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Awareness of addiction

All Areas > Health & Beauty > Medical Health

Author: Holly Hannigan, Posted: Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 09:00

Addiction is an illness that affects the chemical reward systems in the brain. People often misunderstand it to be someone being selfish and making bad choices, which is simply not true. Addiction is a psychological disorder, just like depression or anxiety.

If something in your life, or someone you know, has become of such importance that other areas of life are being neglected (work, relationships, health), then this is a big alarm bell that you or they may have a problem and addiction may be in control. Here are some of the main symptoms to be aware of:

Psychological symptoms of addictions:

• Mood swings

• Increased temper

• Tiredness

• Paranoia

• Defensiveness

• Agitation

• Inability to focus/concentrate

• Poor judgement

• Memory problems

• Diminished self-esteem and self-worth

• Feelings of hopelessness

• Exacerbation of any existing mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.

Behavioural and social signs of addictions:

• Secretive/dishonest behaviour

• Poor performance and/or attendance at work or school

• Withdrawal from responsibility and socialising

• Losing interest in activities, hobbies or events that were once important to you

• Continuing to use the substance, or engage in certain behaviours, despite the negative consequences that these cause

• Trying but failing to reduce or stop misusing a substance, or engaging in certain behaviours

Physical symptoms of addictions:

• Lack of concern over physical appearance/personal hygiene

• Disrupted sleep patterns, including insomnia

• Extreme weight loss

For something to be addictive, it must be characterised as being reinforcing (increasing the likelihood that a person will seek repeated exposure to them) and intrinsically rewarding (they are seen as being positive, desirable, and pleasurable).

People can form addictions to substances such as alcohol, drugs, nicotine and sugar, or to behaviours such as gambling, shopping, online activity (social media/gaming) and sex. While substance addictions may be more visible to the outside world, all addictions can be dangerous and life destroying.

If you have noticed some of the symptoms mentioned, then having a conversation with the person is a good place to start. Simply listening without judgement is sometimes all they will want in the early days, and perhaps mention local support groups or online help.

If the person recognises they have a problem with addiction and they are ready, making an appointment with their GP and even attending with them if they want you to is the best place to start. As hard as it may be, especially if the person has isolated themselves and been dishonest or unkind towards you, try to remember it is the addiction talking, not their true self. The person you know and care about is still in there and trying to get them the right help is vital.

Below are some links to useful websites with more information about addiction:




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