Philip began smoking pot when he was in high school. It was just fun at first. He would only use it occasionally—at parties, with his friends, when life became too much. But now that he is in his first full time job, he is ready to quit. The occasional use grew to the weekly use which grew into the daily use. Philip is ready to get serious about his career, and he sees the time and money he is dedicating toward marijuana. However, he is having trouble. Philip has tried to quit several times, but within a few days, he is back to the old habit. He is wondering if this may be an addiction.
Alcohol. Prescription drugs. Cocaine. Marijuana. Sex. Internet. Video Games. Gambling. There many different substances and activities that can entrap people in an addiction. Far from a loss of willpower, addiction is a complex disease that affects the wiring of people’s brains. For most people, they need help to break free from the compulsive behaviors, and many people are finding that help through addiction counseling.
The counselors and psychologists at Thriveworks Sterling understand what it takes to regain self-control and heal from an addiction. We have helped many clients regain their freedom.
Why Do Addiction Form?
There are numerous reasons an addiction can form as each addiction is unique and personal. However, often peer pressure or numbing are factors:
- Numbing: Many people turn to an activity or a substance when they have difficult emotions that they cannot process. An addiction may offer the promise of filling the void that pain leaves. Such emotions may include loneliness, shame, boredom, fear, anger, to name a few.
- Peer pressure: Often, the first time people use a substance or engage in an activity that becomes addictive, it is in response to peer pressure. In particular, many adolescents who are addicted to alcohol or a drug were first introduced to the substance by a friend. Nonetheless, teens are not the only ones who face peer pressure. Many adults are also introduced to an addictive behavior because of a friend.
What Is an Addiction?
Addiction occurs when people have difficulty controlling their impulses regarding a particular substance or activity. Addicts often take great personal and social risks to gain the substance or participate in the activity. They may also continue with their addiction despite adverse social, economic, and health consequences.
Red-flags for addiction include:
- Experiencing cravings for the substance or activity.
- Increasing tolerance for the substance or activity.
- A desire to stop or quit without success.
- Lying about the addiction.
- Irritability/moodiness when not participating in the activity or consuming the substance.
Types of Addictions
There are a variety of form an addiction can take, but a few examples include:
- Sex addiction is technically called a hypersexual disorder. It occurs when people medicate their emotions or handle stress through sexual behavior. People with hypersexual disorder often people significant amounts of time by themselves and have difficulty controlling their sexual compulsions. They may engage in sexual fantasy, pornography, and other sexual behaviors. Their thought life regarding sexuality is often escalating and persistent. Even in the face of negative consequences in their lives, sex addicts continue to prioritize their sexuality. For many sex addicts, they do not have strong relational attachments, and they may not know how to achieve sexual intimacy in real life. Deep-seated feelings of shame, denial, confusion, and despair often plague people who struggle with hypersexual disorder. Treatment often involves building in accountability to stop the sexual behavior as well as addressing the root emotional causes of the compulsion.
- Shopping or spending addiction can occur when the brain experiences intense pleasure when purchasing items. During a shopping experience, the brain may release endorphins and dopamine, the hormones that allow people to feel pleasure. With repeated use, the brain begins to crave the experienced of shopping and the good feelings it can produce. Shopaholics Anonymous identifies a few different types of shopping addictions. Some shopaholics tend to search for the perfect item, the social image of wealth. Others want the bargain and the feeling of accomplishment it brings. Some shoppers are bulimic—caught in a cycle of buying too much and returning their items. Others are collectors who have a particular item they desire. All shopaholics spend compulsively and usually to relieve emotional pain.
- Food addiction works much the same way a drug addiction does. Cocaine and opioids trigger reward and pleasure within people’s brains, and food can do the same. In particular, foods with a significant amount of added fat, sugar, and salt can unleash dopamine in the brain, training people to crave these foods again and again. With food, the brain also sends signals of satiety and contentment, but certain foods override these other signals. That is how many people continue to eat, even when they are full. Food addicts often lose control over their eating habits. They often spend significant time and money on eating.
Appointments at Thriveworks Sterling with Counselors, Psychologists
If you are ready to speak to a therapist about behavior in your life that is causing difficulty, that seems uncontrollable, or that has consumed all your time and money, then know that Thriveworks Sterling offers therapy for addiction.
When you contact our office, you may be able to meet with a counselor within 24 hours. We also accept most forms of insurance, and we offer evening and weekend classes.
Effective treatments for addiction are available. Let’s get started. Contact Thriveworks Sterling today.