Lucas gets home from school and sullenly walks into his room. He plays video games there until dinner. Only at his mom’s insistence, he joins the family for their meal. As soon as he is allowed, Lucas returns to his room where he continues to game long into the night. Lucas’s parents are worried. A few months ago, he came home with friends. Of course, they would play a few video games, but they would also play basketball at the park and throw the football around and watch movies. Something has changed with Lucas, and his mom and dad are wondering if he could be addicted. They are making a plan to get him to an addiction therapist to assess what might be happening. If Lucas is struggling, he is not alone. He is one of the 21 million people in the US who are fighting an addiction.
“Addiction isn’t about substance—you aren’t addicted to the substance,
you are addicted to the alteration of mood that the substance brings.”
Because addiction is not about the substance, it can look very different from person to person. Addiction can look like abusing a substance such as marijuana, prescription drugs, heroin, opioids, alcohol, and more. Addiction may also appear as an obsessive behavior such as compulsively using the Internet, video games, or pornography. However the addiction may look from the outside, the same disease is at work on the inside. Addiction is an illness that changes people’s brains. It can affect the poor, the rich, the old, the young in every gender, race, and socio-economic status. It is also an illness that has many treatment options. There is therapy and treatment for addiction.
Many clients walk through the doors of Thriveworks Newport News who have an addiction. Our therapists and psychologists have helped them find the care, healing, and support they need to battle this illness.
Signs You (or Someone You Love) Have an Addiction
Addiction is a disease, and the fundamental changes it makes in an individual’s life are in the brain. It rewires people’s brains so that endorphins and dopamine (the so-called pleasure hormones) are released excessively during a particular activity or substance use. The endorphins and dopamine bond an individual to that experience, and over time, the experience takes over people’s choices, thoughts, and behaviors. That means, what is happening in the brain with addiction will be made visible in people’s bodies, emotions, and behaviors. These observable red-flags are the outward signs that addiction may have taken root inside.
Bodily Red Flags
- If drugs are involved, experiencing hyperactivity or lethargy.
- Excessive sniffing without being sick.
- Losing weight.
- Repetitive speech.
- Dilated pupils, red eyes.
- Being undernourished or pale.
- Body odor that is different, even unpleasant.
Emotional Red Flags
- Low self-awareness about one’s behavior: diversions, denial, minimizations, rationalizations, blame.
- An inability to handle stress.
- Obnoxious, silly, easily confused.
- Loss of interest in once-enjoyable people/activities.
Behavioral Red Flags
- Lying to loved ones (especially, to cover the addiction).
- Missed social engagements/ school/work.
- Difficulty in school.
- Isolating oneself.
- Keeping secrets.
- Relationship problems.
- Financial difficulties (particularly, needing money).
No one has to look hard to see that addiction can have devastating effects both for the individual who is addicted and for that individual’s loved ones. Addiction means that people often take risks and put themselves and their loved ones in danger so that the addiction can survive. Mental health professionals often speak about the three C’s of addiction: consequences, cravings, and control. The addiction takes over control in a person’s life—overriding people’s self-restraint systems. Addiction cannot be healed through more willpower. The control is secured through cravings for the substance and/or behavior. These cravings persist despite any negative consequences the addict may experience.
Even though tens of millions of people suffer from addiction within the US every year, it is a widely misunderstood disease. In some cases, these misunderstandings shame addicts and can keep them from reaching out for help. A few of these misunderstandings include…
Misunderstanding #1: Addiction Is a Choice.
The idea here is that people’s choices directly lead to addiction so they can just choose not to be addicted. Unfortunately, this is not how addiction work. Of the many beneficial treatment options available to those with addiction, more willpower is not one of those options. The truth is that many factors go into addiction, just like any disease. Many of those factors are completely out of people’s control—things like genetics, childhood trauma, family history, and allergies.
Misunderstanding #2: Addicts Are Not Strong.
This misunderstanding is shame-based, attacking those who are already harmed from this disease. Addiction and personal strength have nothing to do with each other. The truth is that many people who are addicted are strong survivors. Just as people do not get cancer because they are weak, so no one develops an addiction because they are not strong enough.
Setting Up an Appointment for Addiction Counseling at Thriveworks Newport News
Are you ready to work with a therapist or counselor? If you recognized some of the red flags for addiction, it may be time to seek help. Thriveworks Newport News is ready for you. When you call to make an appointment, you may be meeting with your therapist the following day. We accept many forms of insurance, and we offer weekend and evening sessions. Do not fight an addiction alone. Call Thriveworks Newport News today.