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How do we know when we are suffering with an addiction, rather than a behaviour based around habit? This is when the behaviour is no longer in the individual’s control and has harmful consequences. There is an urge to carry out the behaviour in order to escape or soothe ourselves.

The sensation produced within the addictive behaviour brings along the desire to carry out the behaviour again and again, in order to receive the same relief. The cycle continues, and the dependence feels the same as needing food or water, as a way of surviving psychological and emotional distress, in or out of the individual’s awareness. Something that may start as a habit, can develop into something that is used as a coping mechanism for deeper and unresolved issues.

Addiction can arise due to a difficult current situation or experience, or the result of past trauma, such as; a mental health issue or a past event and/or incident (whether this is in infancy, childhood, adolescence or adult life). There can be a desensitisation to the internal suffering and a coping strategy, to push down any difficult emotions. Addiction can also be used as a displacement of emotions, on to something outside of ourselves to find a sense of relief.

The addiction or addictive behaviour can encompass feelings surrounding guilt and shame. Our social world and the conditioned beliefs surrounding the appearance of perfection, can sometimes mean that we have to hold our pain, not feel our emotions and just carry on with life. This can lead to us to not want to acknowledge our painful experiences (both past and present), and instead use unhealthy strategies as a way of coping, looking for something outside of ourselves to ‘fix’ the issue.

The addictive behaviour enables the individual to numb their pain and move away from themselves bit by bit. The more we move away from ourselves, or being in touch with our experiences, the more we can experience feelings of confusion, depression or anxiety.  

If learned defences and unhealthy coping mechanisms are all that we know…HOW are we to know are any different!

Many of us are not taught how to manage or deal with our emotions from a young age, leaving us with a deficit, in how to deal with difficult moments or when challenging events occur in our lives. FEELING our pain, however, is a very important and necessary part of the healing process. Healthier coping strategies can be formed, along with slowly facing the depths and root of the addiction. This can be a painful experience, however can help towards managing feelings better in the future.

Normally, the person with the addiction is unaware of their behaviours, and the impact they may be having on themselves and on others too. This is when greater support may be needed from loved ones. Recovery is a process and a journey that takes time and patience. Below you will see some of the types of addictions there are, and some signs of these. Each addiction can be so different and there may be additional signs. It is worth researching the specific addiction to find out more if you are concerned about a loved one, or yourself.

Types of addiction:

  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Sex
  • Gambling
  • Relationship
  • Shopping
  • Food
  • Risky behaviour
  • Social media
  • Exercise

Signs of addiction:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Neglecting self and/or other relationships
  • Missing usual activities or losing interest in them
  • Borrowing money to fund the addiction
  • Change in mood

Behind each addiction is a pain looking to be noticed!