The Aspects Of Addiction Psychology You Should Know

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated July 13, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Dawn Brown, LPC

Addiction is a complex disorder, and not fully understood by even the professionals. If you’re not addicted to something, it can be hard to understand how someone can be so addicted to that drug, gambling, or any other addictive activity. It’s stigmatized around our society, which seeks to punish rather than treat

In this post, we will talk about the psychology of addiction. How does it affect your mind? Is it a choice? How do people treat it?

A Disease Or A Choice?

Feeling Like You Might Be Struggling With Addiction?
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One of the biggest controversies surrounding addiction is that if it’s a disease that needs to be treated or a choice by the person who is addicted. Those who think it is a choice usually have little sympathy for those who are addicted, saying that the person chose to take that drink or use that drug. This stigma has led to many people not wanting to seek the help they need with their addictions.

The truth is that while the person did choose to take that drug and continue using it along the way, once the substance has changed the brain, the person is unable to control themselves. There are also many other factors that can determine addiction that is not under the person’s control. Genetic factors are a good example. One person can drink on occasion and not be addicted, while another takes one drink and they are soon an alcoholic.

It should also be noted that many of the people on the choice camp associate drug addiction with illegal substances and have less sympathy because that person was warned all throughout their life not to take those drugs. However, addiction can come in the form of prescription medications. Say someone gets into a car crash and is injured. They are prescribed pain pills, and they take a few. Then, they become addicted and take them even as their injuries heal. That person had little choice in that manner.

You can be addicted to other life necessities, like food. Necessary technology such as the Internet may become addictive. It’s unfair to write off addiction as someone who is craving illegal drugs when so many addictions are from legal and necessary needs in our modern day.

How Addiction Works In A Nutshell

People don’t become addicted to something for no reason at all. When you’re addicted, there are complex changes in the brain that happen and are associated with addiction. The brain loves to reward you when it feels satisfying. When you get your sexual urges, hunger, thirst, or any other urge satisfied, the brain releases different chemicals in the brain that make you feel good.

When you take a drug commonly associated with addiction, it causes your brain to overload itself with those feel-good chemicals. You feel fantastic when you first take that substance. Everyone tells you this substance is bad for you, but your mind is telling you that the feeling you have while taking this drug is awesome and it needs more.

Your brain can alter itself, so it feels pleasure only if it receives that drug. Otherwise, you may feel like something is missing in your life, and you may suffer from depression or withdrawal effects if you don’t take it.

The brain is especially faulty because it changes to become addicted shortly after you become addicted to that substance, but it takes a long time to go back to normal even after your withdrawal. Anything can trigger you and cause you to crave the substance again, and this is what causes a relapse.

Addiction can be chronic, meaning that it’s long-lasting and can never have a straight cure. Many who have addictions have it chronically. Some addictions may be short-term, making people believe it’s a choice, but other addictions can last a long time. Some people may battle their addictions for an entire lifetime.

Types Of Addictions

Addiction isn’t just one phenomenon. There are a couple of different types of addiction, including:

  • Substance addiction. This is what most people think of when they think of addiction. You become addicted to alcohol or drugs, and their effects make you crave more. Soon, you are spending too much money on them, suffering from various health effects, and burning bridges with your friends and family.
  • Behavioral addiction. This is when the pleasure you feel while doing a certain behavior leads to addiction. This covers an umbrella of different addictions. Someone who is addicted to checking their cell phone may find it harder to socialize. Someone who is addicted to food may gain weight and suffer from health effects. Someone can even become addicted to exercise. Exercise can help your body out a lot, but there is such a thing as overexerting yourself.

How Addiction Is Treated

A few different methods treat addiction, and someone who is addicted may receive different types of treatments and respond to them in different manners. Some people may respond well through counseling, while another person may do well through medical therapy.

Treatment for your addiction doesn’t just involve quitting the drug and then being done with the patient once the drug is out of their system. It can take a long time for the person to recover from their addiction, and they need to be monitored, so they relapse. It can take months to years for your brain to recover from the addiction. You need at least three months of treatment to get the best results.

Detoxification

One of the most popular ways to treat addiction is through detox, which is when you rid yourself of all the drugs in your body. It’s the first step in most drug treatment options because of this. Detoxification isn’t as simple as not taking the drugs; the patient may experience withdrawal effects. These effects can range from irritating to possibly fatal. That’s why patients need to be monitored through the detox process. They may receive treatment for their symptoms to make the detox process much easier.

Rehab

Drug rehabilitation helps the patient go back to a drug-free life once they have detoxed themselves. This may consist of therapy, socialization meetings, and other ways to condition the patient to avoid the substance they’re addicted to. Rehab can involve living in a treatment center for an extended period. Some rehab sessions can last a few weeks, while others may last for over a year. These can involve 12 step programs, group therapy, and art therapy. Long-term rehab is good for patients who have lost it all and needed to rebuild the pieces.

Outpatient

Outpatient treatment is when someone lives in their own home and seeks treatment through commuting. It’s cheaper than living in a treatment center, and it’s good for those who have support networks and jobs. Outpatient therapy treats various other mental health conditions too.

Counseling

Feeling Like You Might Be Struggling With Addiction?

Another way addiction is treated through counseling. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, can help those who are suffering from thoughts that tell them that they need to have the substance. CBT helps to eliminate these thoughts and replace them with more positive and self-assuring ones.

For example, if you have thoughts telling you that you won’t be able to live without the drug, you may give in to your urges. CBT replaces that thought with one that is designed to cheer you on.

Counseling may also involve getting the addict’s life back together. If the addict has burned bridges, a counselor can help them to make amends with the people they burned or be able to reconnect with them. If they lost a job, a counselor would help them find a new one and help them meet any goals they need.

Counseling may be done as an individual, but it may be done in groups as well. Groups allow for people who are also suffering to gather and find solutions to their addictions.

If You’re Addicted

If you have an addiction and are reading this article now, then great. As they say, the first step is admitting you have a problem. Many who are addicted don’t have the self-awareness to realize they have an addiction. Now that you admit you have a problem, your next step is to seek help.

There are many options available. You can try counseling, check into a rehab center, or go to group therapy. Just know that none of these is one size fits all. It may take a bit before you can quit your addiction for good.

Just know that you aren’t alone, and there is no shame in seeking help. While society has a stigma against addicts, many have some form of addiction they don’t realize. The brain can change overnight in some drastic ways, and yet undoing the change takes time. That is just how the human brain is.

No matter how challenging treatment may seem, the result is rewarding. You can begin your life anew and feel much better as a result.

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