What is addiction and why does it happen?

Addictions start in several ways. Most often it is a comfort activity, or a way to feel safe. With young people this may be to fit in with their peer group and it is very important for teenagers to feel safe by being accepted by their friends.

Some teenagers seem to grow up more slowly and this makes sense because the brain’s critical decision making centres are not fully developed until their mid 20s.

Often sports people who need to stop suddenly due to injury or some other reason find that they had become addicted to the highs and excitement of the competition and when there is a gap they turn to drugs or alcohol to fill it. There are plenty of high profile people like this in the media.

People who are very stressed often look for some “me” time or a “safe place” with a drink or cigarette. I really enjoy a game of solitaire on my IPad as a quick form of relaxation but I recognise that this can become addictive if I am over tired.

A good example of a woman looking for a safe place and comfort was the wife of a busy winery owner when her husband died suddenly, leaving her grieving but also overwhelmed by running a business that had always been her husband’s domain and being surrounded by wine she became dependant on drinking for a short while. She is very well now.

I have worked with professional people like accountants and lawyers who used alcohol to relieve the stress of their every day life until it got out of control putting enormous pressure on their families as well as themselves.
Stress needs to be managed. It is like filling up a balloon; if you keep filling it more and more without releasing some regularly it reaches bursting point. You do need to be careful what you choose for your release mechanism, make sure it is safe and use it in small amounts often.

A surprisingly high proportion of people have suffered abuse or neglect as children and they are far more susceptible to becoming over stressed. In this case it makes sense to get help to release that childhood trauma, it makes a huge difference to their lives.

A typical example was a woman who came in for help to quit smoking. She has previously tried everything including hypnosis from someone else and always failed. After chatting for a while I asked her to fill in some quick survey questions around how she felt in her everyday life.

This indicated a very high level of anxiety and stress and after a few more questions she told me about a history of trauma and abuse. After 2 sessions of my trauma therapy the same survey showed her anxiety and stress were completely normal

Then she came back and successfully quit smoking - taking the last remaining stress from her daily life – her $10,000 plus annual smoking habit.

For heavy drug addiction, people do need rehab before they can get rid of the trauma. In some cases, especially with Ice, they may suffer from permanent damage and while I can help to reduce the stress, they may remain a shell of who they were. This is absolutely tragic so please encourage people you know get help early.

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