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Addiction Explained

Updated on December 31, 2014

What is Addiction

Addiction is the continued abuse of a mood-altering substance or behavior. It refers to psychoactive substances that cross the blood-brain barrier; temporarily altering the chemical balance of the brain as well as to psychological dependency, as may be the case with certain behavioral tendencies. The term addiction is also used to describe a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity despite harmful consequences. Classic hallmarks of addiction include impaired control over and fixation with substances or behavior, continued practice notwithstanding adverse consequences and denial. Habits and patterns allied with addiction are characterized by instantaneous gratification, coupled with tardy deleterious effects.

Effects of Addiction

Addiction can have profound effects on an individual’s thoughts feelings and behavior. It disturbs perceptions and attitudes thus significantly disrupting someone’s personality. This isn’t just as a result of the natural interference of the natural chemistry of the brain; the experience of the addiction itself has direct effect on the person.

A person’s thoughts or cognitions can serve many functions, for instance defensiveness. Thoughts may become obsessive as an addict pursues the use of addictive substance or behavior. This may be to calm the cravings or curb the withdrawal symptoms. Craving is the effect of addiction whereby the addict is obsessed with continued use of the substance or practice, to the exclusion of all else. One of the psychological effects of craving is the belief by the addict that they cannot fully function or handle life without continual engagement in the practice.

Of Thoughts and Feelings

Psychological effects of an addict can be divided into those that relate to feeling and those relating to thinking. Many of the feelings experienced in addiction are from a sense of being unable to gain control of oneself or the drug. Some come from finding one behaving in ways contrary to individual beliefs and principles for instance shame and guilt. Some feelings come from the misery of being in the mess that is causing havoc to most, if not all, areas of the individual’s life.

Many of the thought patterns in addiction are defensive and designed to protect the addiction. Some are responses to the stresses of the lifestyle of addiction. Some of the thoughts include that others are responsible and can heal the addict such as the drug, denying reality, obsession and grandiosity among others.

Addiction and Denial

Denial is the most common thought process employed in dealing with addictions. It is used by the addict to provide a false sense of security for himself. By this, he tries to convince himself that everything is fine and under control. For instance a student who proclaims that taking drugs and enjoying the feel of it is harmless, and when duty calls later in life; in employment and parenthood, he will be able to stop. He is clearly denying that it will be difficult to disengage.

Consider a father who will go to his study and watch pornography with the guise that it is purely just entertainment, denying that it will have a negative effect on his marriage. This in turn possess a difficult and frustrating situation for their friends and loved ones as trying to confront the denial would result in anger. Confronting and facing denial would require courage and honesty on the part of the addict and those concerned with the individual’s wellbeing.

The Obsessed Addict and Grandiose Thinking

Obsessive thinking is thinking focused entirely on a specific object. In this context, the addictive substance or behavior is on the boat’s steering wheel and is what steers the individual’s life in a particular direction. The addiction spells out on who and what the individual spends his time and money, what he has to do to get the substance and what he has to do to cover up or substantiate the obsession. All resources are directed at obtaining the object of obsession.

Obsessive thinking can make the individual lose context of the things that matter in his life such as attending to school work or studying for examinations or even paying up house bills. In light of these, it takes over the individual’s life thus having a negative impact on his life status.

Grandiose Thinking

Also resultant of addiction is grandiose thinking. This involves the individual making it an ‘it is all about me’ affair. In this case, it is that nothing is more important than the addict and his addiction. They have an unrealistic sense to their importance. They appear pompous and pretentious to other people. They may have feelings of superiority and even condone the belief that no harm can come to them. In severe cases, it can be mixed with religious overtones; for instance, the individual may believe they are on a special mission from God.

Most addicts can use grandiosity as a defense mechanism to hide their feelings of vulnerability and low self-worth. Thus, they inflate their sense of self to help push people away to escape vulnerability.

Addiction is not an equation with a universal solution. Every case is unique and should be treated as such.

Look out for the next article, where we go further into the psychological impact of Addiction.


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    • VationSays profile image

      VationSays 3 years ago


      And indeed people should put in mind what is going through an addict's mind as they try to handle the situation. In addition, the situation affects both the addict and those around them. It's a global problem that should be intricately looked into.

    • mdscoggins profile image

      Michelle Scoggins 3 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Hi VationSays, great overall explanation of addiction. With such a widespread disorder it is essential that people know how to identify addiction. Plus to understand the defenses that many time push families away and make them afraid to confront the addict for fear of retaliation. Voted Up.