Addiction: The Uncomfortable Truth

Addiction: The Uncomfortable Truth

Authored by Pin Ng PhD

Edited by Hugh Soames

Reviewed by Michael Por, MD

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When we hear the word addiction, drugs such as alcohol, heroin and cocaine often come to mind, but other substances like nicotine, marijuana, and prescription pain medications can also be addictive.


So can certain activities such as gambling and sex. Whatever the case, addiction involves craving, and a loss of control with the substance use or activity continuing, even if it causes harm. This can include problems with relationships, jobs, school money, or your health.


Addiction is not due to weakness or a lack of willpower. Instead, it involves changes in the brain. There, billions of nerve cells (neurons) communicate through a series of signals and chemical messengers. Where messages leave one neuron, they attach to a receptor on the receiving point, like a key fitting into a lock.


In addiction, this communication process is disrupted. Large amounts of a brain chemical called dopamine are released, overwhelming receptors and resulting in the ‘high’ that people experience. To keep the feeling going, they take the drug or engage in the behavior repeatedly. Eventually, the brain changes and adapts, driving them to seek out more just to get the same feeling. That’s called tolerance. Stopping a substance can cause withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, tremors, depression or severe anxiety. Taking too much of a substance or a combination of substances overwhelms the brain and stops it sending signals to the rest of the body – such as to breathing. This is what can result in an overdose and serious illness, and often death.


Young people are especially vulnerable to addiction. The impulse control center of their brains, known as the prefrontal cortex isn’t fully developed, making them more prone to risky behavior and using substances that can cause lasting harm to their developing brains. If you think your child might be experimenting with substances, talk to them about it. Parents can help by teaching their kids healthier ways to deal with life stresses. Remember, like any other disease such as diabetes or asthma, addiction can be successfully treated. So if you or someone you know has a problem with addiction. Talk to your doctor, a mental health professional or an addiction specialist. Getting help may save a life.


Addiction has been described as a global humanitarian crisis. It affects millions of people around the world and has been the subject of numerous media depictions. Addiction is potentially one of the most stigmatized conditions that there is.

What is Addiction?


What happens neurologically, when we actually become addicted to something?


Scientists first began to seriously study addictive behaviors back in the 1930s Before this, it was widely assumed that people with addictions, were in some way morally flawed or lacking the willpower and mental strength to overcome their problems.


Innovative brain imaging techniques have revolutionized our understanding of what is happening to the brains of affected people. We can now see that addiction actually changes the brain structure in ways that can alter the way it works, and process information to understand the ways that this might impact their choices and behavior.


Addiction and reward: Dopamine


We need to start thinking about rewards. Deep in the brain sits the reward and neuronal pathway that connects clusters of neurons for different areas of the brain in a highly organized way, also known as the mesolimbic pathway. The reward pathways primary function is to reinforce sets of behaviors, so if we think back in evolutionary time, it was helpful to have a mechanism that rewards us for behaviors useful for survival, things like finding food or escaping from a source of danger. The primal reward pathway ‘rewards’ actions we take that help up stay alive so that we can repeat it the next time we’re in a similar situation. The reward pathway achieves all this primarily through the use of a particularly neurotransmitter called dopamine, following an appropriate action.


A small burst of dopamine is released by the reward pathway. This causes you to feel a small jolt of satisfaction, which acts as a reward for keeping yourself alive, encouraging you to repeat the same behavior in the future. Dopamine signals also act on areas of the brain involved in memory and movement, which help us build up memories of what is good for survival, and makes it easier to do it again.


Dopamine is also released when good things happen to us, rewarding experiences such as winning a game, or getting a compliment at work, send signals to release bursts of dopamine, more indirectly. If you take a painkiller, like an opioid, or have an alcoholic drink certain neurons within your central nervous system are suppress the resulting feelings of peace or relaxation also come about through a spike in dopamine release this unfortunately paves the way for both drugs and non drug addictions, whenever an action or substances are being used, such as excessive gambling or overconsumption of pornography, junk food or drugs, the reward system floods the entire circuit with levels of dopamine, up to 10 times higher than a natural reward, depending on the route of administration.


This can happen almost instantaneously, with the effects lasting much longer than a natural stimulus. The over-stimulation of the brain’s natural reward mechanism produces intensely euphoric and pleasurable sensations that act as strongly motivated people to seek out more events.


Addiction tolerance


You experience tolerance, a state where you need to experience more and more of this substance or action in order to release the same amount of dopamine. This explains the predominance seeking behaviors commonly seen in long term addiction, eventually areas outside of the reward pathways are affected to brain regions involved in decision making judgments and even memory, begin to physically change with some areas having neurons added, and some areas dying away1


The overall effect is to make drug seeking behavior become driven by habits, rather than conscious thoughts, almost like a reflex. In effect, that person’s brain has become hijacked and concentrated on the sole purpose of seeking out more and more of the addictive substance, whatever the cost.

How does someone become an addict?


Not everyone who tries a drug will become an addict, So why do some people develop strong addictions, while others don’t, we can split the answer into three main reasons, genetics, environment and development, you’ve probably come across someone describing themselves as having an addictive personality, in fact, recent research suggests that up to 75% of the likelihood of developing addiction comes from your genetics, these biological differences can make a person more or less vulnerable to addiction, and can influence the strength of any withdrawal symptoms experienced, if they attempt to quit.


Addiction is quite clearly a complex trait and is most likely influenced by multiple different genes. No one is born destined to develop an addiction. So what else is at work here?


The next point is the social environment and that plays a significant role in rewiring your reward system. For example, if you’ve got a stable relationship or are doing great at work, you’re going to feel pretty good. It’s thought that people who don’t have much stimulation of their reward pathways through social environments or interactions are more likely to seek out addictive activities as a way to stimulate their own neglected reward pathways.


One study found that monkeys lower down on the social hierarchy, who didn’t receive as many social benefits, such as grooming were much more likely to self administered cocaine in a laboratory. The monkeys higher up in the social ladder.


Young people get addicted easier


Now comes the last point, development, we know that addiction can happen at any age, but we also know that the earlier in life someone tries drugs, the more likely it is that they will develop an addiction, the brain doesn’t finish developing until your mid 20s, in particularly an error, that continues to mature during adolescence is the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for reasoning, keeping your emotions under control, and making decisions, we all know how rebellious teenagers are wanting to go out at odd hours try new things, fight back against what they perceive to be parental or social tyranny, as they try to find themselves.


Unfortunately, this means that the adolescent brain is hardwired for taking risks and making poor decisions. This extends to things like trying drugs or continuing to take them, which is why intervention in this group is especially important to prevent lifelong problems, no one chooses how their brain is going to react, and there is no single factor that determines whether a person will become addicted or not, nonetheless, it’s a real problem that millions of people face every day.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction


A drug is defined as any substance that has a physiological effect when ingested. Drugs can therefore range from something as common as aspirin or caffeine to alcohol and all the illicit or hallucinogenic substances that typically come to mind during any discussion of drugs.


In the context of bio-psychology, the phenomenon of drug addiction is of significant interest. What does it mean to get addicted to a drug? How does this happen? And what does the corresponding brain activity look like?


The drug addicted brain


Let’s take a closer look at the drug addicted brain. Drugs enter the body in a few different ways. They can be ingested orally like a pill, injected into the bloodstream, inhaled into the lungs or absorbed through any of the external mucous membranes of the body. At the far end they can be shot into the ear, in the eye and under the nails. The path taken will impact the severity of the effect, as well as the rate of its onset. The bloodstream is the most direct and thus the fastest and most predictable, while the other methods eventually make it to the bloodstream after being absorbed into blood vessels from wherever they were administered.


Some drugs are able to penetrate the blood brain barrier, thus making their way into the brain, while others are not. Of the ones that do most can be referred to as psychoactive drugs, which generally means any drug that affects the mind. This is typically achieved in one of several ways. Some drugs bind to certain synaptic receptors, acting as inhibitors, also called antagonists, while others bind and behave as agonists, meaning that they mimic the role of the native ligand. Some drugs influence the synthesis transport release or deactivation of specific neurotransmitters.


Whatever the case may be, the drug will continue to have its particular effect until it is metabolized by enzymes, which essentially chop them up until they can no longer perform any function. The body will respond to the presence or absence of a drug differently. Over time, if exposed to a particular drug regularly, a tolerance can be developed. This is a decreased sensitivity to the drug, either in the way of metabolic tolerance, where less and less of the drug makes it to its destination, or functional tolerance, where the drug makes it to where it’s going, but its efficacy diminishes often because receptors undergo endo cytosis.


If the body grows accustomed to a drug, it’s sudden elimination can trigger symptoms of withdrawal. These tend to be the opposite of the effect of the drug, and if withdrawal is experienced. It means a physical dependency has developed. This is a big part of what we refer to as drug addiction, a drug addict will use a particular drug habitually despite the adverse effects on the health or social life of the individual.


This goes beyond a mere physical dependence that can develop with certain substances as addiction can also be a psychological condition, as is evidenced by addictions to activities like gambling, which has nothing to do with any substance, but works quite similarly from a neural standpoint.


Physical addiction


Physical addiction can arise with a wide variety of substances. A few common ones are tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, and opiates. With tobacco, there are many compounds that are ingested, and many of these are harmful to one’s health. But the one that causes addiction is nicotine. This acts on nicotinic cholinergic receptors in the brain. These normally respond to acetylcholine. But nicotine is an agonist for these receptors as well. This causes the receptors to open, allowing ions to enter, which eventually results in the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, which generates a pleasurable sensation. The brain responds through neuro adaptation, affecting the binding sites for nicotine, which produces withdrawal symptoms, thus establishing tolerance and dependence. Nicotine addiction can arise very quickly, even after just a few weeks of regular use.


In alcoholic beverages, the active agent is ethanol. This interacts with the brain in a variety of ways. In the cerebral cortex behavioral inhibitory centers are depressed, which lowers behavioral inhibition and processing of information slows down, it affects the center of movement and balance in the cerebellum, as well as the medulla, which impact breathing and consciousness.


Long term alcohol exposure causes neurological changes, resulting in tolerance, which then causes excitation of certain neurotransmitter systems, as well as withdrawal symptoms in absence of the drug.


This is alcohol addiction. There is also a major genetic component to alcohol addiction, or a predisposition that has about a 50% probability of being passed onto offspring. Cocaine on the other hand, is a stimulant, meaning it increases neural activity. It acts by inhibiting the re-uptake of dopamine from the synaptic space, thus keeping their levels quite high.


And finally, opiates like heroin and morphine bind to opioid receptors that normally bind to endogenous neurotransmitters like endorphins, so they mimic innate mechanisms of pain reduction, causing euphoria. Heroin is widely regarded as the most addictive substance we are aware of.


A very high percentage of drug users that go through rehabilitation and completely rid themselves of physical dependence will nevertheless relapse and return to the drug, illustrating that the craving for the pleasurable properties of the drug is a huge factor with addiction.


Countless experiments done with rats in isolation, show that they will self administer electrical stimulation to pleasure producing areas of the brain, foregoing essentially all other activity in favour of maintaining this stimulation dopaminergic neurons project from the midbrain into a number of regions of the telencephalon, including the prefrontal cortex limbic cortex amygdala, and more. We can therefore identify dopamine, as a crucial component of drug addiction, or addiction in general.

How Drug and Alcohol Addiction Affects the Brain


In long term alcohol and drug abuse, the brain physically changes, shrinks and loses its ability to process information. This is because long term alcohol and drug addiction has damaged a part of the brain called the limbic system, which supports a variety of functions including emotion behavior, motivation, and long term memory.


When someone drinks or takes drugs, the limbic system emits dopamine, the substance that makes us feel good. With prolonged abuse, the brain stops making as much dopamine as it used to. As a result, the brain’s reward system receives very little input, and the person has a hard time experiencing pleasure of any kind. That’s why many drug and alcohol abusers are no longer interested in the things that used to bring them joy.


The frontal lobe of the brain also suffers, it shrinks and loses its ability to function properly. This part of the brain regulates decisions, choices and ability to know the difference between right and wrong. When the frontal lobe is not working as it should, you can’t control the impulse to drink or take drugs.


The amygdala is controlled by the frontal lobe and is the emotional center of the brain. Without proper control from the frontal lobe the amygdala becomes over sensitive to stress. In this state, someone can have extreme mood swings and become trapped in a state of panic and worry. Because of this, many addicts and alcoholics are constantly fearful and rarely feel safe.


The cellular structure of the brain is affected by heavy drinking and drug use as well. The grey cells control thinking and feeling, while the white cells provide the connection and communication between the grey cells. They’re like network cables, passing information from one grey cell to another. Persistent drug and alcohol use kills the white cells in the brain. This severs the communication pathways so that information is not passed along properly. The brain can reroute these communication pathways using the remaining cells, but it requires abstinence and time for this to happen.


These negative effects that drugs and alcohol have on the brain are frightening. But there’s good news. If someone can stop drinking and taking drugs completely the brain begins to heal, cognitive function and brain shrinkage can be reversed, new pathways in the brain can be forged and a person can return to normal brain function. If someone can learn to live without the drugs or alcohol, there is hope for full physical recovery.

Sex Addiction


Current understanding of addiction is finding that it is driven by the brain’s response to a substance or behavior, and the rewriting of its own pleasure pathways. This would suggest that sex addiction is just as possible as addiction to alcohol, drugs, or gambling.


Am I a sex addict?


Sex Addiction Self Test



What does life feel like for a sex addict?



What treatments are available for sex addiction?


Because there is no formal diagnosis for sex addiction there is not a formally recognized treatment. However, treatments will follow a model similar to any addiction treatment. One key difference between treatment for sex addiction and most other addictions is that lifelong abstinence is not the goal. Instead, the treatment and recovery process will aim for the patent to develop a healthy relationship with sex. What this relationship looks like will be discussed and agreed with the patient, and will form the goal of the recovery process. It is possible that medications might be used. It is unlikely that these would be prescribed to reduce a patient’s libido. Although such medications do exist, the aim of treatment is to move the patient to healthy sexual desire, not to chemically remove all desire.


Sex addiction, like any addiction, can have devastating consequences, but the prospects for recovery are good. The chances of recovery are maximized when supported by professionals and, especially, when any co-occurring disorders are diagnosed and treated alongside the sex addiction.

10 Criteria for Sex Addiction


Sex Addiction Test


If you have three out of the 10, you may have a problem. If you have much more than that then you should definitely consider reaching out for some help and assistance. Professional, discreet and friendly help is available.


1. Loss of control


When you feel you have almost just have to sexually act out, and if you don’t, you’re just going to explode. When the desire to act out is simply uncontrollable and virtually no power can control the urges. When, despite being fully armed with the facts and knowledge that this time could be the very last time, or that a certain encounter could place you in grave danger. And despite committing to never acting out again – that you go forward and act out regardless. This is what is actually meant by loss of control. It’s loss of self-control.


2. Total Compulsion


When it becomes so overwhelming that you just feel almost paralyzed. That’s compulsive behavior and loss of control.


3. Can Never Seem to Stop


How many times have you told yourself, “wow, maybe my sex is getting way out of control”.  Maybe you told your partner you weren’t going to act outside the relationship, and yet can’t seem to stop. If you’ve tried to stop it you can’t. It may be an addiction.


4. Loss of Time


When you have sex addiction you lose all sense of time. How many times have you gone on your laptop thing you know, I’m just gonna look at a little form maybe 10 or 15 minutes? And next thing you know you look at the clock and three hours have gone by, that’s when you get so engrossed in something where nothing else matters. That’s the loss of time from sex addiction.


5. Preoccupation


Have you ever started planning a three day weekend in Vegas? Where you started looking at were all the shows going to be? Where all the good adult clubs and hookers hang out? Are you looking at profiles for hookers weeks before that holiday weekend? That’s preoccupation right there.


6. Inability to fulfill obligations


It could be work, it could be school, it could be family.Have you missed important engagements to act out? Your kids birthday, your husband or wife’s birthday? Even normal engagements like dinner with friends?  When that happens time and time again you may have a sex addiction.


7. Preoccupation


How often have you missed work, or maybe a recital for your kids, because you were so preoccupied and compulsive about your sexual behavior. How many parties have you ghosted, you know, you walk through, say hi to everybody and you head out the back door, so you can go act out. That’s preoccupation.


8. Escalation


Like with drug or alcohol, sexual behavior escalates. Take for example, porn addiction. Porn addiction may start off pretty basic and then all of a sudden it starts kicking up. So you may change genres, by that if you’re straight, you may be looking at gay porn. You may start looking at groups or Animals to raise the intensity. And unfortunately, the granddaddy of those all at the top for porn addiction is the porn which results in incarceration. Escalation may start off with a guy in his bedroom with a laptop, but to escalate it he may do it in front of the window because somebody may catch it. It starts this adrenaline flow going up and it raises the intensity. So if you find yourself gradually raising the intensity, that’s escalation.


9. Losses


Have you experienced the loss of a relationship, the loss of your health. Have you become HIV positive or become infected with other STDs from your sexual behavior? How much money have you been spending on sexual acting out? Maybe with prostitutes or even porn subscriptions or going to strip club? Those are the type of losses that maybe really impact your daily life. And if you’ve occurred some of those, some of those losses. You might be a sex addict.


10. Withdrawal


Now, this is something that is associated with all types of addiction. Most of the time we think one of the worst withdrawals is saved from heroin. In fact, a lot of heroin addicts continue to use, not so much of the high and the numbing sensation, but they want to avoid coming down in the withdrawals because it’s so incredibly painful. So what does a withdrawal look like for a sex addict? You become irritable, restless, you can’t sleep, can’t concentrate. Those are all symptoms of withdrawal coming down from sex addiction. And if you have those. If you’ve been experiencing some of those. You may be a sex addict.

What is porn addiction?


Addiction to porn is, like, sex addiction a topic of debate; if sex is not addictive, how can porn be addictive? However, it’s likely that exactly the same processes that can cause addiction and apply to sex will apply to porn. Masturbation is physiologically identical to sex, creating the same effects in the body, so used for this purpose porn carries exactly the same addictive risks as sex. However, porn can also carry other risks, particularly with its easy access over the internet.


Many people use porn, either individually or as couples, and the use of porn is not a problem in itself. Problems may be present if that relationship with porn ceases to be healthy. This might exhibit in the usual signs of addictive behavior. It might also present in other ways. An individual with a problematic relationship with porn might find themselves reliant on it to achieve arousal. They might even find themselves preferring porn to sex with their partner. Others might find themselves using porn excessively.

Gambling Addiction Test


10 Questions to help you decide if you have a gambling addiction


Gambling disorder is officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a real mental health condition, and it’s defined by a repeated pattern of gambling behavior, that’s causing significant stress or harm in your life.


The following test is the self assessment version of the North diagnostic screening for gambling disorders, and it’s based on the DSM five diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling. It asks 10 questions to help you discern if you have a gambling problem, as we go through each question mark it as a yes or no. And for every yes that you have, that’s a score of one, and at the end we’ll go through what each score means.


  1. Have there ever been periods lasting two weeks or longer, when you spend a lot of time thinking about your gambling experiences, planning out future gambling ventures or bets, or thinking about ways of getting money to gamble with?
  2. Have there ever been periods when you needed to gamble with increasing amounts of money or with larger bets than before, in order to get the same feeling of excitement?
  3. Have you ever felt restless, or irritable when trying to stop, cut down or control your gambling?
  4. have you tried and not succeeded in stopping cutting down or controlling your gambling, three or more times in your life?
  5. Have you ever gambled to escape from personal problems or to relieve uncomfortable feelings such as guilt, anxiety, helplessness or depression?
  6. Has there ever been a period when if you lost money gambling one day, you would often return another day?
  7. Have you lied to family members, friends, or others about how much you gamble and or about how much money you lost on gambling on at least three occasions?
  8. Have you ever written a bad check or taken money that didn’t belong to you from family members, friends, or anyone else in order to pay for your gambling?
  9. Has your gambling ever caused serious or repeated problems in your relationships with any of your family members or friend?
  10. Has your gambling ever caused you problems at work, or your studies?


So now just take a moment and compile your score, how many answers did you answer ‘yes’, and for each ‘yes’, mark that as a score of one and add up your score.


  • Score of zero indicates that results are not consistent with problematic levels of gambling
  • Score of one or two means that results are consistent with mild but subclinical risk for gambling problems.
  • Score of three or four indicates results are consistent with moderate but subclinical gambling problems
  • Score of five or higher means that results are consistent with a likely diagnosis of pathological gambling, consistent with the diagnostic criteria of the DSM five, up to the highest possible score of 10

For more information on what a score of three or above means, check out our expert guide on Ludopathy (the technical term for Gambling disorder).

Food Addiction


If you experience cravings for sweet, salty or foods rich with fats, or try to eat in moderation, but simply can’t, or if you feel guilt after eating, you are likely addicted to food and experience the same withdrawal symptoms as a person coping with substance abuse.


We are structured to enjoy food, our brains evolved in such a way that we feel pleasure from eating foods that are good for us, the sugar and fruits makes for valuable energy, salt ensures chemical balance in our body and healthy fats store energy.

If you experience cravings for sweet, salty or foods rich with fats, or try to eat in moderation, but simply can’t, or if you feel guilt after eating, you are likely addicted to food and experience the same withdrawal symptoms as a person coping with substance abuse.


We are structured to enjoy food, our brains evolved in such a way that we feel pleasure from eating foods that are good for us, the sugar and fruits makes for valuable energy, salt ensures chemical balance in our body and healthy fats store energy.


Dopamine is responsible for our need for sugar and fat. Even though the food is calorific. It was an advantage in our past, not a health risk. Consequently, our brain evolved a reward system to serve activities crucial for the existence of our species, such as sexual activity and feeding behaviors that activate that system are connected with feeling good. Research shows that the brain starts to react to sugar and fat, even before they enter our mouth. Just looking at food encourages activity of the reward system. The presence of food encourages the release of dopamine, which leads to the feeling of pleasure.


After the consumption of sweet and greasy food our brain saturates with dopamine and desensitization happens. The number of receptors which react to that stimulus decreases, so more and more stimuli is needed for primary pleasure to be felt.


Today, contrary to our historic selves, we have a large variety of food readily available to us, and large amounts of sugary foods among them. If we take into consideration that it’s possible to receive energy from a lot of different groceries, sugar shouldn’t be our priority, like it was in our evolutionary past.


Food manufacturers create packaged foods that intentionally set off our natural pleasure centers with concentrated amounts of sugar, salt, and fat. Think of literally every type of junk food out there, they all fall into those three categories, sweet, salty and fatty, sometimes in various combinations of the three.


The problem is when you eat an apple. It’s filled with tonnes of nutrients and fiber that actually makes you feel satisfied, processed foods are stripped of all nutrients, so you don’t get the satisfaction2


However, the pleasure centers in your brain light up from the salt, fat and sugar, but you don’t feel as satisfied or satiated. So you keep eating. Now, because processed food is immediately pleasurable, some of us abuse the fact that when we are stressed, we can eat those things and feel better right away. It works in exactly the same way alcohol can make some people feel better, almost instantly. As you struggle against stress and negative feelings, you could lose control over your consumption of alcohol. And you could do the same with food.

Shopping Addiction


A shopaholic is a person addicted to shopping. This disorder is also called compulsive buying or Oniomania. A shopaholic buys when he or she is sad or disappointed, usually thinks about money and where and when will be the next shopping destination and time. A shopaholic feels excited during the actual buying of products, but afterwards, he or she feels sad or guilty.


Contrary to expectations, there are no gender differences in shopping addiction. The only difference is that men usually buy cars, tools and electronic equipment, and women clothes and shoes. Usually this disorder starts in the mid 20s When people become more independent and leave their homes.


So, how can you know if you are addicted to shopping?


Normal shoppers usually spend their money smart, they do not buy often and go shopping with their friends or family while compulsive buyers shop alone. If you buy when you are stressed, if you cannot control it, and it has a bad influence on your daily life then you may well suffer from shopping addiction.


So, how can you know if you are addicted to shopping?


Normal shoppers usually spend their money smart, they do not buy often and go shopping with their friends or family while compulsive buyers shop alone. If you buy when you are stressed, if you cannot control it, and it has a bad influence on your daily life then you may well suffer from shopping addiction.


For people with shopping addiction it is the process of buying that is important, not the final product that they buy. They often feel high or a rush when they buy things. We’re not talking here about collectors. Collectors feel proud when they acquire something and the product is very important to them. A common thing is that collectors and compulsive buyers spend a lot of time on planning to shop and analyzing all specifications of a product.


Why does someone become a shopaholic?


One of them is your childhood, if you were neglected as a child or you had a low self esteem. If your parents bought toys for you just to compensate their love for you. Well, all of that can be a reason to become a shopaholic. Another explanation can be genetic shopaholics usually have a family member with a mood disorder or Addiction Disorder.


Why does someone become a shopaholic?


One of them is your childhood. If you were neglected as a child or you had low self esteem, your parents bought toys for you just to compensate for their love for you. Well, all of that can be a reason to become a shopaholic. Another explanation can be genetic shopaholics usually have a family member with a mood disorder or Addiction Disorder.


Moreover culture can play an important role, compulsive buying is more often seen in developed countries with better economics, where you can buy things easier, countries like the USA or countries in Western Europe.


Furthermore, compulsive buying can often be seen with mood disorders, anxious disorders, eating disorders or even personality disorders. Today’s even bigger problem is internet buying. Why, because shopaholics can shop without anyone seeing them, they can spend hours and hours on the internet searching all specifications of products and feel excited because of it.


Shopping addiction treatment


There are a couple of good treatments for shopaholics. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one of them, and another is individual therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a therapy session targeting specific cognitive processes, relating to shopping behaviors.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy primarily deals with what goes on in our mind, how you think and what you think about are major factors that determine your shopping habits and general quality of life. CBT can be group or individual therapy.


Individual therapy is therapy where a client works one to one with a therapist, and tries to explore their thoughts and behaviors, feelings and beliefs. The therapist and client set a goal together and work towards it. Apart from CBT and individual therapy you can read self help books, or go to financial consulting that helps you with planning your budget. It does not solve your problem entirely, but it helps you with financial problems of compulsive buying.


Medication for shopping addiction


There is also pharmacotherapy as a solution, but before using pills, you should try other possibilities. Compulsive buying is a serious problem, not only for a shopaholic, but also for their family and friends and acknowledging a problem is already half of a solution. After that, you should find professional help, which can help you solve that problem entirely.


Dopamine and shopping addiction


Researchers link the pleasure most people experience from shopping to dopamine. When you set out to buy something new, your brain anticipates reward from that purchase. So it starts firing dopamine in the so-called reward center of your brain, which makes you feel great. The primitive biological point of this was to encourage human ancestors to explore. Of course, chasing that good feeling has its limits. Most people don’t have unlimited physical or financial resources to buy, eat or drink everything they want. This is where self control comes into play for an average person, and self control is a relatively new instinct, which may explain why so many people struggle with resisting a delicious dessert.


Desire comes from the more primitive reptilian part of our self control his prefrontal cortex it’s more the newer part of our brain where we engage control. So, the desire will come up for everybody from that more emotional part of the brain, the rational part, the logic center, our self control, tries to control that.


When humans desire something specifically when shopping, the brain ends up using a lot of energy to curb that desire, essentially depleting self control. And once self control is depleted, that’s when most people tend to exhibit impulsive behaviors.


While most people can more or less exercise self control when it comes to impulse shopping, an estimated 5.8% of the US population actually cannot. They’re known as compulsive shoppers. Unlike impulsive buyers for compulsive shoppers buying is not about the desire for an item, it’s about creating an escape.

Characteristics of shopping addicts


Compulsive buyers tend to be perfectionist, they set very high standards for themselves and internalize failures. Compulsive and impulsive spending allows them to escape those feelings for a brief period of time.


A recent study observed 150 participants to compare how compulsive shoppers decision making differs from the average buyers. They found that most compulsive shoppers were essentially unfazed by overspending, while a whopping 77% of non compulsive shoppers experienced disappointment when going over budgets that limited their ability to make purchases. They also found that compulsive shoppers were significantly less aware that non compulsive shoppers have when they exceeded their budgets.


That is of course a problem as shopaholics often ends up bankrupt and like anyone suffering from an addiction, combating compulsive shopping is a huge task. An effective way of controlling impulsive behavior is distance, it’s much easier to avoid buying if you just beeline for the one product you came in for. Remember to avoid peeking at the counters lining the checkout line. Since your self control is likely to be depleted at the end of the shopping trip. Consider shopping earlier in the day.

Social Media Addiction


Social media addiction is a serious problem. Some of the smartest minds are working at top tech companies, purposely designing products to grab your attention and keep you on their platform. After all, that translates to more revenue.


According to research, you may be addicted to social media, if any of the following apply to you:


  • preoccupied by social media
  • use it to reduce negative feelings
  • you gradually use it more and more in order to get the same pleasure from it, which is essentially building tolerance
  • you suffer distress
  • you sacrifice other obligations or cause harm to other areas of life


If you answered yes to any of these, it’s okay. You’re not alone. A lot of people are addicted to social media. There is a solution.


Digital Detox


Some people recommend a digital detox. The idea of a digital detox is simple and occurs when an individual gives up their digital equipment for a period of time. Rather than use digital devices, individuals spend their time doing wellness and social activities. It is a chance to recharge the batteries and become one with oneself again. Digital detoxes allow people to end stress, relieve anxiety, and overcome a dependency on devices including mobile phones, computers, tablets, and televisions.

During a digital detox, a person will refrain from using electronic devices. The detox could be completed at home by an individual or at a retreat. Regardless of the place in which the detox occurs, the aim is for the individual to get away from the stresses caused by digital technology devices.

Gradual digital detox


First delete social media apps for only one day, beginning this process with deleting Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media apps you use from your phone, or just one day.


Doing this will set the bar low enough that it is easy and feasible to achieve, but it will also give you a taste of what life is like without the constant dopamine snacks. Now that you’ve taken a brief break from social media, come back to it with a fresh perspective, and the ability to more accurately determine what is actually bringing you value. Ruthlessly unsubscribe and unfollow accounts on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Reddit, and any other sites that are distracting you, and not providing value. Remember, be aggressive. And don’t worry, they will still be there later if you change your mind and want to re-subscribe. These platforms are ultimately tools, and it comes down to how you use them.


Reclaim your attention. There is an art and a science to setting up your phone for maximum productivity and minimal distraction. Disable notifications for all social media apps. That means no lockscreen notifications, no badges and no sounds. This will prevent you from being distracted every time someone likes or comments on a new post. Taking this a step further, remove any distracting emails from your inbox. Move your phone out of sight. Sounds stupidly simple, right. Instead, put it in another room or elsewhere, out of your line of sight when you’re working.


I can’t stop looking at my phone


Over 2.5 billion people have smartphones now, and a lot of them are having a hard time putting them down. It starts with turning off all notifications, except for when a real human is trying to reach you. When you get a call or a text or a message, it’s usually because another person wants to communicate with you, but a lot of today’s apps simulate the feeling of that kind of social interaction to get you to spend more time on their platform.


If Facebook sends you a push notification that a friend is interested in an event near you. They’re essentially acting like a puppet master, leveraging your desire for social connections so that you use the app more, but notifications didn’t always work like this. When push notifications were first introduced for email on blackberries in 2003 they were actually seen as a way for you to check your phone less, you could easily see emails as they came in, so you didn’t have to repeatedly open your phone to refresh an inbox, but today you can get notifications from any app on your phone. So every time you check it, you get this grab bag of notifications that can make you feel a broad variety of emotions.


It’s the same logic behind slot machines, and slot machines make more money in the US than baseball, movies and theme parks combined, and they become addicting about three to four times faster than other kinds of gambling. Some apps even replicate the process of pulling a slot machine lever with the pull to refresh feature and that’s a conscious design choice.


It helps to filter out apps that use infinite scrolling. Unlike pagination, where users have to click to load new content on another page, infinite scrolling continuously loads new material, so there’s no built in endpoint. Video autoplay works in a similar way, these interfaces create a frictionless experience but they also reduce a user’s sense of control, and make it harder to stop.

Caffeine Addiction


Let’s start off by breaking down the facts of caffeine dependence. Most of our morning rituals consist of grabbing a caffeinated beverage before starting our day to increase wakefulness, concentration, and to get rid of fatigue.


So what is actually contained in those cups that everyone seems to be chugging down most hours of the day? Caffeine is a bitter white crystal and alkaloid. Caffeine is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug that causes the most stimulation in the central nervous system. Caffeine is found in many beverages that we consume daily such as soda, energy drinks, teas, and the most obvious being coffee. Many of us become dependent on coffee for its stimulatory effects.


What is caffeine addiction, and how does it happen?


Caffeine addiction results from excessive caffeine intake. Caffeine tolerance can build just after one to four days of regular caffeine intake and has immediate effects on your body. So how does caffeine exactly enter our systems and exert its stimulatory effects? Caffeine is first absorbed into the system through the stomach and small intestine. This process takes approximately 30 minutes to an hour.  Caffeine molecules then bind to it and then hit the neurotransmitter receptors, blocking the binding of adenosine molecules to the receptors3 Adenosine is a neuromodulator and helps with sleep and relaxation. It is found in the forebrain, in the hippocampus, and increases concentration.


Caffeine molecules displace the majority of adenosine molecules in the brain. Over time, the brain will respond by increasing the number of adenosine receptors, leading to the desensitisation of adenosine receptors. This is what happens when caffeine tolerance goes up, and as a result, caffeine drinkers will require more caffeine for the same effects, increasing their dependence on caffeine. It is therefore important to keep caffeine consumption to a minimum. Due to the withdrawal symptoms and quick ability to build tolerance and dependency towards the substance.


Caffeine addiction withdrawal


Caffeine is an amino acid agonist and binds to adenosine receptors, speeding up dopamine and norepinephrine release in the synaptic cleft. Dr. Ronald Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology and neuroscience at John Hopkins School of Medicine compiled many studies on caffeine dependence, and found that caffeine dependence can trigger withdrawal symptoms.


These studies showed common withdrawal symptoms from caffeine:


  • headache
  • fatigue
  • drowsiness
  • depression
  • irritability
  • difficulty in concentration
  • flu like symptoms
  • nausea
  • muscle pain


Tips to reduce or completely avoid symptoms of caffeine withdrawal:


Cut back slowly: Quitting cold turkey can shock the body and make withdrawal symptoms worse.

Reduce caffeinated beverages: If you’re used to drinking full-strength coffee, start drinking half-decaf, half-regular coffee, or swap one of your coffees for a decaf herbal tea.

Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water is crucial when cutting out caffeine. Dehydration can worsen symptoms of caffeine withdrawal

Get enough sleep: Try getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

Boost energy and GABA naturally: If your energy levels have taken a hit after giving up caffeine, try incorporating natural sources of energy like exercise, nutrient-dense foods and stress reduction techniques into your routine.

Nicotine Addiction


Of the many harmful chemicals found in tobacco products and cigarette smoke. Nicotine is the major substance responsible for tobacco addiction. Nicotine acts to increase the amount of a neurotransmitter called dopamine in the brain reward pathway, which is designed to reward the body with pleasurable feelings for important behaviors that are essential for survival, such as feeding when hungry.


Chronic tobacco use produces repeated dopamine surges, which eventually desensitize the reward system, making it less responsive to everyday stimuli. In other words, nicotine turns the person’s natural needs into tobacco needs.


As the body adapts to constant high levels of dopamine, more and more nicotine is required to achieve the same pleasurable effect, and smoking cessation can produce withdrawal symptoms, which may include cravings, irritability, anxiety, depression, attention deficit, difficulty sleeping, and increased appetite.


It appears however that nicotine is not the only substance to blame for tobacco addiction. At the very least, another major constituent of tobacco smoke is found to reinforce nicotine dependence, notably in adolescence. This may explain why teens are more vulnerable to tobacco addiction. In fact most smokers started when they were teens.


Some people are more prone to dependence than others when exposed to nicotine and once addicted, less able to quit

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Alexander Bentley is the Chairman & CEO of Remedy Wellbeing™ as well as the creator & pioneer behind Tripnotherapy™, embracing ‘NextGen’ psychedelic bio-pharmaceuticals to treat burnout, addiction, depression, anxiety and psychological unease.

Under his leadership as CEO, Remedy Wellbeing™ received the accolade of Overall Winner: Worlds Best Rehab 2022 by Worlds Best Rehab Magazine. Because of his incredible work, the clinic is the world’s first $1 million-plus exclusive rehab center providing an escape for individuals and families requiring absolute discretion such as Celebrities, Sportspeople, Executives, Royalty, Entrepreneurs and those subject to intense media scrutiny.

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Young people are especially vulnerable to addiction. The impulse control center of their brains, known as the prefrontal cortex isn't fully developed, making them more prone to risky behavior and using substances can cause lasting harm to their developing brains. If you think your child might be experimenting with substances, talk to them about it. Parents can help by taking a strong stand against substance use and teaching their kids healthier ways to deal with life stresses like any other disease such as diabetes or asthma, addiction can be successfully treated. So if you or someone you know has a problem with addiction. Talk to your doctor, a mental health professional or an addiction specialist. Getting help may save a life.
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