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Understanding the Psychology of Addiction

To fully understand the psychology of addiction, you must identify how addiction is created.

An addiction is a habit that becomes profoundly entrenched and self-perpetuating over time. This habit rewires the circuitry of the brain as it is repeated over and over again. By repeating a highly pleasurable experience, the neurons become altered and adjust to become increasingly efficient at the new experience, causing a person to crave that habit. Over time, that habit becomes an addiction. 

Fortunately, there are ways to create new healthier habits that can reframe and replace the unwanted and harmful patterns of addiction. Still, we must first address the causes and risk factors behind the psychology of addiction.

Causes and Risk Factors of Addiction

The root cause of addiction can involve many different factors, but being exposed to family members that have addiction problems during early adolescence can influence substance use later in life. However, addiction can also be caused due to emotional and behavioral childhood trauma as a consequence of growing up in a home with substance use.

Once the root cause takes effect, the brain is directly affected by the substance or behavioral source. Even though the use of a substance or behavioral choice was voluntary at first, the psychology of addiction shows that over time and continued use, this voluntary action is no longer a choice, but rather it is now a dependency.

Other causes and risk factors for addiction can include:

  • Environment Growing up in an addiction-filled household can play a huge role and peer pressure.
  • Having a mental health disorder like depression and PTSDOne of the harmful coping mechanisms people use to deal with depression or the panic attacks due to PTSD is self-medicating through drugs and alcohol. 

Having an “addictive personality” is another risk factor in the psychology of addiction. An addictive personality means you are prone to addiction, so even if you avoid opioid use because your parent was addicted, you may seek alternatives such as alcohol, which are just a few forms of addiction.

Different Forms of Addiction

There are many subforms to addiction, but there are two primary forms: physical addictions (substance use disorder) and behavioral addictions. 

  • Physical Addictions (Substance Use Disorder) – Physical addiction is caused by chronic use of a tolerance-forming drug. These addictions include substances that are ingested into a person’s body, such as:
  • Alcohol
  • Opioids
  • Stimulants
  • Hallucinogens
  • Behavioral Addictions – These addictions occur when a person loses control of their actions to engage in behaviors that offer brief periods of happiness. Over time, that person becomes dependant on those feelings to maintain their satisfaction. A few examples include:
  • Gambling
  • Sex
  • Playing video games
  • Shopping (regular and online)

In the psychology of addictive behavior, once a bad habit is formed and repeated, it isn’t long before it becomes a daily event, one that we can no longer control. Developing these bad habits can start quickly, particularly when feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or fearful. 

Both forms of addiction elicit a feeling of excitement or “high” during their addictive moments, which leads to increased use and dependence, resulting in addiction.

Finding solace in a substance or behavior can happen to anyone, but there are signs and symptoms to look for, and addressing these sooner rather than later can be critical.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

The psychology of addiction includes signs and symptoms which may manifest themselves differently depending on the individual and the type of addiction. Still, there are definitive things to look for if addiction is suspected. 

A few signs and symptoms that are emotional and behavioral include:

    • Inability to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home
    • Abandoning previously enjoyed hobbies 
    • Problems sustaining relationships
    • Difficulty learning and making cohesive decisions
    • Irritability and argumentative
    • Sleep disturbances  
    • Reclusive and private behavior
    • Mood swings

Once dependency takes over, and the addict can no longer function normally in everyday events, it becomes vital to find help for addiction and recovery.

Treatment for Addiction

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Seeking treatment is essential, and only 1 in 10 people who need it will receive it, but, thankfully, there are highly

-effective forms of recovery therapy available, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), and hypnosis therapy. 

The psychology of addictive behavior breaks down the problem using simple techniques. When CBT is utilized, we learn how our thoughts create our feelings and, ultimately, our behaviors. 

When NLP is used as therapy for addiction, we learn exactly how to change negative behavior patterns and replace them with more positive life-enhancing choices.

Hypnotherapy is an evidence-based treatment used for addiction that allows the therapist to make positive suggestions while the patient is in a trance-like state. Hypnotherapy also enables a person to understand their addiction, and when used in conjunction with other treatments such as CBT and NLP, the results can be a significant life changer.   

Fortunately, addiction counseling is available at Miami Hypnosis and Therapy, where understanding the psychology of addiction allows us to utilize treatments that are integrative and highly customized to each client’s individual journey, which permits for more thorough and accelerated results.

Don’t let the chains of addiction hold you back from enjoying your life. Contact us and break free today!

Anna Marchenko

Anna Marchenko, LMHC, M.A., Ed.M. is the principal therapist at Miami Hypnosis and Therapy. She holds a bachelor's degree from NYU and dual masters degrees from Columbia University. Marchenko’s hypnosis certification is from the only hypnosis program in Florida that has been certified by the state’s Board of Education. She helps her clients by utilizing an integrative approach to psychotherapy, tailored to each individual’s mental health journey, drawing from hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, NLP therapy, EMDR, and more.

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