Defining Addictions: Addiction and the Risk Factors

Addiction and the risk factors

A physical dependency or emotional dependency on a substance or activity is categorically addiction. Addictions are compulsive and habitual and can be very harmful.

Addictions are physical or psychological needs that become vital to a person’s well being. Although alcohol and drug addictions appear to be the most common form of addictions, there are numerous other addictions that cause destructive changes in a person’s life.

What Exactly is Addiction?

Addiction is an unhealthy obsession that arises from any type of substance, food, object or activity. Over a period of time, the body becomes hooked on the unhealthy obsession. When the substance or activity ceases, the body goes through withdrawal symptoms and craves more. If the person can fight off the desires, they go through a detoxification process that helps the body function normally once again. Depending on the abused substance, some addicts have lost their life during detox.

How Does Addiction Start?

Depending on the person and the substance or activity, addiction can happen almost immediately or over several years. How it happens is usually tied to a feeling of euphoria or a high that an individual is attracted to. Drugs, tobacco, gambling, shopping or food — the addict continues the activity to retain that high feeling repeatedly.

Research from the American Foundation of Addiction Research says that the feeling of trying to “score” is more addictive to addicts than the actual high itself. It’s this high that pulls the addict deeper into the substance or activity that they became obsessed with.

Addiction Warning Signs

Detecting addiction is much easier than trying to fight it. There are many distinct changes to the mood and appearance of people who are fighting addictions. Drastic mood swings is the most common warning sign. An addict emits bipolar-like symptoms that range from being really happy to very depressed in a short period of time.

Change in appearance is another warning signal. Neat people become messy and personal hygiene habits slip. Disinterest in once-enjoyed hobbies, relationship troubles, increase in financial troubles, failure to be at work on time and taking unnecessary time off work are other signs. Some addicts become violent, verbally abusive and some become socially isolated.

Risk of Addiction

Medical scientists have determined that some individuals are at higher risk than others of developing an addiction in their lifetime. There are four categories that help in determining whether or not a person has a predisposition to becoming an addict. These categories are physical, mental, emotional and social.

Genetics is the physical factor. There may be a family history of addiction or low tolerance to drugs. People who suffer from mental health disorders or those who have low self esteem fall into the mental category. Emotional factors are people who suffer from depressive events in life such as abuse or death of a loved one. The social category is for those who are in social situations where drugs or alcohol are readily available. Youth leaving home to live in residence at college and parties are some of the social factors that contribute to some addictions.

Having any one of those factors does not automatically make a person an addict. It simply means that if someone has any one of those factors, or a combination of, then they are more susceptible to becoming an addict.

If anyone suspects having an addiction, see the family doctor right away. The Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) is a valuable resource in learning more about addictions, or seeking help.

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