‘Addiction’ can mean many things to many people, but in general it refers to repeatedly using a substance (such as drugs) or engaging in an activity (such as gambling) for pleasure, even though doing so causes harm or interferes with everyday life.
Addiction is basically a compulsion to use a certain substance or to behave in a certain way in order to feel good (or sometimes to stop feeling really bad). Addiction falls into two main categories: physical and psychological.
This is when your body becomes dependent on a particular substance. It also often means that you’ve developed a tolerance for the substance, so you have to take more of it to continue to feel the effects. If you have a physical addiction, you’ll experience strong symptoms of withdrawal when you try to give it up. Examples of physical addiction are drug and alcohol dependence, including cigarettes and prescription painkillers.
This is when your craving for a substance or a behaviour comes from an emotional or psychological desire, rather than from a physical dependence. Your brain is so powerful that it can produce physical symptoms like those of withdrawal, including cravings, irritability and insomnia. Examples of psychological addictions include gambling, gaming, exercise, internet, shopping, sex and overeating.
A number of generic signs may indicate that you’re addicted to a substance or behaviour.
If you think you have an addiction to a substance or a behaviour, you should seek professional help. Talking to your GP is a good place to start. If you’re embarrassed or nervous about discussing your behaviour with them, remember that they’re obligated to keep anything you say confidential. Besides, there isn’t anything they won’t have heard before!