Addiction continues to increase in our industry and is closely linked to mental health, which we know is also increasing. Addiction and mental health can leave people suffering with either of these feeling alone and misunderstood. Addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking, or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you. It’s usually associated with drugs, alcohol, gambling, and smoking but you can become addicted to lots of things.
What are the causes of addiction?
There isn’t one thing that causes addiction and it’s a complicated mix of factors that can result in addiction. There is some evidence that the following can contribute to a person becoming addicted: Genetics, Environment, Social Groups, Personal trauma, Circumstances and Physical factors.
However, none of these specifically means that someone will automatically get an addiction. For example, growing up with an addict doesn’t automatically mean you will become one and not ever being around someone with an addiction also doesn’t mean you won’t be susceptible.
There is some commonality between the experiences of people that have suffered with an addiction. These can be include: past trauma and underlying mental health needs, social and environmental factors, predisposition and physical reliance. Let’s take a closer look at these topics.
Past trauma and underlying mental health needs:
Addiction can be a way of self-medication to deal with an emotional or physical pain, or an inability to cope with life in general, situations or past traumas. This can include a wider range of things, including depression, chronic pain, childhood neglect and work pressures.
Social and environmental factors:
Growing up, living in or working in an environment with increased exposure to alcohol and drugs can increase someone’s risk of addiction, e.g. children raised by alcoholic parents are three times more likely to develop alcoholism. We can also link high stress and long hours with excessive alcohol consumption.
The nature v nurture debate is widespread in addiction and there is lots more research and evidence needed to see if genetics really do make people more vulnerable to developing an addiction, but there are some indications that it could be linked.
Addiction is now widely seen as a disease and this has made treatment more effective because it helps remove blame, which is helpful to encouraging recovery.
The important thing to remember is that people don’t choose to become addicted. Addiction can cause damage to a person’s health, finances, lifestyle, relationships and happiness and most people wouldn’t chose to continue this misery. Rather they don’t know how to stop and what help is available.
This is defined as addiction taking hold and tightening its grip. It’s most obvious in addiction to substances that cause notable physical changes (e.g. alcohol and opiates) and they also lead to obvious physical withdrawal symptoms (sweating, the shakes and abdominal pain).
However, you can also have physical outcomes with behavioral additions, such as gambling and the mental high you get.