An illness is a condition in which the body is deteriorating. In some way, the life in the body is decreasing. For instance, it may happen through damage to the lungs because of excessive smoking which in turn can lead to lung cancer. Or another example is damage to the liver because of excessive drinking, which can lead to cirrhosis.
In the same way, addiction is an illness of the brain. It’s considered an illness because addiction can change the brain in fundamental ways. It affects one’s idea of what their needs and desires are, changing priorities of survival for the use of the drug.
Slowly, a compulsion develops which undermines one’s ability to control their impulses despite knowing that it’s not good for them. This sort of compulsion and ignoring what the body needs to stay healthy is similar to other forms of mental illness.
How to Define an Addiction
An addiction could be defined by a loss of control. If an individual has lost power over their drinking or drug use, then it’s beginning to fit the definition of addiction. When the use of drugs or alcohol becomes the sole focus of one’s life to the exclusion and detriment of other life-activities, that’s when it might be an addiction.
And it should be noted here too that the pattern of compulsive behavior can manifest in other areas of life, not just an addiction to drugs or drinking. The compulsory behavior that characterizes addiction can happen with gambling, pornography, other sexual activities, and shopping.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) recognizes addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, sexual activities, and shopping as a mental illness. Whenever the cycle of addiction is at work – meaning that the brain is triggered with the compulsory behavior and a person experiences a high – the mental illness of addiction is present.
The illness of addiction can begin to develop with the right circumstances. In addition to the contributing factors listed below, researchers are discovering that there is also a genetic component to addiction. Yet, whether the addiction gene is there or not, these four factors might together create addiction in one’s life:
The way you deal with stress
Often, a common unhealthy coping mechanism is using drugs and alcohol. It’s common to turn to drinking for example if you’re feeling depressed, psychotic, unstable, or emotionally at a loss. It’s common for others who had very critical parents to turn to marijuana, a drug that helps ease the internalized self-judgment.
In fact, managing stress is very much related to being able to manage emotions. The two go hand in hand. When someone turns to drinking or drug use as a means for managing their stress, he or she may later find themselves struggling with addiction.
Who you allow in your life
The people that are around us affect us greatly. We are influenced by their thoughts, ideas, behaviors, and choices. Someone who will easily turn to drinking to avoid facing their inner emotions is much different than someone who attends psychotherapy every week and who hasn’t ever thought about using drugs or drinking as a way to cope with emotions.
The differences in the character of those you spend time with will have an effect on your own character.
What you do in your free time
Sometimes, something as simple as boredom can lead to drinking or drug use. Not knowing what to do in your free time can be a door into using. However, other activities, such as the types of movies you watch, the people you spend time with, the type of reading you do, and where you spend your time can also influence your choice to drink or use drugs.
For instance, if during your free time you choose to spend time at the skate park where you know there is access to drugs, you put yourself in a difficult situation.
How you think about yourself
Another large factor in the development of an addiction is the thoughts that we possess about ourselves. If we believe that we are not good enough or not smart enough or not capable enough, there can be more of a tendency to allow yourself to drink. If you believe that you’re low on the totem pole of life, you might have a victim mindset and make choices that are self-destructive and self-harming.
Because addiction is an illness, like any other physical or psychological disorder, it requires treatment. If you’re struggling with an addiction, be sure to contact a mental health professional today.
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