What is addiction

Disease of Addiction


2- What is Addiction


As addicts we suffer in silence due to lack of knowledge about our condition, denial of our problem, or the stigma of being labelled an “addict.” Fear and ignorance have prevented many of us from seeking help for a condition that can be successfully treated.


  • Addiction is not a moral issue
  • Definition of addiction
  • Types of Addiction
  • Difference between habit and addiction


Addiction is not a moral issue

People who become addicted are not weak-willed or morally corrupt. This misconception discourages many of us from seeking help, while fostering shame, which is counter-productive. Because addicts are driven to medicate feelings of shame – along with those of fear, anger, and pain — they need support rather than another reason to feel bad about themselves. The fact is that addiction is a physically based brain disorder. Addicts and the people who love them, though, are often the last to accept the disease concept — the result of shame, denial, and a need to prove they are in control.


Definition of addiction

Addiction is a primary, progressive, and fatal illness. It is a pathological relationship with a mood- or mind-altering substance or behavior that renders us powerless in the face of overwhelming cravings.

Addiction has been defined as “a state in which the body relies on a substance or behavior for normal functioning.” When the substance is cut off or the behavior curtailed, the result is withdrawal symptoms. Addiction can be described as a compulsion to engage in an activity despite significant consequences. Addicts are often the last to accept the disease concept. But even parents, spouses, and others close to the addict are slow in identifying this condition as an illness. This is because they, too, are involved emotionally with the disease process.

Though the word “addiction” is most often used to refer to drug or alcohol dependence – and termed Substance addiction — we can be addicted to activities such as gambling, compulsive overeating, sex, pornography, or shopping. These kinds of addictions are called Behavior addictions.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social, and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in the individual pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other destructive behaviors. The addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioral control, craving, inability to consistently abstain, and diminished recognition of significant problems with our behaviors and interpersonal relationships. As with other chronic diseases, addiction can involve cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and may result in disability or death.


Types of addiction

Addictions can be divided into two general categories:


What is addiction - Addiction Types -


1. Substance addictions (such as those involving drugs and alcohol)

Substance addiction is usually characterized by withdrawal symptoms when the substance is suddenly discontinued. Physical addiction also means the body builds a tolerance to the substance, so that we need a larger and larger dose to get the same effect. Common withdrawal symptoms include shaking, diarrhea, and nausea. The speed at which we become addicted to various substances varies with the substance, the frequency of use, the means of ingestion, and our genetic and psychological susceptibility.

2. Behavior addictions (such as eating disorders, sex, work, co-dependency, love addiction, and self-harm/mutilation)

Behavioral or Process addictions are patterns of behavior that follow a cycle similar to that of substance addiction. To begin with, we experience pleasure in association with a behavior, and then adopt that behavior as a way of enhancing our experience of life, and later, as a way of coping with stress. The process of seeking out and engaging in the behavior becomes more frequent and ritualized, until it becomes a significant part of our daily life. When addicted, we experience urges or cravings to engage in the behavior despite consequences.

These addictions are real and result in problems in many areas of our life. The addiction has similar effects on relationships, which are often neglected in favor of the addictive behavior, undermining trust and creating havoc in the lives of partners, family members, and friends. There is increasing evidence that addiction to these behaviors involves similar brain mechanisms to substance-based addictions, although more research is needed to confirm and clarify how this happens. Fortunately for those of us suffering from behavioral addictions, there are 12 Step programs and Fellowships that are effective in recovery.


Difference between habit and addiction

Many of us acquire the habit of using a substance or becoming engaged in an activity – and suffer no consequences. We can stop if we choose. What sets an addiction apart is that we continue with the substance or behavior despite consequences that are predictable and increasingly serious.

Habit – it is done by choice. The person with the habit can choose to stop, and be able to do so using free will.

Addiction – there is a psychological and physical component. The person continues to abuse a substance or engage in a behavior despite obvious and repeated harmful consequences because he or she has lost the power of choice and has developed the disease of addiction.

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