What is addiction and how does it affect us?
Addiction is a complex disorder that has never been easy to understand, and when asking “what is addiction?” there is no simple answer without delving into the details. One of the most comprehensive definitions of addiction could be the repeated involvement with a substance or activity despite negative consequences.
We are all aware of addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling, even Facebook, but the reality is that you can technically become addicted to any kind of behaviour depending on your definition of what addiction is.
There are numerous theories and methodologies used by professionals, whether researchers, doctors, therapists or whoever, but in layman’s terms it could perhaps best be described as someone who initially experiences benefits, usually in the form of a pleasurable or euphoric experience, or the removal of a negative feeling, such as depression or anxiety.
However, despite the perceived positive benefits, over time the behaviour will likely result in problems in your life including family conflict, financial difficulties and issues relating to employment.
For example, a person may begin to use marijuana to feel more relaxed, but over time and with continued use they may miss days at work or show up late and end up losing their job. Therefore, the negative consequences of smoking marijuana end up outweighing the benefits.
A key component of addiction is the experience of craving, which occurs when a person feels a strong desire to engage with the drug or activity. When experiencing a craving, we feel that life cannot go on without reaching the next ‘high’, which incidentally will unlikely be as euphoric as the first time we engaged in that behaviour.
This short-term mindset, and being focused only on the benefits of it means we temporarily forget about the negative consequences. Sometimes the cravings can become so strong that the person engages in the behaviour because they feel that it is the only option to stop the craving. However, what many addicted people do not realise is that the impulse can be controlled and is time-limited.
Though cravings can be strong, a person can use tools and skills to cope either by distracting, practising mindfulness, or reaching out for support to wait out the craving, rather than give into it. Whatever your view on addiction, it seems safe to say that research into its effects, and methods of controlling it will not go away any time soon!