To help you out understand some of the key factors of mental health problems and the relevant therapies and benefits associated, we have prepared some articles on each individual condition. These articles are based on scientific studies and they are written to facilitate and encourage you to come to face the problems you are seeking…
ADDICTION – WHAT IT IS AND WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS
The general definition for addiction is a dependency on something or in certain cases on someone. This can be both physiological and psychological.
The individual who suffers from addiction will have no control over their choices associated with the addiction. The individual will experience withdrawal symptoms when the addictive process is stopped. The addictive property can be perceived by the individual as the most important part of their life.
Signs and symptoms of addiction include behaviours such as craving, dependence or bad habit. However, a “habit” is when someone has control over the “use” and a “behaviour” is when an individual has limited or no control over it. Every addiction can be associated with a range of signs and symptoms, both physical and psychological.
Some of the most common include:
• Sweating, racing heart, palpitations or tremors
• Muscle tension or difficulty breathing
• Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
• Feelings of craving or feeling out of control
• Anxiety or panic attacks
• Depression, guilt or shame
• Sleep disturbances or insomnia
• Obsessive-compulsive traits
• Irritability or paranoia
Other indicators that the individual is suffering from an addiction include deteriorating relationships, poor work performance/absenteeism and escalating financial problems.
Many people assume that we can only become addicted to substances that exert a physical effect on the body, such as alcohol or drugs. However, an addiction can develop from a huge range of activities that for most people are pleasurable and allow us a temporary escape from the pressures of modern day living. There are important physiological explanations as to why and how an addiction can develop.
Our brain responds in particular ways to reinforce behaviours which are associated with our survival. Our brain has a ‘reward and encouragement system’ that responds by releasing certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine. Some drugs can imitate a similar brain activity response to that of survival behaviours. They can release neurotransmitters including dopamine to produce feelings of a similar positive nature. Some individuals will then wish to experience the feelings gained from the drug again. This urge for repetition is how an addiction can begin. One reason for this is the ‘numbing’ effect that some drugs can have. Someone wishing to forget, suppress or block out memories and emotions may use substances to help do so. Most of the time is the lack of will to expose themselves to confront their issues and this process can be explained to be a coping mechanism. Those with a range of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, and post traumatic stress disorder may ‘turn to’ substances in effect to try and cope with the symptoms.
There are many forms of addiction as many as people’s dependence on something. Some argue that people can become addicted to almost anything. There are some substances that are highly addictive in nature. Opiates such as heroin, codeine, and morphine fall under this category. This is because their structure is very similar to a natural neurotransmitter (endorphin). However, the reaction of opiates is much more powerful than any natural stimulus, creating an overwhelming state of euphoria. Some of the most prevalent addictions are suggested to be influenced somewhat by society. Some addictions are more sociably accepted and manageable than that of a drug such as heroin. Issues of availability and legality also serve to raise certain addictions such as tobacco and alcohol. Cigarettes are highly addictive and create differences in our brain chemistry. As well as the release of dopamine, tobacco is also responsible for releasing further neurotransmitters (such as glutamate) which reinforce the habit even more so. Alcohol also imitates certain neurotransmitters.
The risk of untreated addiction is the worsening of symptoms and the development of mental health problems. Addiction can lead to significant impairment in occupation, interpersonal relationships and everyday functioning. Individuals suffering with symptoms should seek help and should not delay treatment.
There are many positive outcomes of overcoming addiction and high success rates in treating its causes. In many cases this can be life-saving. Other significant benefits include improved health, fitness and well-being, financial benefits, improvement in relationships and occupation, and the feeling of gaining control over one’s life and body. A life without addiction is wanted by so many and with the motivation and right support it is possible for anyone to change.
Because addiction can often have an impact on families and carers, interventions may be more effective when collaborated with families/ carers.
Treatment should holistically consider the individual’s causes of addiction, risks, social issues, relapse prevention, mental health needs, and any other related areas to one’s well-being.
There are many evidence based treatments available.
Psychotherapy and counselling can address the causal factors of the addiction. Exploration as to why and how the addiction has developed can be a useful tool to go on and overcome your addiction. Psychotherapy can help the individual deal with feelings of helplessness and other symptoms of addiction. Recognisable examples of treatment include Alcoholics Anonymous and Gambling Anonymous. Approaches vary and may include gentle reduction in a substance or behaviour whilst some approaches involve complete abstinence. Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) explores your thoughts, feelings and behaviour around addiction. Practical ways of effectively dealing with the dependency and withdrawal symptoms are developed.
Trying to stop your or someone else’s addiction is a huge step to have taken already.
Keep on trying and do not give up.
It may be worthwhile reading a self-help book. There are many out there:
• Alcoholics Anonymous-The Big Book 1976
• Over the influence: The harm reduction for managing drugs and alcohol. Patt Denning, 2003.
• The sex addiction workbook: Proven strategies to help you regain control of your life. Tamare Penix Sbraga, 2004
• Change Your Gambling, Change Your Life, Howard Shaffer PhD, Ryan Martin, PhD, and John Kleschinsky, MPH, with Liz Neporent, 2011.
Some self-help websites include:
• The NHS help page on addiction:
• The MIND help page, providing further support:
Some useful telephone numbers include:
• NHS Direct- 0845 4647
• Turning point- 020 7481 7600
There are now many counselling and therapeutic services and organisations available. Here are details of available services:
The NHS – seeing your GP and asking for a referral to see a specialist.
Charities – (such as MIND, Rethink, Young Minds and the Mental health foundation) some may provide support groups, therapy and advice in your local or near-by area. See their websites for further details.
Counselling and psychotherapy clinics and services – Search through online directories or contact your council for organisations that offer can therapeutic help. (The Wholefulness Practice is one example of a clinic)
When seeing a healthcare professional, you may be involved in an initial assessment. This will include being asked some questions to identify the issues, causes and problems. Try to be honest and open in your answers. The person asking the questions just wants to understand and help.