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The Psychology Behind Addiction

    People have different views and perspectives on what addiction is, but one thing remains clear; it’s a brain disorder that feeds on rewarding stimuli. The psychology behind addiction is that it’s a complex pattern of behaviours that an individual engages in, even if it accompanies adverse consequences. Addiction can be both physical and psychological in nature which can make things quite complicated. But when armed with relevant information, you’ll be able to understand the root cause of this disease.


    How addiction affects individuals


    When a person is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it signals changes in their brain’s neurotransmitters. These chemicals react with the brain’s reward system and trigger feelings of wellness and pleasure. This is the physical aspect of addiction working inside the person’s body. Over time, larger amounts of addictive substance are required to achieve the same effects, which is what gets people hooked on drugs or alcohol.


    Their bodies adapt to the increased use of substances which alter their biochemistry in order to compensate for the chemicals. Abrupt cessation of the addictive substance can lead to undesirable symptoms and in worse cases, death.


    The psychological aspect of addiction occurs when the person is dealing with emotional distress. Anger, fear, loneliness, jealousy, and hopelessness can trigger an individual to rely on an addictive substance for comfort, especially if they lack a strong support system. They may also turn to gambling, overeating, and other unhealthy habits to quell their emotions.


    Turning to substances or behaviours for emotional relief stems from making small, subconscious decisions that snowball over time. As the person continues to rely on these bad habits, they develop a dependence and use it as a primary means of relieving strong feelings.


    When does a behaviour turn into an addiction?


    When a person engages in harmful behaviour, that doesn’t mean they’re automatically an addict. People who binge-drink on the weekends can control their drinking and even stop it altogether if their situation changes. The same thing goes for people going to casinos. They may gamble once a week, but aren’t necessarily hooked on playing to win the game.


    The behaviour turns into an addiction when the person cannot control their actions. They find it difficult to avoid drinking, even if they have to go to work the next day. Some people choose to gamble their money instead of paying for the bills and taking care of their families. A person who is addicted to something will look beyond the consequences and justify their behaviour as something that doesn’t warrant concern.


    Repetition is often the cause for developing an addiction. The more exposure they receive, the higher their chances of developing a dependence on that substance/behaviour.


    There are a number of factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing addiction:


    1. Biological factors


    Scientists have discovered that genetic factors influence roughly 50% of addiction development. The nature of a person’s hormonal response to stress and the genetic makeup of their brain receptors are likely to contribute to their addiction vulnerability. Variations in liver enzymes (which metabolise substances) can also increase a person’s risk of developing alcohol disorder.


    1. Psychological factors


    Conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety are one of the main causes of addiction development. Individuals who struggle with managing strong emotions are more likely to develop an addiction and use it as a coping mechanism to relieve feelings of pain, stress, isolation, and disappointment.


    1. Environmental factors


    Peer groups, family factors, and accessibility factors can strongly influence a person’s risk of developing an addiction. Humans are social creatures and can adopt many of the behaviours their peers display. A person’s upbringing and family situation can also contribute to an addiction risk, especially if they’ve been physically/verbally abused as a child.


    Having easy access to addictive substances like drugs or alcohol can prompt an individual to seek these substances out of curiosity.


    The characteristics of an addictive personality


    A person who suffers from addiction may exhibit the following personality characteristics:


    • Increased tendency on committing impulsive behaviours and actions.
    • Wants immediate gratification – they instantly want what they crave for and cannot afford to delay it.
    • Non-conformist and displays a rebel attitude towards society’s rules.
    • Feelings of alienation from friends, family members, and the society.
    • Fluctuating energy levels ranging from increasingly happy to extremely moody.


    Scientists are still debating whether or not addiction is physical or psychological in nature. What they do know is that addiction is linked to a strong genetic component similar to certain anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Mental health experts believe that substance abuse and destructive compulsive behaviours share the same psychological characteristics, even though both conditions have unique etiologies.


    There is scientific proof that addiction shares key neurobiological features that involve brain pathways of reward and reinforcement. This can affect a person’s motivation levels involving dopamine, a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for regulating a person’s movement, learning, attention, and emotional response.


    Confronting the addiction


    Because addiction affects the brain’s cognitive processes, people who develop an addiction may not be aware of the consequences of their actions. As they continue pursuing the pleasurable effects, their rational thinking becomes dominated by their intense cravings. Although addiction can induce feelings of failure and hopelessness, research suggests that recovering from addiction is possible and is often times the rule rather than the exception.


    No matter how severe the addiction is, remission is entirely possible. All it takes is a strong support system, a willingness to commit, and an effective rehabilitation program such as Drug rehab Bali to reverse the damage and start a person’s journey to recovery. Relapse is now regarded as a part of the healing process and can be addressed through treatment regimens that focus on prevention and management of recurring use.


    There are plenty of routes towards recovery and individuals can experience improved physical, psychological, and emotional health after undergoing rehabilitation. Since each person is unique and has different needs, an individualised approach to recovery is perhaps the better approach as opposed to an all-in-one solution.