At any point in time more than 36% of Americans are diagnosed with an
alcohol or drug addiction
- 10% of Americans have a gambling addiction
- 11% of Americans have an eating disorder
37% percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have
at least one serious mental illness
Addictions are caused by many factors including a chemical imbalance in
the brain, pre-existing mental health conditions and situational
factors (loss, grief, stress).
Addictions are any substance, person or activity that a person regularly uses to escape from/numb emotional feelings and they continue to use it despite the fact that it causes them problems such as marital problems, loss of children, problems at work or legal problems
Most people who develop addictions do not have sufficient coping skills to meet their needs. Addictions help people escape from unpleasantness; nevertheless, whatever the problem, it usually does not go away–it only gets worse. The definition for addictions is very broad and includes eating disorders, drug addiction, sexual addictions, smoking, gambling, co-dependency and work addictions. If a behavior is causing a person “significant mental or physical discomfort” with some regularity, they may have an addiction.
The following are characteristics of people with addictions:
- Spent more time that anticipated trying to get the substance, trying to be around the person or doing the behavior (like gambling or sex)
- Used the substance, stayed in the relationship or did the behavior (like gambling or sex) despite knowing the problems it could cause
- Spent more money than you anticipated trying to get the substance, do the behavior or stay in the relationship
- Failed to fulfill family/work/school obligations as a result of using or recovering from use
- Used more of the substance than intended
- Legal problems as a result of use, doing the behavior or staying in the relationship
- Used the substance, did the behavior or stayed in the relationship for longer than intended
- Work/home or family problems as a result of the use of the substance, staying in the relationship or doing the behavior
- Needed more of the substance or activity to get the same high
- Put yourself in dangerous situations while getting or using the substance, doing the behavior or staying in the relationship
If two or more of the statements above are true about you, it is likely you have an addiction.
What now? Well, there are two main self help groups, 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous and a program called SMART Recovery
Smart Recovery. Most places in the US have both types of meetings, and you can find online meetings as well. Aside from self-help, many people find assistance through cognitive behavioral and solution-focused brief therapy Helping People Prepare for Change and Addiction Brief Therapy. Although it is true there are often issues addicts need to deal with, the first steps are to admit that the addiction is not a helpful way of coping and learn new ways to cope. Starting to dive into issues before learning new coping skills is like throwing a drowning person a glass of water.