What are the different types of addiction?
An addiction is currently recognized as any activity that a person thinks about and engages to the point that it negatively affects other areas of life. In historical times, the term first referred to being a slave. It then evolved to describe the experience of being strongly attached to anything, whether it be good or bad. Our modern definition has come full circle, referring again to the enslavement that addiction produces. A person who is addicted is enslaved to the behavior, and cannot resist obeying its whims.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at a question we hear often from the community … what are the different types of addiction?
What are the Different Types of Addiction?
Virtually any activity can become an addiction disorder, including many of the socially acceptable areas of life. Watching a lot of television can become an addiction, as can an excessive focus on exercise or healthy eating. The key factor in recognizing something as an addiction is that you cannot stop doing it and that there are negative consequences for continuing it. These negative consequences can be for yourself, or for those around you.
So, what are the different types of addiction and how can treatment help?
The first thing that most people think of when talking about addiction is substance abuse. Drug and alcohol addiction is unique in this list, as the substances which are ingested or injected have a direct impact on a person’s brain and body. Addiction to substances can be both a psychological issue, and a physical issue, which is why many substance abuse facilities incorporate a medical component into the treatment regimen.
As with most addictions, a hallmark of substance addiction is the development of a tolerance. Tolerance refers to the experience of no longer being satisfied by the amount and frequency that an addict started out with. More and more of the substance or behavior is required to produce any high that is similar to the one experienced in the beginning. A sad fact of the matter of addiction is that no amount will ultimately satisfy.
The quintessential image of the destitute gambler has been depicted in society since the invention of television. He’s blown all his cash, he picks up a drinking problem, he is scared to tell his wife about losing their savings at the table, and may even owe money to the mob. While Hollywood is notorious for exaggerating characteristics, many of these features of a gambling addict are actually pretty true to life. Gambling addiction in the United States is prevalent enough that an anonymous support group has been created for it.
Data indicates that more males than females end up with a gambling addiction, though females tend to develop it more quickly. It can start out as a response to a desperate need for money, or it can begin as a result of feeling the high of the win. Over time, the gambler will continue to risk more than he or she can spare, and will feel unable to stop the behavior. Once there is an inability to stop gambling, even in light of negative consequences, it can be classified as an addiction.
Sex is so important for human existence that some psychologists lobby to have it included on a list of basic needs that includes food, water, and sleep. For the sex addict, however, this satisfying of a human need becomes an obsession. It can take the form of engaging in risky sexual encounters, excessively watching porn, and participating in compulsive masturbation. In extreme cases, it can progress to the point of the addict engaging in illegal sexual behaviors.
Identifying a food addiction can be tricky. Like with sex, eating is a normal and necessary part of life. Not only does food sustain our actual existence, eating it also releases pleasurable chemicals from our brain. While we chew our food, produced endorphins begin to course through our bodies, providing us with a mild form of natural high. This pleasurable feeling is what a food addict typically begins to chase, and at a cost. Food addiction can lead to obesity and other health issues, and can wreak havoc on the addicted person’s self-esteem.
Internet addiction is one of the newcomers to the plate, primarily due to the fact that it hasn’t been around nearly as long as the others. The existence of it is a testament to the fact that any pleasurable experience can eventually become addictive. Internet addicts spend so much time in their virtual world that they neglect taking care of the real world responsibilities around them.
With much of the world currently relying on technological communication in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can expect that more people are going to be exposed to the danger of developing an internet addiction. Human needs for entertainment, companionship, and satisfaction of curiosity are all available online, waiting to be exploited.
How Treatment Helps To End Addiction
The type of treatments that are applied in the cessation of addiction tends to be catered to the nature of the addiction. If the addiction is a physical one, such as in the case of substance abuse, medical treatments can alleviate some of the discomfort stemming from the difficulty that the body has in adjusting to withdrawal from the drugs or alcohol. Once the physical elements of addiction are removed from the equation, the mental health aspects of engaging in addictive behavior can be addressed more clearly.
Mental health treatment for addiction involves addressing the circumstances contributing to the unwanted behavior. Depending on the orientation of the therapist or program, this can be accomplished through assisting a client to develop insight into maladaptive attitudes and beliefs which fuel the addiction, through working with a client to develop substitution behaviors, or through determining the underlying needs which are not being met outside of the addiction.
What all of the therapeutic approaches have in common is the idea that addictions are fueled by some kind of gap in skills or knowledge that will result in more healthy ways of having needs met once filled. It is an important component of therapy that you find the treatment approach that works best for you. A good fit between you and your treatment team can make a world of difference.