Addictions UK offers a specialist Therapy and Counselling Service throughout the UK and beyond. Addiction presents in two different forms;
- Psychological addiction can be identified when the addicted person shows psychological responses such as anxiety, depression, irritability/anger, mood swings, obsessive thinking or poor judgement, when they can no longer access the addictive substance or engage in the addictive behaviour.
- Physical addiction occurs when the body is addicted to the use of drugs, alcohol, medications, glue or any other substance.
Physical addiction is generally recognised when the addicted person shows physical signs. These can include changes in heart rate, blood pressure, thinking ability, physical cravings and physical agitation when they can no longer access the addictive substance.
A person may be physically addicted, psychologically addicted, or both. This is why some individuals seem to have no physical difficulty quitting smoking or going “cold turkey” from drugs or alcohol. Their addiction is primarily psychological. Other people need to have medical interventions to “come down” or “detox” because they may have life threatening physical reactions to abruptly halting their addictive behaviour.
Addiction therapy or addiction counselling is focused on treating psychological addiction. A person may be actively engaging in addictive behaviour when they start therapy, or they may be trying to “stay clean”. Addiction may present as a substance abuse such as to alcohol or drug, as an impulse control issue such as theft or gambling, or as a process or behaviour pattern like over exercising.
Why start addictions counselling?
People begin addictions counselling for many reasons. These reasons may include:
- Lack of personal or career success
- Constantly have let others down
- Chronic money issues
- Social stigma
- Emotional / psychological distress
- Tired of hiding / lying
- Ultimatums by friends or family
- Social isolation / ostracised
- “Hitting bottom”
- Loss of access to children
- Desire for change
- Feeling / acting out of control
- Risk of / job loss
- Loss of friends
- Required by court or employer
- Health issues / fear of dying
- Becoming like an addict parent
- Failed drug test
When does an activity or behaviour become an addiction?
Psychologically, an activity or behaviour becomes an addiction when you become dependent on it to avoid or ‘deal with’ another activity, emotion, or thought.
For example, some people drink to feel less anxious in social situations. Some people smoke to ‘fit in’ with the group of smokers they like to spend time with. Others use drugs to temporarily forget past events. People may eat to suppress emotional pain, engage in sex to reduce loneliness, or set fire to things to overcome a sense of powerlessness.
As with physical addiction, once you stop or slow the addictive behaviour, psychological withdrawal symptoms may begin. Typically, this involves a sharp intensification of emotional distress or thinking about whatever the addictive behaviour was being used to obscure. Depending on the person, psychological addiction may be more than, equal to, or harder to overcome than physical addiction. It is not unusual for a person to substitute one addiction for another when the initial addiction becomes untenable (e.g. overeating because there is no alcohol in a ‘dry camp’, or over exercising to quit smoking).
Physically, an activity or behaviour becomes an addiction when you need to increase the amount of the substance to gain the same effect. The need for more of the substance to have the same effect is called tolerance.
Often when you have developed a tolerance for something, the body is also dependent on it. If you stop taking something that the body is dependent on, the body may go into a physiological crisis, called withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe and are often the reason people struggle to “kick the habit”. In some cases, withdrawal symptoms can become so severe they may lead to death without medical intervention. Therefore, individuals who decide to treat a physical addiction are encouraged to do so under a physician’s care, and in certain situations, are encouraged to do so in a hospital setting should urgent medical intervention be necessary.
Who is at risk for addiction?
While anyone may become addicted to a behaviour, substance or impulse, certain factors have been shown to increase the likelihood of addiction. Some factors are:
- Exposure to single or multiple event trauma
- History of being abused / neglected
- Exposure to domestic violence
- Other family members with addictions
- Prior history of addictions
- Tendency to impulsivity
- Unstable childhood
- Low self-esteem
- Mental health issue (e.g. depression, anxiety, personality disorders etc.)
- Regular contact with peers with addictions
- History of chronic or overwhelming stress
- Lack of healthy social supports
- Unmanageable losses (e.g. friends, family, career, etc…)
- Environment that supports or normalises addictive behaviour (e.g. going out drinking with the team every Friday evening)
What are signs of addiction?
Most people do not recognise the signs of addiction unless they have prior experience with addiction or people who have addictions. It is much easier to notice the signs “after the fact”, as many addicts become experts at hiding or minimising their addiction. Even when directly asked, an addict may deny they have an issue, either because they fear recrimination, or possibly because they do not see that they have a problem. A common defence for an addict is “I don’t have a problem, but you do (or are the problem)”. Even when an addict seems to blame everyone else but themselves for the problems associated with addiction, they may still refuse to acknowledge that they might be a part of the issue.
Common signs of addiction may include:
- Always thinking or talking about the addiction
- Repeatedly engaging in the addiction even though it hurts themselves or others
- Trying to convince others to engage in the addiction
- Hiding / denying addictive behaviours
- Unable to limit or stop addictive actions (out of control)
- Blaming others for chronic problems
- Financial stress
What happens in addiction counselling?
In the first session the therapist will go over confidentiality with you. If you are attending therapy on your own accord, this is a straightforward process.
After that the therapist will work with you to identify your addictive behaviours, the causes of those behaviours, and develop a treatment plan. Sometimes the addictive behaviour is easy to identify. Sometimes there are primary addictions (often the reason you came to counselling), and then lesser addictions that are not as noticeable but will still cause problems if left untreated.
Determining the cause of addictions is a major element of treatment. Treating the historical cause of the addiction increases the chance of stopping the addiction and preventing a relapse. Our therapists will use a variety of Therapeutic methods to suit your needs.
Please call us to discuss Addiction Therapy and Counselling or any of our other services as each needs to be carefully tailored to the needs of the individual.