- Mental Health
Addiction - when should I be worried?
What is addiction?
Addiction is when you are addicted to a substance, thing or activity. Physically and/or mentally meaning you suffer adverse effects if you stop taking/doing said addiction.
My experiance with addiction
The first thing that comes to mind is cigarettes. Like any other drug it has both positive and negative side effects. Though the now I feel that the Negatives far outweigh the positives. I smoked on and off from the age of 15 to 23. I first became a regular smoker at the age of 19, I quit several times upto the age of 23 when I stopped for good.
When I first started it was only ever with friends who smoked then as I got older only when I had a drink. Then as I started working full time at the age of 19 I started smoking every day. I stopped many times but after a few drinks I would smoke. then a few weeks/months later I would get back to smoking without alcohol.
A big part of me didn't want to smoke, especially after having suffered Pneumonia at the age of 20. (read more about my history here) However I always ended up giving in to my cravings which ultimately came when I was consciously weakened through the use of alcohol. I finally stopped when I decided to give up alcohol due to the negative effects on my brain even if I consumed a small amount. (Read more)
A year or two following this I then made the decision to stop taking caffeine, which again is a drug with both positive and negative effects that is most definitely addictive. If you're a coffee drinker and you don't believe that it's addictive. Have no coffee for one day(or more) Thats how I found out.
When is an addiction a problem?
While many people are addicted to coffee, for most it does not cause much of a problem. An addiction becomes a problem when it starts taking over your life. When an addiction starts to interfere with your life and your responsibilities then it becomes a problem.
To you it may not seem to be a problem but often it helps to take a look from an objective point of view and think about how your addiction or 'vice' is affecting others around you.
While I believe that we are each on our own personal journey, I also find that it is important to think about how what you do and how you act has an effect on others and if this is good/bad for your and their overall wellbeing.
Do you have any addictions?
Do you have any addictions?
Addiction is more than just drugs...
While over time I have always made sure that I knew about and noticed the effects of drugs and now try to limit my intake of such substances if at all. It is not just substances that are addictive. I started thinking about this when I was watching a documentary about Mr Olympia 2012 (bodybuilding) I started to look at my own life, as I have recently increased my gym activity from 3 to 5 times per week.
I started to ask myself 'am I addicted?' 'if so is it a problem?'. While 5 gym sessions per week feels like a lot it is not interfering with my work or social life. While my working hours and social hours are flexible the gym hours are too. If one day I wake up and feel like I need to have a restful day then I can. If there is an event when I had been planning on going to the gym I can go at a different time. (the gym is open from 6am to 11pm) Looking at the negative side of it I have been feeling more tired more often. However the flip side of this is that I have been sleeping better. (read about my insomnia here) Also during time when I am not too tired I have found myself feeling more able to take on work related tasks or even just more competent at completing basic daily tasks and chores.
Stigma of addiction
The word 'addiction' comes with a stigma, in my opinion. For the likes of someone who is addicted to alcohol being labeled 'an alcoholic' is something that is often looked down upon. While many people look down upon smokers calling it 'dirty', 'filthy' and 'unhealthy'. Not to mention other addictions like gambling or even illegal drug addictions.
While addiction is often looked at as a weakness it is important to understand that awareness is key to overcoming an addiction. Often in cases of addiction, people don't like to admit their problem. (in the past, for me, this was a problem)
You may have a problem yourself or you may have someone close to you that has a problem. I believe the starting point is with conscious awareness. Becoming aware of your problem and why your behaviour is in any way damaging to yourself and/or others around you. It is a more difficult situation if the addiction that is problematic is of someone else as you personally cannot make decisions for them. In these cases all you can do is (without being patronising) drop hints etc. to help them become aware of their negative behaviour. While this is not a quick fix remember that if a friend or family member is causing you stress or worry because of their addiction that you can only do what you can and that they are on their own life journey which is separate to yours despite the fact that you come into contact with them at whatever frequency that you do.
An interesting video on addiction
Following the video
While this video uses the example of testing on rats, which is a very simplified experiment compared to humans. It could indeed be on to something. Where more of my addictions became problematic following a trauma with the life changing effects of the trauma. Even looking back to before the trauma I was quite a nervous person, something that I self medicated with nicotine and alcohol.
These are all food for thought, just remember to be the best that you can be firstly within yourself and then for others around you.
Thanks for reading, please take a look at my other blogs if you enjoyed this one.