The Psychology of Addiction

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Frequently asked questions

What is the definition of addiction as a disease?

Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual's life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviours that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.

What does psychology say about addiction?

When a person engages in an activity that is pleasurable but cannot stop doing it, even to the detriment of everyday living (such as work, hobbies, family time, finances, etc.), and health and wellbeing suffer as a result, this behaviour would be considered an addiction.

What’s behind Addiction?

Some type of emotional stress is at the basis of addictive behaviour, an issue that is so deeply buried within a person's subconscious mind that confronting it is too big or unfathomable a task. Pleasure is obtained in excess to relieve stress, to make it go away; the joy of a drunken night out or the excitement of placing a large bet. Stopping the behaviour risks resuming thoughts about whatever is causing the emotional stress; the presence of addictive behaviour indicates that there are no appropriate coping methods for that problem. Distracting and harmful mechanisms, such as substance abuse or problem behaviour, are the only ones in place.

What is the Psychology of Addiction?

Addiction psychology is the psychological study of addiction, including its causes, effects, and treatment options. Within the psychology community, there are many different perspectives on the condition of addiction, and a wide range of therapeutic models have been developed and refined for use in the treatment of the condition, some of which are typically used in conjunction with the administration of certain medications. A psychological approach, including psychotherapy, lies at the heart of almost all modern addiction treatment.

How Can a Habit Become an Addiction?

When a person engages in a specific behaviour, their brain may respond to the stimulus represented by that behaviour by judging it to be "rewarding": their brain's reward system will create the urge to repeat that behaviour – either because it is intrinsically pleasurable or because it is extrinsically rewarding – by producing chemicals like dopamine, which drive motivational salience.

The more a person engages in a rewarding behaviour, the more conditioned they become to want to repeat it in order to achieve and maintain the positive feelings created by dopamine and other chemicals – and to avoid the negative feelings caused by a lower level of dopamine in the absence of the behaviour in question. As the affected individual's reward system becomes unbalanced and they are forced to repeat the addictive behaviour until and until they can accomplish a neurochemical rebalance, what may begin as something just habitual (behaviorally routine) can change into an addiction.

What is the role of Dopamine in Addiction?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced spontaneously by the brain when a person completes a pleasurable and rewarding task. This is an evolutionary survival mechanism; eating and drinking helps you feel good while also ensuring your survival and the survival of the species as a whole. Dopamine production is one of the driving forces behind sex, which is both pleasurable and necessary for existence.

The production of dopamine has the effect of generating a memory of the experience, which pushes us to seek it out again. When confronted with our favourite dish, we recall earlier encounters with it (all of which have been favourable and reassuring), and the cycle repeats. The same is true when it comes to abusing things like drugs and alcohol.


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