*Lucy is a 23-year old student who suffered an addiction to ebooks. At first, this may not sound like a serious issue, after all, students could be addicted to much worse right? For Lucy, this addiction was ruining her life. She spent 30 hours at a time reading online novels suffering from extreme headaches and hunger pains, but no matter what she did she couldn’t tear herself away.
Lucy is one of a growing number of individuals suffering from a behavioural addiction. This phenomenon ranges from seemingly mundane compulsions, to the thrilling (i.e. gambling). Lesser known addictions such as gaming, shopping and, in Lucy’s case, ebooks are becoming increasingly common.
Despite the impact these addictions have on people’s lives there is little funding for treatment and the issues are often misunderstood. Dr Neil Smith, clinical psychologist at the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) addictions directorate, helped to treat Lucy and believes the definition between ‘real’ addictions and ‘trivial’ addictions is a moot point. He explains that the people requiring treatment are emotionally distressed with high levels of anxiety because of their compulsions; whatever the compulsion happens to be is irrelevant.
These behavioural addictions follow a similar pattern to those addicted to drugs and alcohol – there is a feeling of escapism and the behaviours trigger a change in mental state. It is thought that the rise of consumer technology may be to blame as many of these behavioural addictions are technology based.
Experts believe that this cause could plateau in the future as we learn to adjust to technology as a society. In the 1950s there was a scare about television as many people overused it and became ‘addicted’ when it was first introduced, then behaviours levelled out.
The treatment for behavioural addictions usually involves a combination of abstinence, therapy and counselling.
If you are struggling with an addiction, seeking help from a counsellor is an important first step. To find out more, please see our page on Addictions.
View and comment on the original Independent article.
*names have been changed