What are addictions?
Under the term addiction Disease experts understand a dependence on a substance or even an activity that can not be controlled by the person concerned.
Physicians differentiated accordingly between a substance-bound and a substance-independent dependency. The latter is also referred to as activity seeking. Substance-related dependencies refer to a substance such as alcohol, drugs or medications. Activity fights can include gambling, working, sex or even sports. The affected person experiences an exhilaration or even a relaxation through the realization of his addiction.
The experience is a temporary escape from reality and must be repeated after the feeling has subsided. In some cases, victims also accept criminal acts. Some addictions are socially accepted while others are generally rejected.
The causes of an addiction have not yet been clarified scientifically. Basically, however, it can be said that social as well as biological and psychological factors are involved in the development of an addiction.
Often people are affected who have to deal with a serious psychological trauma and can not handle the experiences made. Even socially disadvantaged people, whose life is difficult, often tend to an addiction.
On the other hand, wealthy people can be affected if, for example, they feel bored with life and therefore seek escape from reality. Addictions occur in all social classes and affect people with different personality structures.
Symptoms, complaints & signs
The first sign of addiction is often that the person is consuming the substance more often or longer than originally planned - or spending more time on the gaming machine or computer than intended. At this time, however, many addicts talk about having drug use or behavior under control.
Finally, if the person concerned attempts to reduce or stop consumption, this is not possible or requires considerable effort. As a rule, the addict is aware that continued consumption has negative effects, even if he can deny this to other people.
In order to pursue addiction, those affected often withdraw. They isolate themselves privately and often quarrel with their family. They may not fulfill their duties in the home, child care or at work as they used to. Addicts often give up their hobbies. Many addictions lead to financial problems because the money is spent on drugs or gambling.
A clear indication of substance dependence is the development of tolerance. The same dose of a drug causes a weaker effect than before. Addicts therefore often increase the dose. If the addiction can not be lived out, symptoms of withdrawal appear. To which complaints the withdrawal leads depends on the addictive substance. In behavioral craving, the withdrawal symptoms may consist of restlessness, anxiety, aggressiveness, and mood swings.
Diagnosis & History
If there is an addictive disease, a diagnosis is often difficult, because those affected usually admit their problem only when they already suffer from severe physical or mental impairments.
The mere consumption of the drug or its amount is still no information on the existence of an addiction. The attending physician must therefore combine psychological and medical tests and thus perform investigations of the blood and hair in addition to a detailed conversation. Especially the abuse of substances can be determined by the physical effects.
Such diseases generally require treatment, otherwise they will be further intensified and impair the person affected and his or her environment. In addition, substance-related dependencies damage the body and can potentially result in death.
Addictions can cause many complications of a physical, mental and psychosocial nature. A drug or alcohol dependence often causes irreparable liver damage, seizures and caused by nerve damage sensory disorders are possible. In many cases memory abates and heavy alcoholics often suffer from dementia known as Korsakoff syndrome.
Some drugs trigger hallucinations that are extremely frightening or overconfidence for the person concerned: the result may be fatal accidents or suicide. Perceptual disorders, delusions and motor disorders often occur during withdrawal, and many addicts suffer from depression during the drug-free period. If drugs are injected, there is a risk of infection with hepatitis or HIV by infected needles.
An overdose of drugs or alcohol can cause multiple organ failure and death. Very often, addictions are accompanied by a neglect of food intake, which manifests itself in weight loss and deficiency symptoms. Other complications include heart damage, kidney failure, lung disease, and weakening of the immune system.
Since life is all about addiction, friends, family, work and hobbies are neglected until the social fabric finally breaks up. Long-term consequences are in many cases job loss, separation from the partner and a social and economic crash.
When should you go to the doctor?
For addictions, a doctor should be consulted on both substance and non-material addictions. Regardless of which need needs to be satisfied by the person concerned again and again, help should be sought. In case of excessive consumption of alcohol, nicotine or the immense consumption of food, a doctor can help bring about change. If the affected person has the feeling of suffering, a medical aid is indicated.
The consumption of drugs, the urge to spend money daily in large quantities or the indispensable consumption of sweets are signs of an existing health irregularity. As soon as the thoughts circle around the fulfillment of the one need, a doctor can be visited. If it comes to attention disorders, an inner restlessness or aggressiveness, as soon as the addiction is not satisfied, a doctor's visit is necessary. If several hours a day spent almost compulsively with the satisfaction of a need, the person concerned requires medical assistance.
Excessive computer games, drug use, or the obsessive need to receive compliments and recognition should be discussed with a physician. If it comes to vegetative problems, sleep disorders, headaches or the loss of the social environment, the consultation of a doctor is necessary. An inner stress experience as well as compulsive behavior are alarm signals of the organism.
Treatment & Therapy
If an addiction has been diagnosed, the treating physician must initiate appropriate therapy. This consists of medical and psychological components. If there are already physical injuries, these must be treated with medication or even through surgical interventions.
However, the main focus is on psychological therapy. The treatment begins with a withdrawal, in which the person concerned is detoxified under medical supervision and no longer consume the respective substance or can no longer carry out the respective activity. Subsequently, a weaning takes place, which should help to achieve a lasting abstinence from the individual addictive substance. These include talking therapies and working up personal problems that may have led to addiction.
Often also the family or the partner of the patient is included here. Resocialisation measures help those affected to return to their everyday lives. Such a therapy can take several months or even years in total. Addicts generally have a very high risk of relapse, which is why it is not uncommon that sufferers have to undergo therapy more than once before the desired abstinence can be achieved. Basically there is a lifelong risk of relapse.
Addictions can only be prevented to a limited extent, for example, if an affected person finds out the first signs of addiction. The relatives and friends can also visit a counseling center if there is a suspicion that an addiction disorder may be present. Counseling centers are everywhere in Germany and can also be contacted anonymously.
Aftercare is a necessity in an addiction disorder because addicts are considered mentally unstable. Even if an affected person has regained inner stability after a successful therapy, a worsening of the condition can never be ruled out. Follow-up treatments take place in addictions in both psychotherapeutic and behavioral therapy.
There are fabric-bound and non-material addictions. The first category includes alcohol addiction or dependence on illegal drugs. The second group includes eating disorders, buying or gambling. A substance-related addiction is usually treated in a withdrawal clinic. For non-substance addictions, the doctor uses behavioral therapy.
In the case of both forms of addiction, however, the aim of aftercare is to prepare those affected for an addiction-free future. In doing so, they learn to exercise the deliberate renunciation of the use of drugs and to better control the control of their own behavior. Despite successfully completed therapies, an addict may experience a relapse.
In such situations, follow-up care centers are called to which the affected person should turn. In addition to the therapeutic approaches, self-help groups have a positive effect on the development of the patient. Exchanges with other people take place in a more informal atmosphere than in therapy sessions with a psychologist. From this, addicts can additionally benefit.
Typical & common diseases
- Nicotine addiction (nicotine dependence)
- alcohol addiction
- drug addiction
- gambling addiction
- sex addiction
- Computer game addiction
- Internet addiction
You can do that yourself
People who suffer from an addiction usually require professional help from a psychologist or therapist. Depending on the nature and severity of the addiction, drug treatment or even inpatient treatment may be needed.
In the case of addictions such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol or food, a change in diet and general lifestyle may make sense. If an alcohol or nicotine addiction is detected early, an intervention often succeeds without technical support. It is important to recognize the warning signs of an addiction and to take the necessary measures, for example to get in touch with a therapist or a self-help group or to make a change in one's life. Which measure makes sense depends on the individual case.
Drug addiction requires controlled withdrawal. People who are seriously ill should also go to a clinic for withdrawal because complications such as delirium tremens can occur. If you have a lean or frenzied addiction, a nutritional plan must be prepared with professional help. Depending on the cause of the eating disorder, physicians and therapists must also be involved in order to identify organic causes or to work through internal conflicts.