Addiction Theories Vary, but Recognition is Key

Addiction Theories Vary, but Recognition is Key

The picture of addiction varies from person to person. It can include emotional problems, like depression or anxiety; or obvious physical signs, like fatigue or weight loss. Because addiction can quickly become life-threatening, if you suspect a friend or loved one is addicted to a behavior or substance, act immediately by learning more and guiding the person toward professional help.

Anything that gives someone pleasurable feelings can become addictive – from food to gambling to shopping or drugs. Experts believe the foundation of addiction toward a behavior or a substance is similar, and is connected to the release of endorphins in the brain that release good feelings.

The cycle of dependence begins when the person begins to take part in the addictive activity to keep getting those feelings, or a “high,” regardless of the cost. In reality, the person is addicted to the chemicals produced inside his or her own brain; the behavior or substance may act as the trigger for releasing these chemicals.

Many drug addictions, like heroin or alcohol, also trap the addict with a mental and emotional element that can last a lifetime. Some alcoholics, for example, will desire a drink for years following their recovery.

General behaviors seem to be present with any addiction, such as an obsession or preoccupation with the substance or behavior, even to the point of harming job performance and social relationships. An element of compulsion is also present. This means even if they try to stop, the person is compelled to keep repeating the action. When the behavior is finally stopped, withdrawal occurs, including anxiety, restlessness, mood swings and several other psychological or physical symptoms.

If someone tries to intervene and stop an addiction, the addict may show signs of resentment. They may feel threatened and anxious, or become extremely defensive about their ability to control the situation.

Causes of addiction remain under debate. Some behaviors people become addicted to are described as diseases, while others say the behavior is a reaction rooted between genetic and situational factors. Generally recognized addictions include alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, shopping, sex or exercise. Other conditions, like compulsive work, Internet usage and video games are being considered as formal addictions.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine looks to genetics as a strong factor in addictive behaviors, as well as a person’s level of tolerance toward the substance and their environmental considerations. Even a person’s ability to cope maturely with life situations can be considered as part of the problem.

No absolute consensus model for treating addiction exists, leading to confusion for both patients and professionals. Some prescribe the total removal of the addictive behavior or substance, and others believe carefully replacing an addictive drug, for example, with a substance like methadone, is a better option.

Some addictions, like food or working out, would never call for total abstinence. Therefore, treatment plans that include a variety of options – such as 12 Step group recovery programs, professional counseling, replacement behaviors and even medications to control cravings – are useful to many addicts and their families.

The first step in helping someone treat an addiction is recognition. Learning about addictions and their symptoms can be very helpful. Professionals also suggest family members continue to be firm with a supportive, loving attitude, until the person makes their decision to embark on recovery.

Find relief in recovery. Life gets better with addiction treatment.

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