This Article is About
addiction
environmental risk factors
social isolation
memory recall
genetic causes
brain activity
How To Cure Addiction
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Addictions. What comes to mind? What types of addiction are there? What are the primary symptoms? Are there addictive personality traits? Are there environmental risk factors? Are there social risk factors? Are there emotional risk factors? What are the neurological causes? What are the biological causes? Are there genetic causes? What medical treatments are available? What community support programmes are most effective?

Unique patterns of behaviour and brain activity characterise addictions. Where there is an exciting leisure pursuit which generates arousal leading to preoccupation and overriding passion we have the essentials for an addiction. Physiological symptoms include heart pounding, becoming tense, excitement at the same time. Every addiction is typified by denial from the addict.

Denial leads to lying about the amount of time spent on and the frequency of the addiction. At some point the addict has lost control and become compulsive. If questioned, they become angered and irritable. Denial about the problem of leads to drisrorted thinking typified by rationalization, minimizing the problem, lying, deceptions.

Craving becomes more intense where the preoccupation increases to the point where nothing else is important. Distorted thought processes occur where the individual minimizes the depth of the predicament or rationalizes the situation to start returning to chase their losses without being aware of the point at which they have lost control.

Psychological signs manifesting compulsive gambling are lengthy times away from both work and home, poor productivity at work caused by intense emotional turmoil, preferring to play slots alone instead of socialising with friends, always lacking cash despite being employed, multiple credit cards maxed out, multiple loans, mood swings on important race meeting days, borrowing money from friends, preoccupation with newspaper racing form guides, frequent telephone calls from creditors, items from home being sold, sudden job changes.

Consequences include poverty, starvation, marital strain and family disintegration, withdrawing from family life, withdrawing from an active social life of friends, emotional turmoil interfering with concentration and ability in the workplace, fear of discovery, guilt and remorse, agitation, criminal behaviour, homelessness, public embarrassment and humiliation and suicide risks.

Depression, anxiety, alcoholism are often associated with compulsive gambling. Many individuals affected by this social behaviour disorder are escaping work stresses, marital problems, avoiding confrontations in personal relationships. Many resort to compulsive betting due to the stresses of financial pressures and when the craving starts, they may commit crimes such as stealing from friends.

By turning to alcohol or drugs or betting, individuals bet because the partner no longer understands them or pays enough attention or is constantly criticising them or there is no longer any sexual attraction or they can't afford what the partner wants. Each compulsive gambler lies to cover up actions while they continue to worry over money for everyday living expenses

With alcohol and substance dependence, the physiological issues involved are tolerance and withdrawal. Tolerance occurs when the individual requires more and more of the substance over time to get the same effect as when they started. Obsessive thoughts and loss of behavioural control dominate their lives.Once the individual stops using the substance, there are withdrawal symptoms which can be physical, behavioural or psychological.

Any addiction to alcohol begins when the brain balance between GABA inhibitory neurotransmitters and NMDS excitatory transmitters is altered. Excessive alcohol consumption shuts down the excitatory neurotransmitter leading to slow communication, poor motor co-ordination, slurred speech. Alcohol actively interferes with tryptophan amino acid which releases serotonin mood hormone. Resulting from this is short attention span, impulsivity, pleasure seeking, decreased blood flow to the front of the brain, premature ageing.

Alcoholics lose 60,000 more brain cells per day so they become more and more brain damaged. At this stage, the liver where alcohol is broken down becomes damaged leading to fatty liver disease, hepatitis, cirrhosis.

What is more, alcoholics are susceptible to diseases such as reflux, esophagus inflammation, swollen and sitended veins through increased blood pressure, gastritis through inflammed stomach lining, aggravated stomach ulcers, pancreatitis, hypertension, stroke, osteoparosis, skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, Vitamin B thiamine deficiency.

Each addictive substance disrupts the reabsorption of dopamine by the neurons in the brain as the synaptic gap space between the neurons in the brain is blocked leading to very high levels of dopamine in the gaps creating the "high" sensation as dopamine receptor cells are pleasure centres. This prevents neurotransmitters from passing through this space to reach receptor cells in the next neuron.

Besides neurotransmitters, the prefrontal cortex in the frontal lobe which affects logical and rational decisions is one of the dopamine pleasure centres.Behaviour connections between the addictive substance and pleasurable responses are laid down in the memory. Addictions affect the learning and memory centres in the brain known as the cerebral cortex, amygdala and the hippocampus.

Therefore, the same brain pathways affected by addictions have their neurological connections altered affecting learning and memory. So, the brain becomes damaged. Another neurotransmitter called glutamate affects the cognitive functioning of the brain to both think and to reason but also affects the pleasure circuits in the brain. Like dopamine, glutamate accesses pleasurable memories. Reduction of glutamate only leads to damage in the memory and learning functions.

Sex addiction signs and symptoms include having multiple partners, conducting multiple affairs simultaneously, obsessive amounts of time and money spent on pornography, obsessive time and money spent on either phone sex or cybersex, continuous use of prostitutes or escort services, weekly trips to massage parlours and recurring sexually Emotive causative factors for sex addiction are thought to include fear of intimacy in real life relationships, release of anger, guilt, shame, managing recurrent stress and numbing of profound emotional pain and hurt.

Loneliness and emptiness are thought to be the primary psychological causes for compulsive shopping in women. As they spend over budget and beyond what the income can support, there are often multiple secret credit card accounts and lying about the amount of money spent. In fact, they have obsessive thoughts about money. Excessive amounts of items may be purchased. Many items are in fact never used.

In the case of betting addiction, cognitive behaviour therapy is essential with relaxation techniques having to be learned to overcome the urge. Environmental cues and stresses prompt the individual to remember the tension and excitement. By inducing calm and control through alternative activities, danger signals can be recognised and lifestyle patterns can be changed. By recording how much time and money is wasted, there will be changed perceptions about the loss of control.

Rehabitation residential treatment is the only therapy to get the addict cravings under control and prevent relapse where coping skills have to be learnt to manage life stress, emotion and interpersonal relationships besides identifying environmental risks and triggers that can precipitate any relapse such as old friends and old places and everyday reminders in the environment which have to be avoided.

At least, 6-12 months treatment through support groups and psychotherapy in small steps is the only way to overcome serious addictions.


Street Talk

You know I love reading your articles. They are so full of good info and not just words...You always present good facts...thanks for another great article on physiology and health

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  about 8 years ago
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