Alexis Baker, aspiring psychologist, and Blue Tree Clinic’s intern writes about addiction and ways that it can impact your life…..
Addiction can take on many forms. It can easily worm its way into everyday life without being noticed despite being highly challenging and debilitating. Bit by bit, our lives can be built around addiction and we may make every justification possible to continue our behaviour despite having many reasons not to. Eventually our social, physical, and emotional wellbeing can be greatly impacted, and we begin to need extra professional support to help.
The term ‘addiction’ refers to an inability to control doing, using, or taking something to the point where it is harming you. Indulging in things that you enjoy is completely normal and can be part of what makes you feel like yourself. However, once the ‘want’ to do something becomes a ‘need’ that negatively affects your life then a problem arises, and the voice of addiction can start creeping in.
It is possible to become addicted to just about anything, however people most commonly become addicted to:
Drugs Alcohol Sex Gambling Social Media Videogaming Food
Despite the wide variety of forms of addiction that are possible, there are several common ways that addiction as a whole can negatively impact your life:
- Your Brain. Ongoing use of substances is associated with the development of increased opioid receptors in the brain leading to the development of substance tolerance. This means that the individual requires more and more to feel the desired effects leading to long-term addiction problems. Gambling also affects the brain in a similar way to substances, whereby such a significant level of endorphins are released that people can struggle to find enjoyment in other meaningful activities e.g. spending time with family.
- Your Body. Allowing an addiction to take over your life can mean that you neglect your physical wellbeing. For example, those with videogaming or internet addictions may not eat or sleep for long periods of time. Alternatively, individuals with food addictions often gravitate towards fatty, sugary foods increasing the risk of various health complications. Of course, ongoing use of drugs and alcohol can also have a huge effect on the body, particularly the heart, lungs, and kidneys.
- Your Social Life. The inability to say no to your addiction often means that your social life is ignored. It can be easy to disengage with family and friends, miss out on important social events, or you may feel more inclined to mix with those who are a bad influence on your addiction. In reality, your loved ones who genuinely care about you can easily drift away during the depths of your addiction leading to you becoming isolated. From their perspective, it may seem that you value your addiction more than spending time with them which can also lead to them withdrawing from you too.
- Your Finances. It is well known that substance addiction can quickly drain your finances, particularly as your tolerance increases meaning you will have to spend more money each time. Similarly, gambling addictions can cause you to lose vast amounts of money in minutes. Addictions in general can distract you from your job, discourage you from taking shifts, or even cause you to be fired. Also, the financial stress after spending money on your addiction rather than other necessities (e.g. rent, bills) which may in turn increase your addictive behaviour in order to cope.
- Your Mental Health. When addiction takes hold you may begin to feel trapped or helpless. Perhaps you feel unable to walk down the street without walking into a betting shop or attending a gathering with friends without drinking. People often feel embarrassed and ashamed in addition to losing sight of their identity and self-esteem. Consequently, symptoms of depression and anxiety can arise as well as other serious mental illnesses that may perpetuate the vicious cycle of addictive behaviour.
The first key stage of resolving your addictive behaviours is admitting that they are present. It is important your attitude remains optimistic and dedicated in order to prevent falling into the same patterns. Falling off the pedestal is okay so long as you get back up again.
It is also important to understand how your addiction is really impacting you. Keep note of how things have changed (e.g. drifting away from family) and use this as your incentive to finally stop. Try to avoid environments and people that encourage your addictive behaviour. This is particularly important early on in your recovery journey when you may be more likely to relapse. Keep focus of the people who love you as you will likely need their support during your recovery. You can also find similar but healthier habits to focus on (e.g. people with social media addictions could try taking up photography, people with fast food addictions could learn to cook healthy delicious meals).
Overcoming an addiction can be a challenging experience that involves rebuilding multiple aspects of your life. Many people find that the additional support of a clinical professional, such as the psychiatrists and psychologists here at the Blue Tree Clinic, to be highly useful in order to gain the tools to overcome this. Furthermore, addictions often develop as a means to cope with deeper, more underlying problems. Perhaps you have suffered from a traumatic experience, you are struggling with mental illness, or you are experiencing low self-esteem. The additional help of a clinical professional can support you to effectively work through this to prevent future relapses. If you feel that you require further support do not hesitate to contact us.