When you hear the word addiction you probably think of someone sniffing Cocaine or injecting heroine, but in fact there are different types of addictions affecting people from all around the world.
Addiction is a condition where the affected person is preoccupied about the subject of his addiction to the point that it becomes the centre of his or her life.
He spends most of his time seeking it while neglecting other aspects of his or her social and occupational life.
Classically addiction used to be linked to substances such as drugs and alcohol but recently psychologists described behavioural addiction which includes gambling, addiction to food or shopping or video games. Some psychologists describe addiction to bodybuilding when the person becomes preoccupied with going to the gym and posting selfies in social media.
Along with the preoccupation with the substance or behaviour, the addicted person keeps needing more to get the same level of satisfaction. When he or she is unable to access the subject of the addiction, withdrawal symptoms kick in. These can be in the form of physical or psychological symptoms that the person goes back to the substance or behaviour in order to get relief.
So what happens to the brain
When we do a pleasurable activity like walking on the beach, going on a holiday, or watching a movie or simply eating our favourite meal, our brain releases a chemical called dopamine.
This chemical is linked to motivation and learning. When a person takes a drug or drinks alcohol, this leads to the release of dopamine in higher quantities beyond the normal levels that comes from doing other pleasurable activities. Dopamine makes the brain realise that a particular substance causes this amount of pleasure so instead of just liking it becomes addicted to it and with time the brain asks for more of the substance to get to the pleasure point.
This is why an addict can steal or kill and ignore his values in order to obtain the substance, in another-ward he or she becomes a slave to his addiction.
While addiction to alcohol and substance are easily recognised, behavioural addiction can be difficult to spot.
A teenager playing video games can easily get hooked to it as it’s available, affordable and is not considered criminal. It’s only when he or she starts locking him or herself in the room and the academic performance drops or becomes aggressive when a parent tries to get him out of the room that the addiction becomes recognised.
So what can we do to address
If you or someone you know is affected by addiction the first step is to acknowledge the issue and not to deny it. Most countries have dedicated centres to treat addiction from drugs and alcohol while you can get help with behavioural addictions from trained psychiatrist and psychologist.
Remember that spotting the addiction and dealing with it early makes recovery more likely. Don’t shy out from seeking professional help when you need it.