- Mental Health
You Can Be Addicted To Something Without Knowing It
Gambling can become an addiction...
Even If You Think You Are Not Addicted...
There are things today that people can become addicted to, without even realizing that what is at issue is truly an addiction. People often use the rationale "well, I just like doing this" to explain away something that really could be considered a problem.
Living here in Las Vegas, we see signs hanging up at several casinos that say something to the effect of "If gambling is no longer fun for you..." and then they follow that statement by giving you a phone number to call or a website to check out for gambling addiction. Yes, there really is such a thing as an addiction to gambling.
In fact, other activities that some would simply consider to be fun can also end up becoming addictions. This includes things like shopping, video games, surfing the Internet, or even eating. Yes, we all need to eat ~ the thing is, we do NOT need to use food purely as a comfort seeking activity, or stuff ourselves to the point where we begin to feel sick.
It's the overdoing of something that leads it into addiction territory, to the point where it could hurt a person's health, physically or mentally.
What Is It That Causes Something To Become An Addiction?
You might ask yourself, what is it that really causes someone to be addicted to something? Part of the problem is the "feel good" chemicals that are released by our own brains that give us that incredible feeling of pleasure when something we are doing feels great or gives us that pleasure.
These chemicals are called endorphins, which is a blending of the words endogenous and morphine. Roughly translated, it means a chemical that is similar to morphine that is produced naturally from within a person's body.
We are all well aware of the things that traditionally are considered to be addictions. These include things like drugs and alcohol and other chemical substances. But, who would have ever thought as recently as 30 or so years ago that something like the Internet could be an addiction?
Even things that can, on one hand, be considered to be GOOD things can be considered an addiction when they are done to excess. Take work for example... no really, take it (I don't have that addiction, fortunately ~ Laughing!!)
People are praised for a fantastic work ethic and for being conscientious when they do a great job at something. That's a good thing! But, when work becomes all-encompassing and becomes something a person spends a lot of hours daily doing, and subsequently the only thing a person is thinking about, it crosses over to become an addiction. Hence the term "workaholic."
In fact, if someone can look at you and tell you that something is "all you ever think about... you eat, sleep, breathe and dream it" ~ that thing can possibly be considered an addiction. If you are so drawn, inexplicably in some cases, to do the same activity over and over, for long stretches at a time, it could be that you are addicted to it.
Even a good thing, something that is normally considered to be very healthy like exercise, can cross over into addiction territory if we are not careful. Exercise is something that's been proven to cause an increase in the pleasure endorphins in the brain, leading a person to want to keep doing it. When it becomes something a person constantly thinks about or feels pushed to do for more than a few hours a day, it can cross over into being an addiction.
Practically anything done to excess, seemingly without the desire or ability to stop doing it, can turn into an addiction. Whether it is the Internet, television watching, the desire to eat strange things, hoarding, sexual activity or even something as seemingly innocuous as shopping or gambling, these things can become dangerous when taken to an extreme.
Addicted to love? Maybe!
We have probably all heard the Robert Palmer song "Addicted To Love." Did you know there really is such a thing? The same chemical that contributes to a person becoming addicted, endorphins - those feel good chemicals - are also released when we fall in love. Some people become addicted to this, leading them to sometimes risky behaviors where they are constantly seeking the "rush" of a new love.
This can become dangerous when a person makes bad choices and chooses partners who are dangerous or simply not good for them. Health can suffer, as well as a person's relationships and their quality of life when these bad choices are made.
Other Non-Traditional Addictions Can Be Detrimental
Other non-traditional addictions that have come into the public eye recently because of reality television include addictions to hoarding and addictions to strange foods and bizarre behaviors. Unfortunately, some of these things are becoming more common.
Hoarding, for example, can be the hoarding of things, whether they are useful or not. Shopping addiction can lead to hoarding in cases where shopping bags with new items are put into a pile, without ever being opened or used. At the heart of a true hoarding addiction can be psychological problems like feelings of abandonment, estrangement from loved ones and other serious mental health problems.
Another even more dangerous form of hoarding happens when people hoard animals. Whether they are cats, dogs, birds or reptiles, the place where the animals are being kept often becomes extremely unsanitary and therefore dangerous places to be. People's health can be affected by the unsanitary conditions in these homes, often leading to respiratory and skin infections and other conditions.
Animal hoarding behavior is often attributed to a need to be needed by animals or even an unexplainable need to exert control over animals by keeping as many as possible under one roof. Animal hoarders often have trouble seeing that what they are doing is hurtful to the animals. Their desire is to be helpful to them, not to hurt them, and it can be difficult to convince them that what they are doing is hurting animals.
Is It Really An Addiction?
So, how do you know if you really are addicted to something in the clinical sense of the word? One key sign is the feelings you go through when you try to stop the harmful or unwanted behavior. Do you feel nauseous, nervous, feel heart palpitations, discomfort, or feel as though you are going through a type of withdrawal from trying to end the behavior? You might be addicted to something you didn't even realize you were addicted to.
Some people can also have a biological predisposition to becoming addicted to things, which is sometimes called an "addictive personality." If others in your family have become addicts in the past, you could be at risk. This is a good thing to be aware of so you can try to avoid the things that family members have become addicted to, whenever that's possible.
If you do discover that you are addicted to something, you can probably find some type of help group or support group that may be able to offer help. Mental health professionals can also be a valuable resource to find help or to lead you to the help you need.
The important thing is to find the help you need so you can become free from whatever it is that is making you feel like you are addicted. Pleasurable things are meant to be just that ~ pleasurable. When they become all-encompassing, overwhelming and feel like they are turning into unhealthy obsessions, it may be time to find help.