Addiction may be more wide-spread than you think – according to Action on Charity one in three people is addicted to something. We commonly think of alcohol or drugs when we think of addiction but it’s possible to be addicted to just about anything – from gambling and smoking through to shopping or working.

What is Addiction?

How do you define addiction, and when does enjoying a drink or spending money become an issue? Addiction goes hand in hand with a loss of control – so if you have no control over doing, taking or using something and if it has spiralled to the point where it’s become dangerous that is an addiction. It’s not necessarily the substance or action that causes the addiction but rather the problematic pattern of use.

The Cause of Addiction

An addiction is formed in the brain. With stimulants, nicotine, sedatives or alcohol for example, the chemical compounds they contain are released into the brain when used, altering how we feel which can lead to strong urges to experience it again.

Just as our body regulates our breathing, our decisions, our coordination, it also has a direct impact on physical sensations such as emotions, cravings, habits and compulsions. Over time the brain will come to crave the reward of the feelings those compounds trigger, as they provide a persuasive incentive to continue with the addictive behaviour.

Even addictions revolving around non-substance behaviour share the same brain mechanisms – the high of winning at gambling, or purchasing a new item triggers that feel-good response which we come to crave. Regardless of what someone may be addicted to, the behaviour will share common neurobiological features. The synapses in the prefrontal cortex change so that they become more focused on cues for the addiction and our motivation is altered through the brain’s pathways of reinforcement and reward.

Symptoms of Addiction

With addiction, the impulse and craving for the behaviour means people will often ignore other areas of their life in order to fulfil these desires. They may socialise less, ignore potential risk factors like sharing needles, or drinking to excess; and lack the ability to avoid whatever it is they are addicted to.

Hand in hand with this, an addiction can lead to people becoming more secretive about their habit and trying to hide it from friends and family. It may take time before they can admit to having an issue, as they will frequently justify their actions in order to allow it to continue.

Physically, the risky behaviour will increase as will its intensity – they’ll need more drugs to get the same high, gamble bigger amounts of money or smoke more cigarettes in order for the brain to get those reward signals.

How Can Re:Cognition Health Help You?

Our team of leading experts can help you or your loved one to make a full recovery from addiction. With the right treatment plan it is absolutely possible to cure addictive behaviour and our private psychiatric assessments are the first step to building a bespoke treatment plan.

At Re:Cognition Health we offer private brain and mind services such as for those dealing with addiction. To find out more and to book a consultation with one of our consultants, please call 0203 5531527