A Guide to Addiction, Its Types, and How to Treat Them

Addiction is a complicated disease to grasp and even more complex to cure. But, with much research done on addiction over the past years, we are now at a time when medical professionals have a good grip on helping people get over addiction.

Generally, experts recognize two types of addiction. Experts refer to behavioral addiction when the addiction is not related to substances, such as gambling and shopping addictions. On the other hand, experts refer to chemical addiction as when a person is addicted to substances such as alcohol and drugs. 

In this article, we’ll talk about the two types of addiction and how they work, the signs you need to look out for, and how to help people struggling with addiction deal with it.


Chemical addiction

Chemical addiction, or what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) calls “substance use disorder”, is a type of addiction in which people get addicted to chemical substances. However, while it seems simple enough at first glance, it’s still a very complex disorder, as experts still have different opinions regarding substance use disorder, dependency, and addiction.

Aside from calling it a different name, the new classification also gives healthcare professionals more diagnostic criteria to evaluate the severity of the addiction. According to DSM-5, it can be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe.

Commonly, people who are suffering from chemical addiction are dependent, in varying degrees, on substances such as alcohol, opioids, cannabis, nicotine, and cocaine, among others.

If you think you or someone you know is suffering from chemical addiction, here are the signs you need to look out for:

  • A craving for the substance that affects your ability to think clearly
  •  You feel an uneasy feeling when you don’t have access to the substance
  • Problems managing responsibilities due to addiction to the substance
  • You feel the need to ingest more of it to get the same experience again
  • It’s negatively affecting your relationships
  • Disinterest in activities you used to love
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms after extended periods of not taking the substance

If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to see a healthcare professional to check if you have an addiction so you can deal with it as soon as possible.

Behavioral addiction

A Guide to Addiction

If you or someone you know doesn’t have a problem with chemical addiction but has some behaviors and hobbies they’re having a difficult time reining in, to the point that it has become problematic, it may be an entirely different problem — a behavioral addiction.

Unlike chemical addiction, research on behavioral addiction isn’t as advanced as of yet, which is why experts still have many questions regarding it and if they should really be described as addictions. Generally, experts aren’t clear on which behavior patterns can be problematic and the point behaviors become addictions.

Due to the lack of research and evidence on behavioral addictions, it still doesn’t have official diagnostic criteria that can be used when diagnosing people dealing with addiction.

Mostly, people with behavioral problems often cite shopping, exercise, sex, social media, and food as the objects of their behavioral addiction.

Here are the signs that you need to watch out for if you think you or someone you know has a problem with behavioral addiction:

  • An excessive amount of time for just one hobby or behavior
  • Engaging in the behavior as a means to manage unwanted emotions
  • Troubles avoiding the activity
  • Continuing to engage in the behavior even if it’s already having adverse effects on relationships, responsibilities, and life, in general
  • Irritability, anxiety, and other withdrawal symptoms after a long time of not engaging in the behavior

If you think you or someone you know is dealing with behavioral addiction, try consulting a healthcare professional to deal with the problem before it gets out of hand.

Treating chemical and behavioral addiction

The first step to dealing with addiction is acknowledging the issue and getting support from a trained healthcare professional.

For people struggling with chemical addiction or substance abuse, there are many ways to treat the problem, and these ways are often recommended in combination with one another.

One of the most effective ways is to enter residential treatment, which involves staying at a rehabilitation facility to undergo a rehab program provided by trained treatment specialists who can provide medical attention and support.

Another option is seeking therapy and counseling, where therapists will help you explore the reasons behind the addiction and develop strategies to help fend off the addiction. You can also join a support group.

If necessary, doctors may also recommend medication to ensure a greater chance of recovery from the addiction.

On the other hand, the treatment options for behavioral addictions are much more limited. Usually, healthcare professionals will recommend therapy as a course of action in treating behavioral addiction.

When it comes to therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is recommended for behavioral addiction, as it’s focused on the inner thoughts and feelings that may be causing problems. CBT also helps in coming up with coping mechanisms to prevent succumbing to the addiction.

Of course, depending on the patient and the situation, self-help groups and support groups can be helpful in terms of providing support for people struggling with a behavioral addiction.

You need commitment and time, but addiction is treatable

Addiction shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s a health and well-being problem that has turned the life of too many people upside down.

When dealing with chemical or behavioral addiction, it’s crucial to see it as a healthcare and wellness problem and treat it as such, with as much time and commitment as necessary.

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