“An obsessive, uncontrollable and often harmful attachment to an activity, behaviour or substance.” Sound familiar to you? We can become addicted to all sorts of things, but the usual suspects are nicotine, drugs, alcohol, gambling, the Internet & social media, and food. It’s estimated some two million people in the UK suffer some kind of addiction.
Understanding how addictive behaviours develop can be helpful for spotting the signs and knowing when to seek help. An addiction typically starts out as experimentation which then, through regular use, develops into a habit. Although initially the habit may appear a benign and temporary form of relief or escape, with frequent use, it can quickly escalate. At this stage warning signs will start to appear and risky behaviours may emerge. Over time, the individual will find they can no longer function normally or happily without taking the particular substance or indulging in the activity. Withdrawal symptoms are normally strong and despite the negative consequences of their behaviour and the impact of their quality of life, the individual cannot usually give up.
Am I addicted?
You are addicted if you have no control over taking, doing or using something. That may be drugs or alcohol. It may be gambling or shopping. It may be sex. But so too might it be compulsive exercise, eating or working. Perhaps the more useful questions to ask are:
- Do you find yourself distracted from ‘normal’ life by your addiction?
- Have you stopped doing things you used to enjoy doing?
- Is your addiction having a negative impact on your mood and self-respect?
- Is your addiction becoming a problem in your relationship(s)?
- Is it impacting on your working life?
- Do you experience physical withdrawal symptoms (anxiety, nausea, shaking, irritabiity etc) if you try to stop?
- Have others remarked that your behaviour is out of control or a problem?
- Have you noticed a need to indulge in the habit more and more regularly to get the same ‘high’ feeling?
Addictions often start off as a pleasurable experience. When they become compulsive and interfer with ordinary life experiences, however, then it’s time to seek help. Recognising you may be addicted is an important first step towards recovery.
Why do we become addicted?
There are different schools of thought on why we can become addicted, and in particular why some people (the so-called “addictive personalities”) are more prone to addiction than others. Some people tout the genetics argument. Some believe that the part of the brain responsible for weighing up the pros and cons of a particular action (the orbito-frontal cortex), is wired differently in individuals vulnerable to addiction. Some say it runs in families as ‘learned’ behaviour. Some say that traumatic childhood experiences such as neglect or abuse can increase the risk of developing addictive behaviours. It is thought also that early experience of certain substances or activities is also be linked and that individuals who experience stress, anxiety and nervousness in their approach to daily life may also lean towards addictive behaviour patterns.
How can hypnotherapy help?
A key aim of the Addiction Release Programmes I run is to identify and work through the underlying causes of addiction using advanced uncovering techniques. This empowers the client to see their addictive behaviour as something they can control and overcome. Not all hypnotherapists use root cause analysis, but I find that breaking the emotional state between cause and effect ensures a long-term and usually permanent result.
Furthermore, by inducing a deeply relaxed state, the client can experience a state of heightened awareness in which they become more receptive to suggestions and ideas that are compatible with their goals to be addiction free. Combined with future-pacing and visualisation work, this allows the client to substitue ingrained and destructive patterns of behaviour with new, more helpful ones.
Worried about a loved one?
If you recognise the warning signs of addiction and are concerned that you or someone you know may have a problem, seeking help as soon as possible is crucial. A first port of call should normally be a GP, but alternative options include private services like the Priory, services like Addaction or there are several charities that can be contacted annonymously, including Samaritans.