An addiction is an uncontrollable dependence on a certain substance or activity. People become addicted to different things for different reasons, but can be affected both physically and psychologically. With addiction, the activity or substance often becomes the major focus of a person's life, leading to the exclusion of other activities, impairing work, social, and family responsibilities, and affecting the individual's health, mood, and self-respect. Addicted individuals may suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem or depression and often feel as if they have no control over their lives or behavior.

Types of Addictions

Both physical and psychological addictions affect the part of the brain that produces endorphins, or pleasure inducing substances. These chemicals make the person feel "high" or euphoric when indulging in their addiction.

Physical Addictions

Physical addictions are usually a result of the use of a particular substance. After excessive use, people build up a tolerance and need a larger and larger dose to feel the same effects of the substance. If they do not use the substance, they may suffer from symptoms of withdrawal. Common types of physical addictions may include:

  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine/Smoking

Behavioral or Psychological Addictions

Psychological or behavioral addictions occur when there is an uncontrollable urge to perform an activity. Behavioral addictions are not substance-related, and include a strong and recurring compulsion to engage in a certain activity despite the harmful consequences to either the individual or others. Behavioral addictions may include:

  • Sex
  • Internet
  • Exercise
  • Dieting
  • Overeating
  • Gambling
  • Shopping
  • Cell phone use

Causes of Addiction

There is no specific cause for a person to develop an addiction, however, an addiction may be influenced by a person's genetic makeup and social or environmental factors. Many people believe that genetics may cause a risk of addiction and environmental factors such as family life, upbringing and peer influences may also play a role in causing an addiction. Children who grow up in homes where a parent abuses drugs or alcohol or participates in other addictive behaviors may be at a greater risk for developing an addiction, for both genetic and environmental reasons.

Treatment for Addiction

Addiction is a treatable condition. The first step in the successful treatment of an addiction often begins when the individual admits that they have a problem and need help. Physical addictions to substances such as drugs or alcohol may be treated with medication. Behavioral therapy and counseling are also an important part of treatment. Behavioral therapy is often used to help patients identify, avoid, and cope with situations in which they are most likely to partake in addictive activities. Family or group therapy may also help the patient maintain a supportive environment and improve family relationships.

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