Everyone enjoys engaging in activities that bring happiness, pleasure, and provide a break from life’s stressors. This can include things which are both enjoyable and healthy, such as going for a hike in nature, playing a game with friends, or spending a night binging on your latest favorite show. But it can also include things which are detrimental for your health, such as drinking, using drugs, overeating, or any other activity which can lead to a negative outcome. While the occasional drink during a night out with friends may be perfectly acceptable, this habit can turn into a harmful and destructive dependence if one isn’t careful. With any behavior that has the potential of slipping into negative territory, it’s important to ask one’s self: am I addicted?
What is Addiction?
In order to assess whether you are addicted to a particular substance or activity, it is important to understand what characterizes addiction. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is defined as a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits can manifest itself in an individual’s biology and psychology, as well as their social and spiritual life.
The hallmarks of addiction are when a person is unable to control their behaviors or abstain from a particular activity which they have defined as being unhealthy or undesirable. Addictive behavior can have serious consequences for an individual’s personal life, including an unstable emotional state, a breakdown in interpersonal relationships, and unwanted mental and physical health outcomes. To put it simply, something becomes an addiction when it controls your thoughts and actions. Without serious professional intervention, an addiction can eventually progress to the point of irreversible disability or even premature death.
The Progression of Addiction
Addictions often start as a seemingly harmless attempt at trying something new. Even the more risky, dangerous, or harmful habits can begin with a simple act of experimentation, trying a new substance or activity on a whim. In the early stages, it can be difficult to determine if a consistent activity has become a serious addiction. We initially continue to engage in a habit if it produces a reward response, such as making us feel a certain level of pleasure or allowing us to push off negative feelings or emotions.
A habit can progress to becoming a full blown addiction when we no longer do something out of opportunity and instead do it because we believe it is necessary. The timeline for this process can vary individually, as some people can become addicted to something almost immediately, while for others it may take months or years before dependence sets in. However, once an individual loses the power to choose, they are almost certainly addicted.
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Am I Addicted? Here Are Some Common Warning Signs
1. Neglecting Important Activities
If a substance or particular activity has begun to take precedence over all of your other responsibilities and important activities, this is a strong indicator that your habit has reached the point of becoming an unhealthy addiction. Forgoing plans with friends and family or missing an important meeting in favor of using your preferred substance is a major red flag.
2. Lack of Control
Using a substance or engaging in an act that you have consciously stated you want to avoid is a sign that you have lost control and have developed a dependent habit.
3. Increased Usage
What was once a weekend activity or an occasional habit has now become a full-blown, everyday occurrence. When casual or sporadic use escalates to become a part of one’s daily routine, this is a signal of something turning into a serious addiction.
4. Cessation Difficulty
If you are aware that a specific substance or activity has turned into an unhealthy behavior, yet you feel powerless to stop yourself from doing it, the chances are high that you have become addicted. A strong way to determine if you have become dependent upon a habit is to consider abstaining from it and notice what kinds of emotions arise. If panic and intense anxiety present themselves, it’s very likely that your given behavior has reached the point of addiction.
5. Ignoring Warning Signs
A harmful addiction can lead to a number of negative consequences, such as relationship problems, issues at work, and overall health concerns. When a person ignores these warning signs, it indicates that they are deeply attached to their particular detrimental activity despite what messages they are receiving from the world around them.
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In order to overcome addiction, a person must admit that a problem exists and that they have a desire to change it. Without acknowledging that a particular habit has reached the point of becoming a serious addiction, a person will almost certainly never escape the throes of their destructive behavior. The most important first step in the process is to recognize and identify the existence of the addiction and to state the intention to change it.
Overcoming a serious addictive behavior on your own can be a daunting task and it is easy to become discouraged when repeated relapses occur. Seeking professional help for addiction can be a difficult pill to swallow for many individuals who pride themselves on being independent and self-sufficient, but it is often the best path to overcoming a debilitating addiction. Utilizing the help of trained professionals who have experience assisting individuals on the road to recovery is the best way to properly treat addictive behaviors.
If you are worried you are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, contact Ocean Hills Recovery today for help.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.