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Addiction is a difficult topic for many people — usually because they suffer from it or know somebody who does. It can also be amplified by many things, one of which is extreme stress from challenging life events, such as COVID-19. The pandemic has put a unique spin on what it means to have and manage an addiction. Because we are home and possibly unable to attend meetings with support systems and sponsors, it may feel a little lonelier than usual.
Even when there is no pandemic, addiction is top of mind for many individuals and their family members. Because of its complexity and extreme impact, it is important to talk about. Let’s break down the definition of addiction, its many elements, and how to cope.
What is addiction?
Addiction can come in many forms, but a common definition is a brain disease that causes compulsive and reckless substance use and/or behavior. It is also characterized by continued substance use despite negative consequences, impaired functioning, and/or attempts to reduce or stop use. While drug addiction can vary, the most common include addiction to alcohol, opioids, cocaine, and nicotine. Addictive behavior may involve gambling, sex, shopping, and exercise.
What causes addiction?
There is no single cause but rather several factors that can contribute to addiction, some of which are:
- Family history of addiction.
- Biological factors involving genes, liver enzymes, and gender.
- Psychological factors including personality characteristics, a history of trauma and/or abuse, and other mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Environmental factors such as familial relationships, accessibility to substances, peer group pressures, and employment status.
What are the signs and symptoms of addiction?
Signs and symptoms typically vary from person to person, but the most common include:
- Using substances in larger amounts or for longer periods of time than is intended
- Little to no desire to cut down on use or behavior
- Using and/or recovering from side effects associated with use takes a long time and impacts daily life
- Cravings and/or strong desires to use a substance or engage in an activity
- Continuing to use a substance or engage in an activity despite problematic outcomes at work, home, or with family and friends
- Reduced participation in social, professional, and/or recreational tasks or activities
- Using or engaging in activity that is physically risky
- Continuing use or activity despite problematic physical and/or psychological outcomes
- Withdrawal or the desire to prevent it
How can I cope with addiction?
There are several effective ways to manage addiction, and not everyone experiences the same benefits from one given coping mechanism. Here are a few that have worked for people in the past:
- Detoxification under medical supervision
- Medications that target underlying mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression as well as substance cravings and withdrawal symptoms
- Individual, group, and/or family therapy
- Treatment programs that monitor progress
- Support groups
- Life skills training
Because addiction can impact so many areas of life, a combination of treatments and coping methods can be very effective. The first step towards recovery is recognizing that there is a problem. Throughout the process, keep reminding yourself that you are not alone and there are many people who can support you.
Online therapy can help
If you have concerns about addiction or are looking for support, you can speak with a therapist on Amwell from the comfort of home. There’s no need to travel to the office or sit in a waiting room — your visit will be private and safe.
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