Addictions come in many forms. There are the usual suspects: alcohol, narcotics, nicotine, caffeine. Then there are others, including prescription medications, cannabis, and other recreational drugs. And, there are “nonchemical” addictions including sex, gambling, shopping, and a controversial (but also very real) internet addiction. Each of these can be treated by seeing a therapist who specializes in addiction therapy.
Portraits of Addiction
Stephanie is a huge bingo fan. She will often lose track of time while researching strategies and other tips for gaining more of a competitive edge. Any pleasure from reading about bingo pales in comparison to the rush of winning the jackpot though. It wasn’t until a friend came by her house to say hi one night that anyone suspected her favorite pastime was becoming a problem. Her kids were home alone—one was crying—while Stephanie was out at the casino, waiting with rapt attention for the next number to be called.
David is a loving father, husband, and branch manager at a well-known bank. At first, he would only do cocaine when offered at parties, but lately he’s been slipping into the bathroom at work for a quick “bump,” and even leaving during the day to meet with his dealer.
What Is Addiction? What Is Addiction Therapy?
Physical or psychological dependence on a substance or activity is called an addiction. These dependencies can be developed for almost anything—from drugs and alcohol to shopping, sex, and even normally positive things like working—and often occur as a means of coping with the pressures of daily life.
The chronic behavioral patterns indicative of addiction are nearly impossible for the individual to control and lead to adverse activity as a means of hiding or fueling the addiction.
Often, we will blame our addictions on relationship problems, boredom, a stressful work environment, or other external forces instead of recognizing ourselves as the most active participant in the problem.
In the case of drug addiction—especially with harder drugs like cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines—our bodies develop biochemical dependencies while at the same time becoming ever tolerant to the substance’s intoxicating effects.
Continued, increased use deepens the body’s dependence, and we start having to consume more and more of the drug in order to even feel “normal,” let alone “high.”
Whether substance driven or behavioral, our addictions often begin as an experiment—a trip to the casino to see what it’s like or trying out a narcotic for the first time at a party—but turn into a habit if the experience is pleasurable.
We use our addictions as a tool to cope with or mask other kinds of problems such as loneliness, anxiety, depression, or ADHD. We may experience some alleviation from our problems when we engage in our addiction, but whatever temporary relief we experience is greatly overshadowed by the negative effects (which often include a worsening of the original problem).
Signs and symptoms of addiction include:
- Obsessions over a behavior or substance
- Guilt and shame
- Negative consequences to self or others
- Failure to control actions
- Patterns of uncontrollable behaviors
- Substance use for a year or more
- Loss of engagement in former interests
- Otherwise inexplicable distance from family and friends
- Increasing patterns of negative behavior or substance use over time
- Mood swings
- Feelings of self-worthlessness or shame
- Impulse control problems with food, drugs, sex, or money
- Strong need to be liked or approved of
- Behaviors or substance use to reduce anxiety
- Inability to manage daily life
Knoxville Addiction Counseling Tips for Overcoming Addiction
Wellness and safety are the primary concerns when dealing with addiction. When battling an addiction, thoughts of personal safety and social norms become less important than satisfying the urge.
Someone addicted to gambling, for example, might not think twice about putting their family’s finances on the line in exchange for the mere chance of a big win. Daunting credit card debt may not prevent the shopping addict from purchasing that new, must-have plasma screen.
Any person experiencing a disconnect between their actions and the potential consequences to relationships, health, or safety is a good candidate for addiction therapy. At Thriveworks Knoxville, our therapists are trained in addressing the specific issues surrounding addiction. Though reaching out for help may feel intimidating, we will work with you to make the experience as smooth as possible.
Steps for Overcoming Addiction
In many cases, addiction is a life-or-death scenario. If you suspect someone you love has an addiction, staging a well-planned intervention may be appropriate (Mayo Clinic). It’s important that interventions are planned ahead, as encouraging a loved one to seek addiction therapy can be an emotionally-charged experience. The loved one may not initially respond favorably. Planning ahead—who will say what, planning what treatment options will be presented, and determining consequences if the loved one chooses not to accept treatment for addiction—is key to increasing the chances of success.
If the addiction is your own, reach out to someone who has your best interest in mind, such as a close friend or family member. Ask for help, even if only for a ride to your first therapy appointment.
Once in therapy for addiction, the patient and counselor will work together to determine what, if any, underlying issues are present that may have influenced the addictive behavior. While processing those issues, the therapist will work with the patient to help them stop participating in the behavior and develop a plan to avoid engaging in those behaviors in the future. In some situations, this may involve psychiatric medication, such as anti-anxiety medication.
Thriveworks Knoxville Addiction Therapy
There are many addiction therapists in Knoxville, but it is important to find one who is qualified and experienced in dealing with the addiction you’re facing. An effective therapist will formulate a specific treatment plan to address your problems and will encourage changes that will move you from the depths of addiction to the heights of a healthy, fulfilling life. If you’re seeking a therapist for addiction, give us a call. We don’t have a waiting list, and can usually schedule new patients within 24 hours. We promise you, the high of wellness far exceeds that of any narcotic, and only gets better.