Addiction refers to a difficulty in controlling certain repetitive behaviours to the extent that they have harmful consequences. They are the result of powerful compulsions to use and do certain things excessively, often out of a need to escape from upsetting emotions/situations. These compulsions can trigger a self-perpetuating process, which can cause pain and suffering not only for those addicted, but also for their friends and family.

Addictions can develop from many activities, including drinking alcohol, taking drugs, eating, gambling, having sex and using the Internet. Often addictions begin as a result of how these activities make people feel emotionally and physically. These feelings can be pleasurable – triggering a powerful urge to carry out the activity again to recreate this ‘high’. This can develop into a repetitive cycle that becomes very hard to break.

In many cases people who are addicted are not aware of their addiction and the impact it may be having on their work, relationships and health. As a result many are unable to quit on their own and treatment is required. Addiction treatment such as counseling is crucial for helping sufferers to recognize their condition and how their emotional needs are affecting their behavior. This can be an important step on the road to recovery and, eventually abstinence.

What causes addiction?


Nearly anyone can become addicted, and it is estimated that two million people in the UK are currently suffering from an addiction of some sort. The reasons why people become addicted vary, although they are not fully understood. Typically addiction tends to be a result of a combination of physical, emotional and circumstantial factors, such as the following:

  • Family history – Numerous studies have shown that children who have parents with addictions are more likely to develop an addiction themselves.
  • Mental health issue –Addictions tend to be more common among those who have mental health problems such as depression or anxiety.
  • Early use of substances such as drugs or alcohol –Evidence has shown that the earlier a person is exposed to certain addictive substances and activities, the more likely they are to become addicts.
  • Social environment –People are thought to be more vulnerable to addiction if they live, go to school or work in an environment in which use of addictive substances, and involvement in addictive activities, is common.
  • Childhood trauma – Extensive research has shown that children who suffer from abuse or neglect – or experience persistent family conflict, sexual abuse or other trauma – are more vulnerable to developing an addiction.
  • Stress – Science strongly supports a link between addictions and stress


Signs and symptoms of addiction 

There are many signs and symptoms of addiction. Although these may vary slightly depending on specific substance or activity that is used, every addiction has the capacity to greatly impact self-esteem and confidence – inducing troublesome feelings, such as shame, guilt, a sense of hopelessness and failure. People struggling with an addiction are also likely to experience the following physical and emotional symptoms:

  • Inability to limit use of a substance or activity to the extent that they show signs of physical impairment.
  • Intense cravings and compulsions to use the substance or activity.
  • Escalating use of the substance or activity – indicating tolerance.
  • Continued use of the substance or activity despite increasingly negative consequences.
  • Irritability, anxiety, poor focus, the shakes and nausea if they attempt to withdraw from the drug or activity.
  • Repetitive relapsing.
  • Personality and behavioural changes, such as taking risks (either to make sure they can obtain a substance/activity, or doing so while under the influence).
  • Neglecting responsibilities and important activities in everyday life, including school/work.
  • Becoming increasingly obsessed with focusing all their time and energy on ways of getting their substance/activity.