Addiction is a highly controversial topic, although more research in addition to the general public having better access to evidenced-based research has helped to decrease the negative stigma and also correct the narrative regarding how to best help, support, and treat addiction. It is not longer a debate, but widely recognized in the mental health community as well as with addiction specialists that addiction is a chronic disease in which an individual is blinded by a substance (such as drugs/alcohol), or engages in an activity compulsively that gives them an immense amount of pleasure and helps to fill a “void”, but has become detrimental to their everyday life. Compulsive behaviors and addictions can temporarily provide confidence, control, validation or other emotions lacking in one’s life, but the behavior may not stop until the root of the problem is addressed.
Addiction changes the brain through the limbic system, also known as the “brain reward system.” This part of the brain is responsible for producing feelings of pleasure and will manifest thoughts such as, “I deserve this,” or “Let’s do that again.” The abuse of addictive substances and behaviors triggers this system to become “reliant”, which over time can prolong a continuous cycle of self-destructive behavior.
Common addictions include but are not limited to:
- Drug or alcohol abuse
People who have developed an addiction may be unaware that it is out of control, which is why therapy is an essential part of working through and managing this condition. An addiction of any sort can be exhausting and one should never go through the recovery process alone.
Many treatment plans focus on talk therapy and behavior therapy and can be performed in a group or through one-on-one sessions. During these sessions, patients analyze the reasons behind their addiction(s), what triggers are, and what helped them control impulses in the past. Clients also learn coping skills so they can manage the triggers/cravings without relapsing.