Not all addictions are obvious to the onlooker. The drunk living on the street and the homeless heroin addict are often what we think of when we conjure up the image of someone suffering with an addiction.
Some addictions are discreet, perhaps acceptable. Doesn't everyone drink a few glasses of wine after a stressful day at work?
"If you had a life like mine you'd need a few drinks too!"
"I work hard to play hard".
Who knows that you vomit after every meal? Perhaps no one, but your dentist has noticed the enamel wearing off on your teeth and your throat hurts and you hate yourself. You just want to be normal, but it seems impossible.
Who knows that you spend every lunchtime and coffee break watching online porn? Or that you're unable to concentrate on work because you're checking different sites for casual sexual encounters?
Who knows that you have to take a valium and a line of coke just to leave the house? Who knows that you secretly want to end this thing that is ruining your life?
The shame of a secret addiction can prevent you from asking for help, particularly when it is so easy to hide.
Prescription and Illicit drug addiction
Perhaps you have been prescribed something by your doctor to help you relax or get to sleep more easily, but you notice that you need to take this drug every day and perhaps during the day and it’s worrying you.
Maybe it’s started to effect how you perform at work or your spouse or partner is getting increasingly concerned and you can’t stop.
Your children want you to play with them and spend more time with them and you feel distracted or they’re getting in the way.
Do you desperately want to stop but after countless attempts feel you are unable to? Therapy can offer you a way to stop the habits that are ruining your life.
Alcohol is a wonderful thing! It can be relaxing, enhancing, a delicious social lubricant and something to celebrate with. Can you imagine a wedding without champagne? There's nothing wrong with alcohol.
When it becomes a problem it is not so much fun anymore. Secret drinking, hangovers, arriving late for work, unexplained absences and relationship difficulties, not to mention nausea and looking rough.
Perhaps you would like to stop drinking and feel that you just can't or maybe you've been trying to stop for a period of time and feel demoralised because you just can't do it.
Addictions are very hard to treat on your own.
Compulsive overeating, bingeing and purging also known as bulimia nervosa, starvation or anorexia nervosa can be utterly humiliating to live with and life-threatening.
Feeling consumed by thoughts about food, what to eat, what not to eat, when and how can ruin an individual's life, cost a lot of money and huge costs to health. This is only one aspect of an addictive relationship with food.
Loss of relationships, intimacy, love, pleasure from food and achingly low self esteem, make living with an eating disorder sheer hell. The first step to overcoming this sort of addiction is recognising it and revealing it.
Talking about it with a trained professional can help to alleviate the weight of shame that accompanies an eating disorder.
Sex addiction and pornography addiction
The rise in easy to access, free pornography has sent this addiction rocketing with more and more clients presenting with this particular problem.
It’s not just men, although it can often be more difficult for women to admit to using pornography or websites to access casual sex.
Online dating has also given individuals more and more options for meeting up and having casual sexual encounters, it’s like online shopping, but for sex.
The brain chemical involved in this is dopamine and it’s the dependency to dopamine rather than the sex that is the driving force behind this addiction.
Although talking about this type of behaviour can feel very difficult to begin with, as the addiction is to a brain chemical, the shame attached can be quickly eradicated and once the behaviour is disengaged from, self-esteem rises quickly.
It could be that there is no behaviour involved and that the addiction is purely based in fantasy. This can be just as harmful as it’s the effect of removing the individual from the real world that is the problem, making them unavailable, distracted and unable to engage in normal life.
Spouses, partners, loved ones and children are neglected. Work, hobbies, social life, exercise get pushed to the back of the queue as the addiction becomes the priority in the individual’s life.
Gambling or Gaming addiction
This addiction works in a similar way in the brain as it stimulates the dopamine receptors. The feelings of excitement, the feeling of winning are powerful drives that have grown out of proportion.
It is normal to want to succeed in life, to win, to make money and to feel good about these things. When this drive is amplified to a point when it is out of control, it can wreak havoc in a person’s life.
Loss of income, debt, bankruptcy, destitution can all occur as a result of being caught in a gambling addiction.
Feel good chemicals
The same ‘feel good’ chemicals are triggered by gaming and the individual can literally ‘give up’ their normal life in order to pursue a fantasy existence on line.
The damage to family relationships, work and social life is the same as with all these addictions. They ruin your life and make it unbearable to live it, but it can be so hard to stop.
There is a solution to addiction. Identifying the behaviour is a good place to start and then unravelling and revealing the obsession and compulsion behind the behaviour. Talking about this can help with the healing process, the desire to end an addictive pattern of behaviour and enable a full recovery. Life will become meaningful and satisfying again, perhaps even joyful.