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Addiction

Sarah Horrocks
by Sarah Horrocks Published on 25 June 2008

Tobacco, food, love, shopping, the internet...we all have our weaknesses. But for some people these can turn into real addictions, and the pleasure gained from them gives way to unease. How do you know if you are addicted to something? Can you free yourself of an addiction? Here's our guide.

The mechanisms of addiction
Addiction is defined as submissiveness to a drug, an object or a feeling aimed at obtaining pleasure (other than the usual desired effect).
Among the most common addictions are tobacco, alcohol, tranquilisers, food, sex and the internet.
Addiction is a mental and physical state of being hooked on something that is diffcult to give up. It's difficult to control because the addict experiences impulses for the appeasing effects, euphoria or temporary serenity brought by a 'hit.'
If an addict can't get a hit, he or she suffers from feelings of unease, irritability and depression.
Of course, addictions have varying degrees of effect and harm. Some people's small, manageable addictions can be full-on dangerous addictions to others.

The causes
According to Freud, addiction has a close link with the search for pleasure and the idea of death (a symbolic way of dying and feeling alive).
Other psychoanalysts talk about a deep inner lack that can only be filled by the pleasure of addiction. The sensation of lacking and the cravings that addiction causes when it is not obtained are also part of the search for pleasure. It has been suggested that some addicts had had a lack of affection during childhood, or even the opposite (too much). It is also said that certain personality traits, such as sensitivity, a tendency towards depression, independence, lack of self-esteem and the fear of being rejected, are responsible.
According to neurobiologists, people who have real addictions have genetic vulnerabilities linked to chemical wellbeing. Some addicts also secrete less endorphins (pleasure hormones) and have more need to fill a hole.
The complexity of addiction lies in the fact that we know the pleasure it brings is temporary and that in the end it causes more harm than good.

How to free yourself of addiction
Healing comes via a less anxious relationship with desire, in a way that allows the person to take life more serenely and regain independence from the addiction. And that’s where all the difficulty lies. Once the addiction has been recognised and can't be denied, it needs to be faced. The best way to deal with addiction is to call upon family and friends or see a therapist if you need to (if the addiction is strong). Then comes the period of change. You need to be able to speak openly about it, express your emotions especially when they are negative and when the need is too strong. Exploring certain dreams may also be able to explain where the addiction comes from. Some specialists also advise a change of environment and way of thinking to give new meaning to life. In short, find other pleasures that are less destructive. The beginning is always difficult because of the process of withdrawl and the side effects.

Relapse
Don’t panic! Relapse is common and you can pick yourself straight back up again. Each failure gradually allows you to take a step further away from addiction, by realising to what extent it has poisoned your life and harmed your relationships.

How do you help someone who is addicted?
If you want to help, first of all you need to comfort them without criticising or attacking them. Listen, accept their mood swings and stay firm while showing them that you have confidence in them. For example, if someone is addicted to tobacco, food or the internet, don’t be afraid to be firm and forbid them access to their addiction as much as possible, especially in your presence. With force, the harmful habit will die out with time. When the habit affects a relationship, don’t be afraid to say that you can't go on, that you are suffering because of it, and, if you need to, leave. Even if it's painful to think of the other person suffering without you there, it could be the shock they need and could be their salvation.
And psychological help can also be useful for the partner as well as for the addict.

by Sarah Horrocks

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