friends and loved ones starts to only take place in social media. Even when they are out and with their friends and families in “meatspace” they stay tethered to their phones and tablets, unable to put away the stream of consciousness that sits on those social networking sites.

Gambling

Scientists and researchers have figured out that the root of gambling addiction might be different than the root for an addiction to illicit substances. For gamblers, it is cognitive dissonance that is likely at the root of their addictions (2). Gamblers–particularly those that are compulsive–are more likely to see patterns where none exist. They will look at a set of random circumstances and see patterns that nobody else sees. This is why they bet the way they do, because their brains tell them that certain things, when grouped together, indicate a future win.

Sex Addiction

A lot of people believe that sex addiction isn’t a real addiction. The science proves otherwise. Researchers at Cambridge recently discovered that the same pleasure centers of the brain that activate when a drug addict sees or has contact with his drug of choice are activated when a sex addict sees pornographic images. These areas are not activated as much in people who do not suffer from addictions. (3)

Eating Disorders

For a long time people thought that eating disorders like anorexia, bulemia, and otehr eating disorders were distinct and wholly separate from addictions to drugs, alcohol, etc. Around the turn of the millennium, though, psychologists and scientists started to discover many similarities in neural functioning between patients with eating disorders and those who were substance abusers. (4)

The Addictive Personality

It’s true that, in our culture, we tend to use the word “addicted” when what we really mean is simply that we have a strong affection for something. Even so, it is possible to become addicted to things that are not substances. For example, gambling and sex addiction are addictions to behaviors. There is some science that points to a personality type called “addictive personality.” Many people have turned their addictive personalities into successful careers (5).

Seeking Treatment

The reason we bring up the addictive personality is that it is important to understand that, just because the person isn’t abusing drugs or alcohol, doesn’t mean that the person isn’t suffering from an addiction (6). And where there is an addiction, there is a need for help. It is rare that a person with an addiction is able to overcome or sometimes even recognize that the addiction exists on their own.

If you are worried that someone has an addiction, look for the following symtoms:

  1. He or she starts to need the substance or behavior to feel normal.
  2. He or she is unable to keep track of how often or how intensely the behavior is exhibited.
  3. There are physical symptoms of withdrawal when he or she is unable to engage with his or her addictive behavior (or “substance”).

Finally, remember that addiction is a disease. There is no shame in admitting that one exists and seeking help for it!

Sources:

  1. “Social Networking Addiction.” Riches Corner Tech and Money Talk. RichesCorner.com, 17 Sept. 2012. Web. 25 May 2015.  http://www.richescorner.com/social-networking-addiction/
  2. Dovey, Dana. “High Roller: Gambling Addicts See Nonexistent Patterns.” Medical Daily. IBT Media Inc, 30 Apr. 2015. Web. 25 May 2015.  http://www.medicaldaily.com/all-bets-are-gambling-addiction-may-stem-cognitive-distortion-causing-some-see-331514
  3. Ghallager, James. “Scientists Probe ‘sex Addict’ Brains – BBC News.” BBC News. BBC, 12 July 2014. Web. 25 May 2015.  http://www.bbc.com/news/health-28252612
  4. Davis, Caroline. “Addiction and the Eating Disorders.” Addiction and the Eating Disorders. UBM Medica LLC, 1 Feb. 2001. Web. 25 May 2015.  http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/articles/addiction-and-eating-disorders
  5. Schiffman, Jason Eric. “The Successful Drug Addict.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 13 Dec. 2011. Web. 25 May 2015.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jason-eric-schiffman-md-ma-mba/personality-traits-of-addiction_b_1005464.html
  6. “Access to Excess – The Canyon Treatment Center.” The Canyon Treatment Center. Web. 25 May 2015.  http://thecanyonmalibu.com/drug-addiction/access-to-excess/

 

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