"Life is not the way it's supposed to be. It's the way it is.
 The way you cope with it is what makes the difference."

-Virginia Satir

Addictions Services

What Is Addiction? What Causes Addiction?

People with an addiction do not have control over what they are doing, taking or using. Their addiction may reach a point at which it is harmful. Addictions do not only include physical things we consume, such as drugs or alcohol, but may include virtually anything, such abstract things as gambling to seemingly harmless products, such as chocolate - in other words, addiction may refer to a substance dependence (e.g. drug addiction) or behavioral addiction (e.g. gambling addiction).

In the past addiction used to refer just to psychoactive substances that cross the blood-brain barrier, temporarily altering the chemical balance of the brain. This includes alcohol, tobacco and some drugs. A considerable number of psychologists, other health care professionals and lay people now insist that psychological dependency, as may be the case with gambling, sex, internet, work, exercise, food, etc. should also be counted as addictions, because they can also lead to feelings of guilt, shame, hopelessness, despair, failure, rejection, anxiety and humiliation. When a person is addicted to something they cannot control how they use it, and become dependent on it to cope with daily life.

Understanding Alcohol Abuse, Dependence, Addiction

In non-clinical settings, use of the terms alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence commonly refer, rather generically, to the problematic use of alcohol. While these terms are often used interchangeably, there are significant differences between them. Each is a specific diagnosis that describes a type of problematic drinking. A third term, alcoholism, is also widely used in reference to severe drinking, but it is not a formal clinical term or diagnosis.

Both alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are distinct types of mental health diagnoses more specifically known as alcohol use disorders. The diagnoses are given if specific and negative consequences of alcohol use have occurred.

Alcohol Addiction is the habitual intoxication; prolonged and excessive intake of alcoholic drinks leading to a breakdown in health and an addiction to alcohol such that abrupt deprivation leads to severe withdrawal symptoms.

Understanding Drug Abuse, Dependence and Addiction

People experiment with drugs for many different reasons, curiosity, to have a good time, because friends are doing it, in an effort to improve athletic performance or ease another problem, such as stress, anxiety, or depression. Use doesn't automatically lead to abuse, and there is no specific level at which drug use moves from casual to problematic. It varies by individual. Drug abuse and addiction is less about the amount of substance consumed or the frequency, and more to do with the consequences of drug use. No matter how often or how little you're consuming, if your drug use is causing problems in your life—at work, school, home, or in your relationships—you likely have a drug abuse or addiction problem.

As with many other conditions and diseases, vulnerability to addiction differs from person to person. Your genes, mental health, family and social environment all play a role in addiction. Risk factors that increase your vulnerability include:
▪ Family history of addiction
▪ Abuse, neglect, or other traumatic experiences in childhood
▪ Mental disorders such as depression and anxiety
▪ Early use of drugs
▪ Method of administration—smoking or injecting a drug may increase its addictive potential

Drug Addiction

Addiction is a complex disorder characterized by compulsive drug use. While each drug produces different physical effects, all abused substances share one thing in common: repeated use can alter the way the brain looks and functions.
▪ Taking a recreational drug causes a surge in levels of dopamine in your brain, which trigger feelings of pleasure. Your brain remembers these feelings and wants them repeated.
▪ If you become addicted, the substance takes on the same significance as other survival behaviors, such as eating and drinking.
▪ Changes in your brain interfere with your ability to think clearly, exercise good judgment, control your behavior, and feel normal without drugs.
▪ Whether you're addicted to inhalants, heroin, Xanax, speed, or Vicodin, the uncontrollable craving to use grows more important than anything else, including family, friends, career, and even your own health and happiness.
▪ The urge to use is so strong that your mind finds many ways to deny or rationalize the addiction. You may drastically underestimate the quantity of drugs you're taking, how much it impacts your life, and the level of control you have over your drug use.

Food, Sex, Internet and Other Addictions

Food Addiction

Food addiction involves an unhealthy relationship with food where a person is unable to stop or control despite the immense pain, suffering and overall harm it is causing.

Symptoms of Food Addiction include:
• Obsessed with thoughts about food
• Compulsive overeating
• The feeling of being out of control when eating
• Eating until you feel sick
• Eating to relieve worry or stress
• Overeating simply because food is there
• Feelings of guilt, shame and remorse after eating
• Hiding food so you can eat it in secret
• Eating to ease painful emotions
• Eating extremely fast
• Eating to pass the time
• Eating everything on the plate even when you are full
• Awareness that eating patterns are abnormal
• History of many unsuccessful diets
• Preoccupation with weight
• Health problems because of weight
• Going on a food binge after dieting or trying to cut back
• Lying about your eating
• Self-loathing and self-hatred because of eating and/or weight

A more complex understanding of food addiction must address the myriad of interconnected biological, psychological, social and spiritual factors that may be contributing to the unhealthy relationship with food. These factors include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

Biological Components
• Genetic inheritance
• Reward Deficiency Syndrome
• Allergy-Addiction Syndrome
• Co morbid disease
• Insulin resistance
• Leptin resistance
• Perimenopause/Menopause
• Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
• Thyroid dysfunction
• Adrenal insufficiency
• Neurotransmitter imbalances

Psychological Components
• Emotional inheritance
• Critical self-appraisal
• Avoidance, denial, numbing of true feelings
• Repression of previous trauma
• Projection of blame
• Poor emotional self-regulation
• Pain intolerance
• Need for a "quick fix," or instant gratification

Social Components
• Attachment disorders (unrelenting fear of being used, abused, rejected and ultimately abandoned)
• Inability to give and receive true unconditional love

Spiritual Components
• Lack of belonging (feeling "a part from" rather than "a part of"; lost and longing to find way "back home")

There is no one cause or simple solution. Recognizing you may have a problem is the first step.

Internet Addiction

Internet users who become dependent on being online have showed signs of changes in the brain similar to alcoholics and cocaine addicts. Researchers compared brain scans of young people with "internet addiction disorder" with their peers and found damage to the white matter fibers connecting emotional processing, attention and decision-making parts. Similar impairments have been found in research into other addictions including alcohol and cocaine.

Sex Addiction

There are differences of opinion among professionals as to whether the phenomenon represents an actual addiction or even a psychological/psychiatric condition at all. Proponents of the sexual addiction model draw an analogy between hyper sexuality and substance addiction or behavioral problems like gambling addiction, recommending 12-step and other addiction-based methods of treatment. Other explanatory models of hyper sexuality include sexual compulsivity and sexual impulsivity. Some experts believe that sexual addiction is literally an addiction, directly analogous to alcohol and drug addictions. Other experts believe that sexual addiction is actually a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder and refer to it as sexual compulsivity. Still other experts believe that sex addiction is itself a myth, a by-product of cultural and other influences. Some who have expressed doubts about the existence of sex addiction argue that the condition is instead a way of projecting social stigma onto patients.