I have noticed a rise in the number of searches for help related to addictions. So I thought it was time to revisit the article I posted well over a year ago about it. It’s possible to be addicted to more or less anything, and the NHS estimates that at any one time, at least 2 million people in the UK have a problem. Addictions are destructive, and affect not just the one person, but friends, colleagues and families too. Everyone close to an addicted person can feel the negative after effects.
WHAT IS AN ADDICTION? The NHS defines it on their website: “Addiction means not having control over doing, taking or using something harmful. You can’t control how you use whatever you are addicted to and you become dependent on it to get through each day”. Health care professionals tend to define Addictions in two broad categories: Substance or Behavioural.
Substance addiction is where someone uses drugs, alcohol, prescription medication, nicotine, caffeine or possibly even food. They use them as a means of escape from the stress or emotional trauma they are experiencing; they use them to alter their mood. Psychologically, they become “hooked” on the substance and believe they cannot function without it – like a smoker who grows increasingly anxious and twitchy if they are prevented from their nicotine dose, and who feel calmed and able to relax when it is provided. Substance addiction leads to physical dependency, and with these addictions people suffer both physical and psychological withdrawal from the substance as the body re-adjusts itself.
The second category is Behavioural or process addictions, where the problem is something we do, not what we put into our bodies. Examples are gambling, sex, internet gaming, possibly even excessive exercise. Online gambling, especially betting sites and user friendly games like Bingo are increasingly common. Its basically any action carried out to the overall detriment of someone, even where the activity started out as a bit of fun, or escapism, but they have ended up with a psychological dependency on the action. These addictions also cause psychological symptoms of withdrawal.
It’s easy to see how a substance can become addictive, but what about a behaviour? This can start as a social event or as a leisure activity to relieve stress. Then, because it makes you feel better, you feel (briefly) in control. This is a good feeling, sometimes known as a “buzz” and so people will repeat the behaviour in order to keep the feeling & increase the buzz. Eventually, they become overwhelmed by the need to repeat the behaviour and the stress of maintaining the secret. That stress exacerbates the need to feel the buzz and so the cycle is completed.
Addictions follow a cycle or pattern of behaviour, which can be intense and destructive. They can also start out as a coping mechanism to relieve tension from an emotional problem, especially one caused by low self esteem. Deeper problems such as stress, loneliness, anxiety, fear and even depression can be the trigger for addictions. Low self esteem is a crucial factor – it helps to create a vicious circle; someone has an addiction because he feels bad about himself, but then he doesn’t like or value himself because he has this problem. It may even go so deep that in extreme cases the client is punishing himself with this self destructive behaviour. This can occur when he sees the effect on his family and friends and guilt is added to the mix of shame, humiliation and secrecy that often surround clients with these problems. The client will see the effect but will be unable to stop the behaviour; they will be in denial and use minimisation or rationalisation in order to self justify their actions; they may also go to great lengths to hide their addiction and its consequences from family, friends and colleagues. They will place a lot of emotional energy into this secrecy until it becomes an integral part of how they identify themselves. They get locked into this overwhelming cycle and cannot make it stop.
If you recognise yourself in this description and want some support to deal with it, contact Alison for a confidential consultation.
NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS!
As 2015 draws to a close, the New Year gives us the opportunity to look back on what we have achieved and learned this year. Its traditional to use the New Year to make Resolutions about we are going to do or change. A lot of us will not keep those resolutions! But before we look forward it is just as important to look back first. What were the best parts of 2015? What were the worst?
Ask yourself a few questions:
- What was the most enjoyable part of your year?
- What were the most valuable things you learned?
- What was an unexpected challenge?
- What are you most proud of?
- What do you wish you did more of?
- What do you wish you did less of?
And then when you look forward to 2016, build on the parts that were good, and that you can repeat. If you want to make a resolution, go ahead, but make it realistic and make it something that is within your own control to achieve. Happy New Year!
SPECIAL OFFERS for 2016
To start 2016, I am offering a special deal on Hypnotherapy for Weight loss. This has become one of my most popular and successful packages. It helps people change their relationship with food, especially comfort or over eating.
Program comprises – a consultation appointment, 6 full sessions of hypnotherapy, a CD recording for use at home and if required a follow up session. Total cost – £150. (this can be paid up front or in instalments as agreed before sessions start).
The offer is available for any weight loss sessions booked to start between 1st January 2016 and 1st February 2016.
For details of how hypnotherapy can help with weight loss and comfort eating, click on the news/articles tab and scroll down to find the related article.