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Research shows that more and more people are struggling with an addiction. Although most people associate addiction with drug and alcohol misuse there are many other types such as gambling, shopping, sex, exercise, food, love, internet, gaming and work.
Reasons why someone might become addicted to something is complex but it’s common that some addictions are used as a way to cope with stress and escape from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and PTSD. Being predisposed to addiction either through genetics or through living with an addicted parent, particularly in childhood, are all common reasons. Addiction can also be triggered through prolonged stress or because of a traumatic incident. This means that when seeking treatment it is not just about working with the addiction, but also about addressing what is causing it and finding alternative ways of coping and managing.
Relapse can often happen with addiction, and those who suffer from addiction will be much more likely to relapse when facing stressful life experiences like job loss, relationship difficulties, and death. Teaching alternative coping strategies can go a long way towards helping the person take more control over their life choices.
Addiction basically means exceptionally strong cravings that start as a low intensity but then over time grow stronger and more frequent leading to dependence. The following have been identified as stages that a person will go through before they are addicted.
Experimental: This stage is one that most people can identify with; it is usually when someone is experimenting and curious. This typically happens in teenage years when wanting to appear grown up, due to peer pressure or through an act of rebellion.
Recreational: This stage is where people may use a form of addiction to wind down or on social occasions. People often talk about a tolerance build up where there is a need to do it more to get the same desired effect.
Early Dependency: This stage is where the person is a functioning addict. This means they are keeping down a job and relationship but it may start to become increasingly difficult. The person is likely to be in denial that they have a problem and may become more deceitful; they may steal money or run up debt to fund their addiction.
Full Dependency: This stage is where they have completely escaped from reality, which means that they may use their addiction as a way to cope day to day. Relationships may now be strained and they may be experiencing some problems at work such as taking too many sick days or have gone absent without leave.
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An important part of dealing with addiction or compulsive behaviours is to cope with and handle the difficult feelings to do so. If left un-dealt with, these feelings from your past will still remain. Seeking therapy is a helpful way of dealing with and resolving underlying causes to the addiction or compulsive behaviours. I have found, particularly with EMDR, that in some cases it is possible for a person to have control over their addiction/compulsion as opposed to abstinence.