We’ve all heard the phrase ‘addictive personality’. We may have even said it ourselves, or had a close friend say that they have an addictive personality. Whilst there may be things we tend to do repeatedly – such as eating chocolate, for example – this can often be mistaken for addictive behaviour. In fact, it is a habit. Differentiating between what is a habit and what is an addiction can be really blurry ground. But, it is important we understand the difference, as habits can be annoying, whereas addictions can be debilitating. If you think you have an addiction to anything harmful (addiction to reality TV isn’t ideal but it isn’t going to damage your health!) make sure you see a licensed health professional who will be able to help you.
Addiction to food
Despite the quip about a constant chocolate habit, food addiction can be very real and serious for many people all over the world. However, it has only recently been considered a genuine medical condition, also known as eating addiction. Despite this, many people still doubt its authenticity. This makes it extremely difficult for anyone in the grips of an eating addiction to open up and ask for help. One common misconception about food addiction is that everyone with an addiction will be overweight. Whilst a large proportion of those with an eating addiction will send up obese, not everyone who develops the disorder will be. This can be down to the fact that some people’s bodies have learnt to cope with the excess food. Or, it could be that they over-compensate with excessive exercise to counteract the effect. Emotional trauma can often lead to people developing an addiction to food, but it is also a highly scientific condition. Food rich in salt, sugar and fat can trigger feel-good hormones in the brain such as dopamine – the same chemical that is linked to heroin. Food addiction is one of the most difficult disorders to cure. The sufferer cannot abstain from food for the rest of their lives, unlike a smoker giving up cigarettes. Implementing positive lifestyle changes such as not walking past fast food places on your way to work can help curb the cravings. There are also many support groups and health professionals who will be able to help you if you think you are suffering from a food addiction.
Addiction to alcohol
Alcohol addiction is one of the most common addictive diseases in the entire world. 88,000 people are estimated to have died from illnesses relating to alcohol abuse in the US between 2006 and 2010. Alcohol abuse can manifest itself in a number of ways, but the main two are either drinking most days, or drinking a lot at a time (binge drinking). The addiction itself can be both physical and mental. Physical symptoms of alcohol dependence include shaking, sweating or feeling sick when you are craving a drink. These are examples of withdrawal symptoms. Mental symptoms include feeling as though you need a drink simply to get through the day, and anxiety. People with severe addictions also may find themselves giving up other activities in order to spend more time drinking. Typical treatment for alcohol addiction can be a detox prescribed by your doctor or therapy. Other avenues include online self-help and support groups. Sharing your problems can help you accept your condition and enable you to take steps to beating it.
Addiction to gambling
Although extremely common, not as much is known about gambling addiction in comparison to other addictions. This may be due to the fact that gambling addiction has less physical effects than other disorders. Gambling addictions predominantly affect men, and many sufferers also live with a secondary problem such as depression or alcoholism. If someone is a compulsive gambler, they will not be in control of their impulse to place a bet. Many also turn to crime or fraud in order to gain more money to gamble with, or to pay off debts. Gambling addiction can be extremely detrimental to someone’s life. Plus, the rise of internet gambling means more and more people are now at risk. The online gambling world also makes it much easier for those in recovery to relapse. Gambling addicts tend to find the ‘high’ after winning a stake addictive. When they suffer a loss, they will turn back to the game in order to try and win their money back. It is easy to see how it is a vicious circle. Other signs of gambling addiction can be gambling even when you don’t have the money, or being secretive about your finances. But, there are ways to beat the addiction. Attending support groups and building a large support network will be able to help, as will visiting your doctor. Finding other things to do in your spare time will also relieve the urge to gamble when you are either stressed or bored.