Addiction is a complex condition, that is manifested by compulsive use of substances such as alcohol and drugs, or behavioural repertoires such as gambling, internet use (gaming, social media), sex (pornography), work, exercise, and the list goes on.
The word 'addiction' is derived from a Latin term for ‘enslaved by’ or ‘bound to.’ Anyone who has struggled to overcome an addiction, or has tried to help someone else to do so, will understand this.
Addiction has significant and powerful influences on the brain through structural, and functional change, and memory. It can be classified in general terms as manifesting in four distinct features.
There exists difference in most forms of addiction. With alcohol and drug use, neurological adaptation occurs over time causing a physiological dependence, this is experienced as the development of tolerance (needing an increased amount of the substance you get the desired effect i.e. pleasure), and withdrawal syndromes that differ from substance to substance. Both elements are strong maintaining factors in continued use of substances.
Psychological factors such as memory (cues, urges, craving), emotional experience, and stress reduction (relief and escape) are also significant maintaining factors in addiction behaviour.
Addiction and other Mental Illness commonly co-occur, many people with an addiction are also diagnosed with other mental health issues and visa versa. For example, compared with the general population, people with addiction issues are twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety issues, with the reverse also being true. Addiction may trigger or exacerbate symptoms of another mental illness. Experiencing mental illness can also lead to addictive behaviours, possibly as a means of 'self-medication' to temporarily alleviate symptoms of mood or anxiety issues.
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