An addiction is a persistent behavioral pattern marked by physical and/or psychological dependency and tolerance that causes significant disruption and negatively impacts the quality of life of an organism.
Addictions are frequently linked to substance abuse, particularly psychoactive drugs such as narcotics, stimulants, and sedatives among others. It is common in colloquial English usage to extend the use of the term “addiction” to also encompass apparent compulsive behavior and passionate dedication to activities (such as hobbies) by analogy.
The types of addiction that most people think of right away are those surrounding alcohol or drugs. There are other types of addictions that affect people from all backgrounds, too. It’s possible to have addictions around food or other activities that produce a feeling of pleasure for the addict.
What is the definition for addiction?
The simple definition for a drug addict or alcoholic is a person whose life is controlled by a substance. Some think of an addict as the junkie in the alley who sticks a dirty needle in his arm. This misconception keeps many addicts from getting the help they need. Drug addicts come from all walks of life and social strata. Many begin their habit with prescription drugs obtained from well meaning family doctors or a social drink in the bar. Most do not intend to become addicts. Whether the drug use comes from legal medications or illegal substances such as crack cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines and marijuana, the consequences of addiction can be devastating and just as deadly.
Recognizing that there is a problem is the first step of recovery.
A person who is living with an addiction to alcohol experiences cravings and is compelled to drink as a result. Unlike a person who consumes alcohol in social situations and is able to enjoy the pleasurable sensations that alcohol brings, the alcoholic is unable to go without a drink for long. If they try to stop drinking, they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms, since their brain chemistry has changed as a result of their alcohol use.
Another type of addiction that can affect people is one where they use drugs. While some drug addicts become hooked on illegal drugs, others develop a problem with a dependence on prescription medications. Most of these are both physically and psychologically addictive. As a person continues to use the drug, they build up a tolerance to it and they need to take higher doses in an attempt to get the same effect as when they started using.
A person who is addicted to drugs may sleep more or less than usual. Changes in eating habits may indicate a problem with drugs as well; the person may not be interested in food or have cravings for sweets or other kinds of foods. Personality changes, such as becoming withdrawn or irritable may point to a drug problem as well.
Food addictions are type of addiction, and one that may not immediately come to mind. Some people become addicted to sugar or fat. Consuming a lot of these kinds of foods changes the individual’s brain chemistry to the extent that they go through withdrawal if they don’t keep on eating them.
Binge eating falls into this category, too. The person consumes large amounts of food in a relatively short amount of time (with or without purging afterward) and feels powerless to resist the urge to repeat the behavior when they feel anxious or depressed.
It’s possible for someone to become addicted to gambling or bingo as well. With these types of addiction, the thrill or “high” comes from winning or the possibility of winning. Sex addiction is very real, too, and the people who live with this type of problem get into a cycle where they are thinking about their last conquest or planning for the next one. They may engage in risky behaviors (having sex with strangers or prostitutes, exposing themselves, voyeurism, etc.) to get the fix they crave.
Online gaming, Internet, and e-mail addictions are a product of our modern age. Doing any of these activities in moderation is not a problem, but when a person starts engaging in them so often that they interfere with their daily activities, it’s a sign of an addiction problem. If you find that being unable to play the games you enjoy, surfing the Internet or checking your e-mail makes you feel uneasy or irritable, you may be an addict.