Addicted? No lah, I can stop anytime I want to!

Hello everyone!

I wish all thee lovely people well on this wonderful Wednesday. I do hope that you're up and about at work, at school or wherever the winds may take you. Take a moment and have a glorious whiff of that brewing coffee (or whatever be the pick-me-up of your choice) and let it charge up your batteries for the day.

Speaking of coffee, that gorgeous dark elixir is a must have for a lot of us, and, there I say, some of us may even be 'addicted' to it. I'm sure all of us have friends who would refuse to start off their day unless they've had their morning cup of Joe. But where does the line of addiction start?

That segues us nicely into today's offering by our very own Health Psychologist, Sping Lim! She talks about addictions, and the different way we can be addicted to something, not just the usual means we may already know off. Addictions can be detrimental to our lives, but the good news is that it's not something that you're stuck with forever. There's every chance that you'll be able to break out of it if you wanted to. So have a read down below and see what Sping Lim has to say!



“A continued use of substance (e.g., alcohol, nicotine, cocaine) or frequent engagement in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, study, relationships or health.” The above condition is known as addiction. People with addiction do not have control over what they are doing, taking or using which may reach a point at which it is harmful. It does not only include physical things we consume, but may include virtually anything. Here are some examples of varied forms of addiction:

Substance abuse Behavioural addiction
•       Tobacco •       Alcohol •       Marijuana •       Painkillers •       Sedatives (aka sleeping pills) •       Stimulants •       Gambling •       Sex •       Internet •       Shopping •       Video game •       Plastic surgery •       Food •       Risky behaviour

There are endless debates about whether addiction is a "disease" or a true mental illness, whether drug dependence and addiction mean the same thing, and many other aspects of addiction in which are yet to be resolved. Despite the lack of resolution, effective treatments are available to help individuals suffering from the various forms of addiction.


Step 1 : Detecting Addiction

The first step is to understand addiction. Addiction can be sometimes rather hard to detect. In general, people may not be aware that their behaviour is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others. Family and friends are always the first one who notices the condition. The following explain some of the more common signs of addiction:

Signs Definitions
  • Loss of control
Increase drugs intake or behave beyond initial intention or needs
  • Neglecting other                          activities
Spending less time on activities that used to be important
  • Risk taking
More likely to take serious risks in order to carry out desired behaviour
  • Relationship issues
Act out against those closest to them, particularly if someone is attempting to address their addictive conditions
  • Continued use despite negative consequences
Continues addictive behaviour despite of the known harmful impacts
  • Secretive behaviour
Covering up the amount of substance used or results caused by addictive behaviour
  • Changing appearance
Serious changes or deterioration in hygiene or physical appearance
  • Tolerance
Increase in substance intake in order to experience the same reaction
  • Withdrawal symptoms
Anxiety or jumpiness; shakiness or trembling; sweating, nausea and vomiting, insomnia, depression, fatigue or loss of appetite and headaches

Step 2 : Understanding Physical Addiction vs Psychological Addiction

Addiction can be differentiated by two categories of dependence: physical dependence and psychological dependence.

Physical Addiction

Physical addiction is a biological state when the body get used to the presence of a drug, in which the drug no longer causes the same effect to the body, otherwise known as a tolerance or dependence. People who have developed a tolerance for a drug would constantly increase the consumption of drug and experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug is suddenly discontinued. Another form of physical addiction occurs when the brain overreacts to the drugs, or cues associated with the drugs. For example, a smoker walking by a smoking area will feel an extra pull to have a puff because of these environmental cues.

Psychological Addiction Interestingly, research found that most addictive behaviour is not related to either physical tolerance or exposure to cues. People compulsively use drugs, smoke, gamble, or shop nearly always in reaction to being emotionally stressed, regardless of the presence of physical addiction. The focus of psychological addiction is the need to take action under certain kinds of stress. For instance, the immediate sense of relaxation created by nicotine is one of the main reasons why people smoke.

However, it is not always easy to make a clear distinction between these two kinds of addictions. Addictions often have both physical and psychological components.

Step 3 : Choosing the Treatment

Choosing the most effective treatment approach (medical or psychological) can be challenging. The reason being is that the cause of addiction is often associated with a deeper underlying issue within a person. Each individual experiences addiction differently, therefore it is important to form a holistic understanding of the individual, including the biological, psychological (thoughts, emotions, behaviours) and social (socio-economical, socio-environmental, cultural) aspects. This is essential for developing an effective individualized treatment plan. Unless the cause is purely biological or behavioural, otherwise it is highly recommended to choose an integrated approach which combines both medical and psychological treatments as necessary.

Step 4 : Seeking Professional Help

Professional advice and support increases the success rates for treating addiction. One common mistake that people make in general is to assume that addiction can be self-treated in the long run. Many people succeed in the initial stage. Unfortunately this is often followed by a relapse, in which the levels of addiction may actually increase. Healthcare professionals (e.g., doctors, psychologists) are trained to not only looking into the initial success but also work hard with the patient to reduce the likelihood of relapse. It is also important to recognize that addiction can’t be cured in one or two days. It requires time, professional resources, social support and motivation to help a person overcome the challenges.


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