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Addictions – what are they, how to fight them?

A strong desire to contact what is addictive and a lack of self-control destroy everyday life. When we think about addiction, we usually have alcohol or cigarettes before our eyes. In fact, however, many of our daily activities – such as shopping – can also become addictive. How to recognize an addiction and how to fight it?

Addiction – what is it and what are the types?

Psychological addiction (habit) is a strong desire to contact a given substance or to undertake a specific activity. Physical dependence, in turn, consists in the occurrence of tolerance to the action of a given substance or stimulus (therefore the dose or intensity must be increased) and withdrawal symptoms, i.e. unpleasant symptoms of physical hunger, lasting – depending on the substance or addictive activity – for weeks or months.

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Addiction may be addiction to psychoactive substances (drugs, alcohol) or result from our behavior (e.g. masturbation, shopping, gambling, internet, smartphone).

How are addictions created? The reasons

The mechanism of psychological addiction is quite simple. It always begins with giving a positive emotional meaning to a given substance or activity. I think “if I do this, I’ll feel better” or “I have to react.” A connection is made between our well-being and what is addictive.

This causes the brain’s reward system to treat the substance or behavior as something positive that affects it well, and more and more demands it over time. A loop is formed which makes it more and more difficult for an addict to get out. In the meantime, physical addiction usually sets in and strengthens the addiction loop.

The most common causes of addiction are:

  • boredom and emotional void – we are looking for impressions or something that will give us stimulation;
  • stress – we try to relieve it through various activities (e.g. shopping) or substances (e.g. alcohol);
  • worse coping with difficult situations, low mental resistance;
  • traumatic and difficult events in life.

In these situations, the addictive substance or activity plays a role in regulating negative emotions. It is a pathological way of regulating emotions – it would be much better to solve the problem or confront it, and on the emotional level – to relax with breathing or music.

The most common addictions are:

  • alcohol, drugs, nicotine (e-cigarettes are even more addictive than traditional ones);
  • food, sweets;
  • gambling;
  • shopping;
  • work (workaholism);
  • masturbation, pornography;
  • computer games, internet, social media;
  • drugs from the group of benzodiazepine derivatives.

How to recognize addiction?

A typical symptom is a strong and uncontrolled craving for a given substance or activity, and withdrawal symptoms. Appears:

  • obsessive thinking about an addictive factor, e.g. alcohol, food, shopping, masturbation;
  • automatic operation, e.g. reflexive reaching for the phone or cigarettes;
  • lack of self-control;
  • tendency to blame others (especially evident in people with alcohol addiction);
  • abstinence syndrome after discontinuation of a given substance (irritability, irritation, vomiting, convulsions – this applies mainly to alcohol and drugs, although irritability itself may also appear when “giving up” compulsive behaviors).

Over time, the addicted person submits his whole life to the addictive factor. He gradually cuts himself off from his environment and focuses only on the stimuli provided with a given substance or activity. This is quite clearly visible in the case of modern addiction to the telephone and the Internet. The need to be up-to-date with what is happening online makes them less involved in the social situations they find themselves in. It is enough to get on the bus or subway – regardless of age, most people keep their heads down and stare at the liquid crystal screen of their smartphone.

Addictions – health effects

The consequences of addictions are very extensive. Alcohol is the strongest contributor to diseases of the liver (e.g. cirrhosis) and pancreas. It gradually devastates the body and eventually leads to death. Cigarettes, or rather the nicotine they contain, are one of the more common causes of lung cancer. They account for 80% of the causes of obstructive pulmonary disease.

Drugs, on the other hand, are the most destructive substance. They wreak havoc throughout the body and can permanently damage vital organs, such as the heart and the brain. Consequently, they often lead to death. Cardiac arrhythmias and death from respiratory and circulatory failure is one of the most common causes of death in young people taking amphetamines.

The effects of behavioral addictions are felt primarily on a mental level. The addicted person feels misunderstood by the environment and closes in on himself. There is sadness, a sense of rejection and stress. This can lead to the development of depression or anxiety disorders.

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