Help for Myself
Recognising that you have an addiction is a courageous step. It can feel impossible to imagine a life free from drugs, alcohol or other addictive behaviours, and even admitting to yourself that you need help can induce feelings of anxiety and stress.
Remember, only you have the power to take action and change your ways. You can free yourself from the trap of addiction and build a happy, fulfilling life free from substance abuse and addiction.
Do I have an addiction?
It can be difficult to look objectively at your own behaviour and deduce that you have an addiction, as our behavioural patterns and routines can quickly become normalised. However there are a number of physical, psychological and behavioural indications that can point towards addiction or dependency, and these warning signs should never be ignored.
1. Physical signs of addiction
- Excessive weight loss or weight gain
- Lack of grooming and poor personal hygiene
- Increased number of abscesses and scabs
- Shaking, headaches and nausea when unable to fulfil cravings
- Signs of malnutrition
2. Psychological signs of addiction
- Frequent mood swings
- Intense cravings
- Feelings of depression and anxiety
- Restlessness and agitation when unable to fulfil cravings
3. Behavioural signs of addiction
- Becoming withdrawn and secretive
- Feeling irritable and cross with others
- Little interest in hobbies or activities
- Stealing or borrowing money
- Neglecting relationships
- Poor performance at work or school
It can be helpful to speak to a trusted friend or family member and ask for their objective opinion – it may be difficult to hear their answer, but try to keep an open mind in this instance and listen to what they have to say. You can also speak to your doctor if you don’t feel comfortable opening up to your loved ones.
If you can relate to some of the below statements, you may be suffering from a substance or behavioural addiction and should consider seeking inpatient or outpatient treatment.
- I have attempted to stop using the substance or repeating the behaviour in the past but have been unable to do so
- I have experienced negative consequences directly relating to the behaviour or substance use but continue to do it
- I find myself being dishonest and secretive about my actions toward others
- When I tried to stop using the substance in the past, I experienced withdrawal symptoms
- I perform poorly at work or school due to my substance use or behaviour
- I need to repeat the behaviour more frequently and intently or ingest a higher dose of the substance in order to experience the same effects
- I often neglect my responsibilities in favour of repeating the behaviour or ingesting the substance
What are the different types of addiction?
Many people associate addiction with substance dependency, but there are specific patterns of behaviour that can be just as addictive and destructive as drugs and alcohol.
It is widely recognised that there are two types of addiction: chemical and behavioural. A chemical addiction involves a compelling desire to ingest substances that have the ability to alter our emotions, mood or behaviour, while a behavioural addiction is based around the compulsive repetition of problematic actions such as betting large sums of money or exercising to a dangerous extent.
It is possible to be addicted to more than one substance or behaviour at any one time – this is known as dual diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder.
Some of the most common chemical and behavioural addictions include:
1. Chemical addictions
2. Behavioural addictions
- Gambling addiction
- Sex and love addiction
- Video game addiction
- Shopping addiction
- Internet addiction
- Food addiction
- Exercise addiction
Why do I have an addiction?
The root cause of addiction cannot always be established. It is thought that certain people are more at risk of developing a substance dependency or detrimental behavioural patterns, but there is currently no accurate model of prediction.
However, there are a handful of factors that can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction.
Some studies have found a link between genetics and addiction, with one study reporting that children with one or more parents suffering from addiction are 25% more likely to develop an addiction themselves. Most people are exposed to drugs and alcohol during their lifetime but many will not become addicted, and it is theorised that the addiction gene may be passed down through multiple generations. 
2. Past experiences
It can be easy to turn to drugs, alcohol or other detrimental behaviours as a coping strategy to avoid painful memories or emotions. If an individual has experienced a traumatic event such as a sexual assault, physical abuse or a terrorist attack, they are more likely to develop a substance use disorder. 
3. Mental health
Addiction often exists concurrently with a mental health disorder, and it can be difficult to know which developed first. Studies have indicated that almost 50% of people who deal with a mental health disorder also suffer from addiction, particularly within individuals who have struggled with their mental health since childhood. 
4 Early exposure
If an individual is exposed to chronic alcoholism or excessive drug use from an early age, they may normalise this behaviour and begin to emulate it themselves. As their young brains are still developing, the effect of these substances can result in physical changes that can increase the chances of forming an addiction.
What steps can I take to recover from an addiction?
Recognising that you are suffering from an addiction is a commendable action and one that must be applauded. However, it is not recommended to self-diagnose an addiction.
If you suspect that your behaviour is detrimental to your health and wellbeing and believe addiction to be the cause, speak to your doctor and undergo a professional examination. They will ask questions about your medical history, run blood tests and explore your substance use and/or behavioural patterns in order to correctly diagnose your condition.
Once a diagnosis of addiction has been established, there are a number of actions that you can take in order to begin recovery.
1. Find a therapist
You do not have to go through addiction recovery alone. Finding a therapist that specialises in addiction can kickstart your recovery, allowing you to take control of your life and examine your behaviours and mindset that may be subconsciously contributing to your issues.
An experienced therapist can provide strategies and coping skills for dealing with stressful situations without resorting to addictive substances and behaviours, challenge negative or detrimental beliefs and explore your past experiences to find the deeper reasons behind your addiction.
A wide range of therapy services can be accessed through the NHS or through specialised addiction treatment programmes, and many therapists work privately with clients both in their offices and over video conferences.
2. Build a strong support system
Many people dealing with addiction feel a great sense of shame and guilt, and may attempt to hide their problems from those closest to them. But finding the courage to speak openly to your friends and family about the issues you face can be surprisingly relieving, and you may discover that they can offer advice and guidance on your path to recovery.
Never underestimate the power of a strong support system. The people who care about you will want to support you through your addiction – they can help you to talk through your cravings and avoid triggering situations, encouraging you to keep going during times of difficulty. This can also help to alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation, two of the main factors that contribute to relapse.
3. Re-evaluate your relationships
Your social circle can be one of the greatest barriers to recovery. If you are attempting to recover from cocaine addiction, surrounding yourself with friends and family members who regularly indulge in this substance will put you at greater risk of relapse. Likewise, a recovering gambling addict should avoid meeting friends at casinos and betting shops even if they have no intention of placing any bets while they are on the premises.
It can be difficult to let go of long-term friends and relationships, but your health and recovery are worth the battle. There are many people out there who enjoy a life free from addictive substances and behaviours, and you may find some of them at 12 Step meetings or recovery groups if you choose to attend.
4. Check into a rehabilitation centre
For more severe addictions, a specialised rehabilitation centre can provide a safe and secure environment in which to undergo detoxification and recovery. You will be assessed and provided with a personalised treatment programme which may include a physical detox, individual or group therapy and an effective aftercare plan to increase the chances of long-term recovery.
Depending on your personality and level of addiction, counselling options can include cognitive behavioural therapy, group therapy, family therapy or complementary holistic practices such as mindfulness and meditation.
A rehabilitation centre can be attended as an inpatient or an outpatient and is the most effective method of addiction recovery available.