10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Addiction

The psychology of addiction is a fascinating field. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, having an addiction means exhibiting a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a substance, behavior, or activity. These things that people become addicted to are typically known for being habit-forming. For example, smoking, alcohol, drugs, gambling.
Addiction lives within many people due to a lack of self control. And as you may know from personal experience, self control is directly related to our inner psychology. This makes it easy to understand that addiction is heavily tied to psychology. But…what gets us there? What makes us lack self control? What feeds addiction? And where does it all begin? There is a lot to learn about and a lot of ties between addiction and psychology. Here are 10 things to know about the psychology of addiction…

Addiction may take full control of your brain.

psychology of addiction
In it’s simplest terms, addiction is when someone can no longer do an activity that’s pleasurable in normal amounts. People suffering from addiction cannot stop doing these activities, regardless of how it is affecting their lives or the people around them. These people may start to notice that their quality of life is lowering. Things such as their friends, family, work, and hobbies may begin to take a back seat. When most of a person’s mental energy is being used to feed their addiction, they no longer have control of their brain.

Addiction blooms from emotional stress and trauma.

psychology of addiction
Emotional stress and trauma can happen to us from the moment we are born but it is also a possibility at all times. Emotional stress is a form of trauma. Trauma is the brain’s emotional response to something bad happening to us. Our brain essentially panics and does not know how to respond to what is happening. This means that our brains do not fully process what has happened to us which leads to a chemical imbalance in our brains. Emotional stress and trauma may be the biggest trigger for addiction. They can show themselves as verbal, physical, emotional and sexual. All of these forms have a lasting impact on our lives and are where addiction comes into play. Addiction gives the brain a distraction when things are tough.

Vices! So many vices!

psychology of addiction
There is a world of vices for addiction. Most commonly people draw the connection to substance abuse. Substance abuse is a compulsive need for drugs and alcohol. Our bodies can become physically addicted and reliant on these dangerous vices because of tolerance and dependence. When someone consumes drugs and alcohol in high amounts, their tolerance grows and they begin to crave more each time. This then makes their bodies dependent on the substances. People begin to need these substances just to feel normal. This keeps them from withdrawing. While these may be the scariest and the most life threatening, many people also suffer from behavioral addictions as well. These include social media, exercise, food, the internet, gambling, sex, shopping, and many more.

There are psychological and behavioral signs to recognizing addiction.

psychology of addiction
Addiction can show itself in different ways. Each person’s brain is different. Recognizing addiction within ourselves or in the people around us is very important. When it comes to signs that point to addiction, many are psychological and behavioral. They can also be physical. The psychological and behavioral signs may include obsessive thoughts, obsessive actions, a loss of control, denial. They may include hiding actions and feelings, anxiety, a lack of attention and motivation, changes in personality, mood swings, anger issues and more.

People may not seem like themselves anymore.

psychology of addiction
As we mentioned, most of the signs that point to someone being addicted to something are psychological. With that being said, someone’s core personality traits may be different when they are reliant on something for their happiness. For example, the most honorable person you know may steal money from their friends and family to feed their addiction. A friend who has never been one to lie may now be lying about where they are and who they are with. When someone is addicted to substances or an activity, their brain’s only focus is to have control over that. Not much else matters.

There are many forms of therapy for addiction.

Depending on what form of addiction someone is suffering from, there are many options for therapy. This treatment process usually means a combination of both individual and group therapy sessions. The session’s main goal is recovery and getting clean. However, it is equally as important to know how to maintain that work as life presents itself in different ways. Behavioral therapy is the most common form of therapy. It refers to clinical psychotherapy and the techniques that are used to understand someone’s behaviors and help treat them. People suffering from addiction may also benefit from 12-Step Programs, Contingency Management, Motivational Interviewing, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Matrix Model, and more.

Substance addiction may physically injures the brain.

There has been research to prove that continued use of addictive substances can actually injure the brain. The brain can be permanently changed. The molecular and neurochemical structures may be injured which affects the functioning of the brain. This is part of why becoming sober from addictive substances is so difficult. The brain is more keen to allow a relapse because it has been physically changed . Research has also proven that after a certain point, the addiction is taking place on a cellular level. This physical level can be scary and dangerous, making it very difficult to live a normal life again.

Addiction can also psychologically injure a baby during pregnancy.

Substance addiction is always harmful, but it presents even more risks when someone is pregnant. A fetus is very sensitive. When a woman is addicted to substances such as drugs and alcohol, the baby she is growing may be seriously harmed. The baby can be physically harmed in terms of abnormalities, birth defects and even death. However, even if none of those things happen, the baby is still being exposed to all of the things the woman is taking or drinking. Abusing substances limits the amount of oxygen and nutrients the baby is receiving which can permanently affect their brains once they are born. A baby can also be born addicted to the same substances as its mother.

Sometimes we ignore warnings. Sometimes we are not given warnings.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about addiction are the warning signs that are available. It is no secret that cigarettes are addictive. Every label makes that clear. There are television and radio commercials warning you. But still, people smoke them and then become addicted. The same goes for alcohol. It is no secret that alcohol is a vice that so many people hide behind. And we all know someone that may have been addicted to alcohol.
However, there are pleasurable activities that most people can do without becoming addicted. For some people though, an activity can create the perfect storm in their brain. Psychology speaking, sex, video games, social media apps, and gambling can be just as addictive and dangerous as cigarettes. However, we are probably not going to see a commercial warning us that video games may be addictive. In fact, we may see a commercial urging us to buy them.

Suicide, addiction and depression are all in the same family.

Understanding the psychology of addiction, means understanding an entire scope of issues. Depression is an unfortunately common mental health disorder. When someone is depressed, they are in a continually depressed mood and lack an interest in activities. It is common for someone in this situation to turn to addictive substances and activities to fill the void they are feeling. Sadly, when both of these things are combined, suicidal thoughts may occur. Regardless of the temporary high that people feel when they act on their addiction, their chances of becoming suicidal may only increase more by the day.

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