Understand Addiction

Can’t stop shopping? A need to look at your social media accounts every 10 minutes? Sleeping pills needed in order to get a good night rest? Feeling hungry all the time? You may have a problem. Dr Tan Hwee Sim, Specialist in Psychiatry, Raffles Counselling Centre shares how addiction can affect your life.

Understanding Addiction in One Minute

Addiction is:

  • The compulsive use of a substance or behaviour despite negative or dangerous consequences.
  • A progressive mental health disorder which increases in severity over time, unless treated.
  • A chronic, progressive, and relapse-prone illness.
  • An illness that affects a person both physically and mentally.

The greatest difference between habit and addiction is whether or not you can control the behaviour or use of substance. Addiction can sometimes lead to serious problems at home, work, school and socially.

Two Broad Categories of Addiction

Substance Addiction Behavioural Addiction
Alcohol Nicotine or Tobacco Gambling Internet
Drugs Caffeine Sex or Pornography Shopping
Inhalants Addictive Medication Exercise Gaming

Three Characteristics of an Addict

  • The person continues the addictive behaviour despite the consequences.
  • The frequency or intensity of the behaviour increases over time.
  • When the behaviour is stopped, the person experiences unpleasant feelings and emotions.

Four Tell-tale signs of Early Addiction

  • Lack of interest in activities that used to be important
  • Neglecting relationships
  • Increased secrecy, like lying about the amount of substance used or time spent
  • Ignoring the negative consequences of their actions

Five Myths about Addiction

Myth 1: Addicts Can Just Stop When They Want.

Addicts often deny the severity of the problem and think they can stop whenever they want. However, they underestimate the power of addiction and eventually find difficulties quitting. If they do get to the point where they accept change is needed, they often don’t have the ability to stop without professional treatment.

Myth 2: Addiction is a disease; there’s nothing that can be done about it.

Addiction is a disease that affects the brain, but that doesn’t mean addicts are helpless victims. The brain changes associated with addiction can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, and other treatments.

Myth 3: Addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can get better.

Recovery can begin at any point in the addiction process—and the earlier, the better. The longer the addiction continues, the stronger it becomes, and the harder it is to treat. Don’t wait until the addict has lost all hope before intervening.

Myth 4: You can’t force someone into treatment; they need accept treatment willingly.

Successful treatment doesn’t have to be voluntary. People who are pressured into treatment by their family, employer, or the legal system are just as likely to benefit as those who choose to enter treatment on their own. Many formerly-resistant addicts decide they want to change after they sober up and thought through clearly.

Myth 5: Treatment didn’t work before, so there’s no point trying again.

As with other treatments, setbacks will happen. A relapse doesn’t mean that treatment has failed. Take it as a signal to get back on track, either by going back to treatment or adjusting the treatment approach.

How can we help people with an addiction?

Addiction affects almost everyone close to the person with the illness. People suffering from addictions often do not want to talk about their problems. They hide their behaviour out of shame and experience feelings of despair. Many have unsuccessfully tried to quit their addictions on their own several times before they seek professional help.

As soon as you start to notice the signs and symptoms of addiction, have an honest and supportive conversation with the addict. It’s important to urge them to seek help from qualified professionals. Specialists will be able to help the patient identify the root cause of their addiction while also helping them create a treatment plan that works for them. Along the way, be sure to provide the person you love with all of the support that they need. Overcoming addiction is a huge challenge and results in a complete lifestyle change, and they will certainly need help, assistance, and support along the way. Consult a psychiatrist if the addiction worsens.

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