You're going to have to face it you're addicted to...?

Let’s look at addiction in its many forms, what it is and how it can affect you.


Addiction is a chronic brain disease with genetic, psychosocial and environmental factors that can lead to the inability to control your behaviour. Addiction can cause a wide range of health issues and it’s important to seek support if you think you are addicted.

The good news is that there are proven interventions available that can help you overcome addiction. Understanding the different types of addiction, what causes them and how they affect your brain will give you a better idea of what type of treatment may be right for you.

What are addictions?

Addictions are compulsive behaviours that people do in order to feel good or to help them cope with their feelings and anxiety. Addictions can be either physical or psychological, and they can vary from substance abuse like alcohol, drugs, social media and gambling.

Physical addictions involve substances that affect your body, such as alcohol and drugs. Psychological addictions involve activities like gambling and shopping. Eating disorders can also be considered psychological addictions because they're characterised by an obsessive preoccupation with food and weight gain or loss; however, some eating disorders can have physical consequences on your body as well such as high blood pressure or Type 2 Diabetes.

There is also a co-dependent relationship between addiction and depression with many low-mood sufferers seeking calmness through alcohol and drugs which deliver a short-term effect with a long-term price.

How does addiction affect the brain?

The brain's proper functioning ensures our very survival. Three of these survival systems are the fear system – avoid, the reward system – approach, and the attachment system – attach. All of these are intrinsically linked to addiction. 

When our brains function well, we are constantly adapting to our surroundings. Ironically, it is the brain's ability to be so adaptive that contributes to the formation of addiction. Addiction causes changes to the brain in a number of ways including the brain's natural balance, altering the brain’s chemistry and communication patterns as well as causing changes to the brain structures and functioning.  

Addiction is complex and not just a failure of willpower. As an example, the addiction cycle begins with an urge to use alcohol, drugs or other addictive substances. In response to this desire, the addict will engage in behaviours such as overindulgence in drinking alcohol or taking drugs that they know may cause harm if continued over time, but in reality, they fear facing their anxieties.

They use the all too familiar phrase “I have an addictive personality”, or “when I start I can’t stop until it’s all gone”. This leads to negative consequences such as work performance, problems in relationships and accidents due to impaired judgment  - all of which can reinforce the urges for more drug use even though they know how bad it makes them feel the next day.

 Is there a way out from addiction?

The good news is that there can be a way out regarding addiction. Addiction is a disease, which can be treated with therapy and/or medication. The first step to recovery is admitting that you need support. Do not worry! You are not alone! Many people struggle with addictions of varying kinds every day. 

This article is an introduction looking to give you a better understanding of what addiction is and how it affects the brain. If you think you may be struggling with an addiction, talking to a professionally trained and registered counsellor and psychotherapist is the first step on the road to recovery. The opposite of addiction is not sobriety it's about connection.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Epsom, Surrey, KT18
Written by David Campbell, Counsellor MBACP Registered Individual and Couples Therapy
Epsom, Surrey, KT18

David Campbell is a BACP registered therapist and offers specialised counselling in Epsom, Surrey and online giving you a safe, trusting and confidential place in which to be seen, heard, and work through the issues you are facing. My practice is adapted to your needs allowing you to move forward with greater clarity and confidence in the future.

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