Addiction is a compulsive or obsessive relationship with one or more substances or processes such as alcohol, drugs, food, sex, gambling, internet, exercise, relationships, work, or money.
Although the word addiction is becoming ever more common in our culture today, it is still a daunting concept. Just hearing the word often conjures up visuals of junkies in abandoned warehouses shooting up heroin, drop-out meth-heads breaking into your car for whatever can be sold for ready cash, or wild-eyed coke fiends destroying the lives of anyone who dares to care about them.
Actually, addicts come from all walks of life and have a potentially terminal disease. Addicts have the same level of moral development, the same level of intelligence, the same amount of will power, and the same love of family as any other segment of the population.
So what is different about someone with an addiction? An addict has a potentially fatal disease which can be described as a dysfunction of the part of the brain called the mid-brain. Addicts cannot be smart enough, moral enough, loving enough or have enough will power to rid themselves of the disease. The predisposition for addiction is inherited but environment also plays a role.
The addict may look just like anyone else at work, at church or in your neighborhood. He or she may be your lawyer, your physician, your clergy, an elected official, an officer of the law, a grandparent or your babysitter. Although there are signs to look out for, often these signs are well hidden.
Some of the more common signs that addiction is present include:
Diminished quality of work at school or on the job
Lack of energy or motivation
Change in self-care habits
Strange or unexplained behavior changes
Neglect of friendships
Irritability or other mood changes
Implausible explanations concerning where they are/who they are with
Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
Chemical vs. Process Addiction
People can become emotionally, psychologically and physically addicted to both substances and behaviors. Even thought processes such as fantasy can take on an addictive quality when it becomes so obsessive that it interferes with responsibilities and relationships.
Exercise (to the exclusion of relationships or to the point of injury)
Internet use (gaming, chat rooms)
Compulsive chemical use and behaviors as well as obsessive thought processes cause chemical changes in the brain that eventually lead to physical changes in the brain that can now be detected. Behaviors and thought processes, when they become addictive, are just as difficult to interrupt as chemical addictions and withdrawal symptoms are similar.