Addiction is a condition that results when a person consumes a substance (e.g., cocaine, alcohol, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities such as work, relationships, or health. Users may not be aware that their behaviour is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.
Effective treatment for addiction may need to incorporate many components to address its various elements (psychological and physical). Treatment must also help the individual maintain a substance free lifestyle, and achieve productive functioning in the family, at work, and in society. My experience has shown that most addicts need a minimum of 3 months in therapy to significantly reduce or stop their addiction; however treatment in excess of 3 months has a greater success rate. Recovery from addiction is a long-term process.
- Coping with cravings
- Identifying triggers for substance abuse
- Avoiding the substance
- Dealing with possible relapses
- Exploring roots of addiction
- Self-help groups
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Integrative Therapy
People drink to socialize, celebrate, and relax. Alcohol often has a strong effect on people—and throughout history, people have struggled to understand and manage alcohol’s power. Why does alcohol cause people to act and feel differently? How much is too much? Why do some people become addicted while others do not? The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is researching the answers to these and many other questions about alcohol. Here’s what is known:
Alcohol’s effects vary from person to person, depending on a variety of factors, including:
- How much you drink
- How often you drink
- Your age
- Your health status
- Your family history
While drinking alcohol is itself not necessarily a problem—drinking too much can cause a range of consequences, and increase your risk for a variety of problems.
Most drugs of abuse can alter a person’s thinking and judgment, leading to health risks, including addiction, drugged driving and infectious disease. Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive, or uncontrollable, drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences and changes in the brain, which can be long lasting. These changes in the brain can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who use drugs. Drug addiction is also a relapsing disease. Relapse is the return to drug use after an attempt to stop.
Sexual addiction is best described as a progressive intimacy disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. Like all addictions, its negative impact on the addict and on family members increases as the disorder progresses. Over time, the addict usually has to intensify the addictive behavior to achieve the same results.
For some sex addicts, behavior does not progress beyond compulsive masturbation or the extensive use of pornography or phone or computer sex services. For others, addiction can involve illegal activities such as exhibitionism, voyeurism, obscene phone calls, child molestation or rape.
Sex addicts do not necessarily become sex offenders. Moreover, not all sex offenders are sex addicts. Roughly 55 percent of convicted sex offenders can be considered sex addicts.
About 71 percent of child molesters are sex addicts. For many, their problems are so severe that imprisonment is the only way to ensure society’s safety against them.
Society has accepted that sex offenders act not for sexual gratification, but rather out of a disturbed need for power, dominance, control or revenge, or a perverted expression of anger. More recently, however, an awareness of brain changes and brain reward associated with sexual behavior has led us to understand that there are also powerful sexual drives that motivate sex offenses.
The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity has defined sexual addiction as “engaging in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior acted out despite increasing negative consequences to self and others.” In other words, a sex addict will continue to engage in certain sexual behaviors despite facing potential health risks, financial problems, shattered relationships or even arrest.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders, Volume Four describes sex addiction, under the category “Sexual Disorders Not Otherwise Specified,” as “distress about a pattern of repeated sexual relationships involving a succession of lovers who are experienced by the individual only as things to be used.” According to the manual, sex addiction also involves “compulsive searching for multiple partners, compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner, compulsive masturbation, compulsive love relationships and compulsive sexuality in a relationship.”
Increasing sexual provocation in our society has spawned an increase in the number of individuals engaging in a variety of unusual or illicit sexual practices, such as phone sex, the use of escort services and computer pornography. More of these individuals and their partners are seeking help.
The same compulsive behavior that characterizes other addictions also is typical of sex addiction. But these other addictions, including drug, alcohol and gambling dependency, involve substances or activities with no necessary relationship to our survival. For example, we can live normal and happy lives without ever gambling, taking illicit drugs or drinking alcohol. Even the most genetically vulnerable person will function well without ever being exposed to, or provoked by, these addictive activities.
Sexual activity is different. Like eating, having sex is necessary for human survival. Although some people are celibate — some not by choice, while others choose celibacy for cultural or religious reasons — healthy humans have a strong desire for sex. In fact, lack of interest or low interest in sex can indicate a medical problem or psychiatric illness.
What is gambling addiction and problem gambling?
Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling or gambling disorder, is an impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when it’s hurting themselves or their loved ones.
Compulsive gamblers keep gambling no matter the consequences, even when they know the odds are against them or they can’t afford to lose.
People with gambling addiction often have other behavior or mood disorders. Many abuse substances, have ADD/ADHD, or mood disorders such as depression.
The Internet has made gambling far more accessible and harder for recovering addicts to avoid relapse. Online casinos and bookmakers are open all day, every day for anyone with a smartphone.
Gamblers can have a problem without being totally out of control. Problem gambling is any gambling behavior that disrupts your life. If you’re preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, or gambling despite serious consequences, you have a gambling problem.