Counselling for Addictions & Addictive Behaviour
Addictions come in many forms and can be an issue for many people at any age or stage of life.
For some the addiction is substance based, such as alcohol, recreational drugs or smoking cannabis and for others, it is behavioural such as compulsive shopping, uncontrolled gambling, obsessions around sex or food related compulsive behaviour.
Whatever the form and whoever this is happening to (and their partners, family & friends), addictions cost.
Anna Jezuita is an experienced addiction counsellor and has worked with clients suffering from the addiction and with those supporting and living with them and has the therapeutic experience to support and explore the underlying reasons for your addiction.
Addiction Counselling will help you to develop new skills to live a dependency free life.
If you are in recovery, are concerned about your behaviour or that of someone else, contact Anna to discuss counselling for Addictions & Obsessive Behaviours.
Quick links to:
Am I an addict? Am I addicted?
This is best answer I can give:
“Am I an Addict” is not the right question to ask, because the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer will not bring any relief to the anxiety that made you ask in the first place.
The term addict is very ambiguous and emotionally “loaded” with both positive and negative content.
Someone may say “I am a work addict” with some pride.
For those in AA or NA recovery, the term is a synonym of courage too admit to the problem and to feel a sense of belonging to the recovery community.
For others, the term ‘Addict’ means ‘shame’ and equates with mental decline and being pushed to the margins of society. People who are in this category will do whatever they can to convince themselves and others, that they don’t have a ‘problem’ and they don’t deserve that name.
Have you experienced any of these symptoms: lacking sleep, appetite, heart palpitations, headaches, hangovers, lack of energy (you may think they have nothing to do with your behaviour…. think again..)
Feeling down, depressed, ashamed, frustrated, not able to tell anybody about your behaviour
Have you had to ‘work from home’? Miss or cancel professional engagements? Have you declined any projects because it would interfere with the behaviour or it would have been noticed or commented on?
Have you ever spent more than intended on your problematic behaviour? Has your behaviour ever resulted in financial consequences?
Have you declined any engagements? Are people commenting on your behaviour? Is it causing distress?
Is it causing any distress or frustrations to your loved ones – even if you think it is their problem? If someone you love has a problem and you say ‘this is not your problem’ – we have a problem….
What is addiction or addictive behaviour?
In broad, colloquial terms addiction means doing something more than you would like to and not being in control as much as you would wish. It is a decision making impairment where a habit runs out of control and starts controlling your life instead. It can manifest itself in a whole range of behaviours.
More often than not addictive behaviours start as ‘coping mechanisms’ for example:
- drinking is a solution to cover social anxiety
- dieting is a way to improve self-esteem
- smoking cannabis is a way to numb feelings of anxiety and sadness
- spontaneous spending is a way of showing control over the world and muting anxiety around life’s unpredictability
When they are used too much, in absence of other coping strategies, these solutions become a problem in their own right, turning into ‘addiction’.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – from the outside it looks like addiction to certain behaviour, like washing hands. However, the centre of the problem is not seeking reward form the behaviour but trying to mitigate the fear and anxiety by conforming to certain rituals. It is classified as anxiety disorder
Gambling, computer games, sex addiction, shopping addiction – engaging in these activities can lead to an increase in endorphins and hormones that produce feelings of pleasure and euphoria. As fleeting as they might be, there is a desire to keep reproducing them, however each time the ‘high’ can feel a little less and we need more intense behaviour to get the same feeling as with initial ‘hit’ An individual struggling with OCD and anxiety may constantly seek this sense of escape, resulting in an addiction in addition to anxiety disorder.
Addiction to substances
It usually starts off as a ‘good idea’, either for social reasons or because it gives an immediate experience of:
- relief (opiates: heroin, opium, methadone, cannabis)
- freedom of anxiety and sense of social competence (alcohol)
- super hero powers (stimulants: cocaine, MDMA, crystal meth, speed, ecstasy)
- combinations of the above.
For more information about specific drugs and their effects – see Talk to Frank
Behavioural addictions may also give similar feelings, however the substances we are talking about have properties which create a chemical or psychological dependence. It means that the body will be craving for that substance even after the initial ‘good idea’ is long forgotten. You use them not to feel great but to just feel normal.
Overcoming substance addictions requires a lot of determination to help your body fight physical symptoms of withdrawal and a lot of ingenuity to outsmart the craving pathway in your brain which addiction created.
Depression and Anxiety Disorders and addictions
Alcohol, marijuana, heroin are substances often used as coping aids to alleviate emotional distress, sadness, anxiety caused by Depression and Anxiety Disorders. Sadly, as said above – the solution often becomes a problem, as the substances have properties creating chemical and psychological dependence, adding the range of symptoms and problems to already difficult mental challenge.
Addiction to emotions
We all know about addiction to substances, but did you know you can be addicted to emotions, like fear or anger?
When we stay in any emotional state the neuro cells create pathways – like little roads for that emotional chemical to travel. And if we do that emotion a lot we end up creating an M25 of lets say anger. Whenever we start we seem to end up on M25. And then..
Who was ever on M25 and missed an exit? Well that’s exactly how emotional addiction feels like. We are possessed by the anger and we keep missing the way out.
Mindfulness practice allows to create exits – B and A roads out – and eventually a completely new M route – Patience, Courage.. and our M25 of anger or Fear becomes a tumbleweed road.
Do you think you are on any emotional M25 tour? …
Addiction therapy & counselling addictive behaviours
In all addiction situations the work is about changing the ‘mental pathways’ creating the habit, in order to stop the undesired behaviour. But that is not enough. We also need to identify what was the original underlying issue that we tried to ‘solve’ with those behaviours, otherwise before we know it you may find yourself developing another ‘solution’ – e.g. replacing drinking by obsessive exercising etc.
It is important to understand that addictions to substances may carry an additional element – chemical dependence and stopping will cause physical symptoms. In some cases, it is unsafe to stop using the substance without medical assistance (alcohol, heroine) and in such case the treatment may require specialist support through your GP.
If you are drinking alcohol and are concerned about chemical dependence, or are concerned about someone else’s drinking, please contact your GP
More warning signs and symptoms suggesting you may be chemically dependent :
- Worrying about where your next drink is coming from and planning social, family and work events around alcohol.
- Finding you have a compulsive need to drink and finding it hard to stop once you start.
- Waking up and drinking – or feeling the need to drink in the morning.
- Suffering from withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, shaking and nausea, which stop once you drink alcohol.
Are you supporting someone who suffers from addictions?
Living around addiction can be exhausting, frustrating and soul destroying. You are standing outside that bubble of madness, seeing clearly that your friend or family member is on a path to self-destruction, but you are unable to help. You are pounding on the glass, screaming to get the message through – but it doesn’t work. Or it works for a while, with promises of ‘never to repeat it again’ and sooner or later the madness repeats.
You are fed up exasperated and full of resentment thinking – if only this (drinking, drugging, gambling) would stop, I would be OK. It may be the case that the ‘drinking, drugging or gambling’ will stop, but it is also possible that it will not happen any time soon, or when it does, you will be too exhausted, depressed and embittered to even care.
This is because the you too have been affected by addiction … Even though you have never done anything, never actively inhaled , drunk, indulged, just by the virtue of being within the ripple effect of addiction – you have been affected. Here is the test.
- Are you losing sleep worrying about the other person?
- Are you feeling responsible for getting them appointments?
- Are you a part of a ‘cover up team’, calling the school, employer, other family members to excuse them?
- Are you finding yourself doing things you would have never allowed yourself to do – lie for them, turn a blind eye on a behaviour that you wouldn’t tolerate form anyone else?
Don’t wait until they stop. You are a casualty of addiction and need support for yourself – to remain strong, to maintain your integrity and to still be able to love them whilst not accepting their behaviours.
You may find this article I wrote for Counselling Directory helpful How to love an addict
Have you found that other relationships are also affected by addiction?
You may find that it is not the one with the user, but another family member, with whom you argue ABOUT the user. To find out what is the impact of addiction on whole families and their dynamics, you may find my page on ‘Family Relationship Counselling‘ helpful
Some resources that you may find useful around the subject of Addictions & Obsessions
The School of Life offer two different views on Addictions, what they are and who is likely to be prone to them.